CINCINNATI (AP) -- Matt Belisle doesn't want to admit that he
might pitch better when he doesn't know he's starting.
Pitching in place of an ailing Aaron Harang against Washington,
Belisle bailed out a thin Cincinnati bullpen with six solid innings
and Ryan Freel sparked the Reds offense with four hits as they
completed a three-game sweep of the Nationals with a 12-3 win
Felipe Lopez hit a two-run homer and Austin Kearns drove in
three runs as the Reds matched their season high for runs and
completed their first sweep since opening the season with three
consecutive wins against the New York Mets. The Reds haven't lost
since cutting closer Danny Graves on Monday.
"Just playing better baseball is the best way to put it, I
guess," manager Dave Miley said. "It all starts with that guy out
there at the beginning of the game. Guys are starting to swing the
bat better, but it starts with the starting pitching we're
Former-Red Jose Guillen homered twice for Washington, which has
lost five of its last six games. The Nationals were swept in a
series of three or more games for the first time this year.
"We have to ride this thing out," Washington manager Frank
Robinson said. "We're not pointing fingers. We're getting outhit,
outpitched and outmanaged."
Belisle (2-4) got his first start of the season on April 13 at
St. Louis, when he replaced injured Ramon Ortiz. He'd been told the
night before that Ortiz might be sidelined with a groin injury, and
he responded by allowing one run and four hits in Cincinnati's 6-5
The rookie right-hander, the only nonstarter to not pitch in
Tuesday's 14-inning win, had no warning that he would be making his
first start since April 23. Harang was sidelined by flu-like
symptoms, and Belisle didn't know he was starting until he arrived
at the ballpark about 1½ hours before the game.
He responded by limiting the Nationals to two runs and five
hits, and matching his personal best with six strikeouts in a
career-high six innings.
"I guess that's my track record, but knowing or not knowing, it
should be the same," Belisle said. "The big thing is to establish
consistency. I knew the bullpen was depleted, and I wanted to give
them as much as I could, so I wanted to be aggressive."
Freel went 4-for-6, doubling twice, singling and matching his
career high for hits. Ken Griffey Jr. batted third for the first
time this season and went 3-for-3 with two walks, raising his
average to .253. He was 0-for-16 before a fifth-inning single.
"I made a little adjustment today," Freel said. "I've been
working with [hitting coach] Chris Chambliss because I was getting
under the ball, so I changed the path of my swing."
Claudio Vargas (0-3) lasted just 1 2/3 innings, giving up three
runs -- two earned -- three hits and three walks. He has lasted a
total 6 2-3 innings in his last three starts, and his ERA is up to
Washington allowed its most runs this year.
Freel singled leading off the bottom of the first and Lopez
followed with his sixth homer. Freel then made it 3-0 in the third
when he hit a two-out double, stole third and scored when catcher
Gary Bennett's throw hit him and bounced into foul territory for an
Washington got a run in the fourth when Guillen doubled and
scored on Brendan Harris' infield single, but Cincinnati made it
6-1 in the fifth on Kearns' two-run double and Javier Valentin's
Guillen, who has 10 homers this year, homered off Belisle in the
sixth and Ricky Stone in the eighth for his sixth multihomer game
and second this season.
Freel homered off Hector Carrasco in the sixth. Kearns hit an
RBI single in a five-run eighth off Zach Day that included a
two-run double by Jacob Cruz, an RBI double by pinch-hitter Luis
Lopez and a single that produced William Bergolla's first career
The Reds won 12-4 at Philadelphia on May 14. ...
Washington's previous high for runs allowed this year was in an
11-2 loss at Atlanta on April 11. ... Guillen homered twice at
Atlanta on April 13. ... Sean Casey, who had been hitting third for
Cincinnati, is day to day with a bruised left rotator cuff he
sustained while trying to make a diving stop of Guillen's sharp
grounder Tuesday. ... Cruz's start was his first of the season
after 27 appearances as a pinch hitter. He became the last NL
non-pitcher who was on an opening-day roster to play a defensive