CINCINNATI (AP) — Jay Bruce is back to reacting to pitches instead of thinking about what’s coming. And when he gets on a surge like this one, the outcome is predictable.
He hits home runs in bunches.
The right fielder homered for the third straight game on Tuesday night, a two-run shot that sent the Cincinnati Reds to a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies with first baseman Joey Votto watching from the bench.
Manager Dusty Baker gave Bruce a couple days off during the last road trip to try to clear his head and get himself out of a slump. Bruce’s hitting tears tend to last for several weeks, followed by deep slumps.
The days off helped.
“That let me take a step back mentally and realize a couple of things,” Bruce said. “I just needed to quit thinking so much.”
Bruce’s 31st homer in the sixth inning ended a four-game winning streak by Kyle Kendrick (8-10), who gave up six hits in six innings. Bruce has homered in four of his last five games since his time off.
“That was just to let him get his head together,” Baker said. “You hate to sit a guy, but whatever works.”
Baker’s next challenge is to figure out how to work Votto back into a lineup that has done exceptionally well without him. Votto was activated off the disabled list before the game, but didn’t play because his knee isn’t back to full strength. Cincinnati went 32-16 without him, taking control of the NL Central.
On his first night back, the Reds didn’t need him. They got one chance and turned it into a win.
“We’ve done a great job with that all year,” Bruce said. “We’ve had a lot of come-from-behind wins. You can’t ever give us breathing room.”
Mat Latos (12-4) gave up one run — on a bases-loaded walk — and four hits in seven innings.
Jimmy Rollins doubled off Latos in the fifth inning, making him the fourth Phillies player to reach 2,000 career hits. He joined Mike Schmidt (2,234), Richie Ashburn (2,217) and Ed Delahanty (2,207).
“It was great, but 3,000 is better,” said Rollins, eating an ice cream cone after the game. “That’s the one that’s celebrated. It’s another milestone in a career, but it’s not the one that’s celebrated. So it’s just another hit.”
Aroldis Chapman gave up a walk and fanned two while getting his 35th save in 39 chances. The left-hander has converted 27 straight save opportunities since June 24, a franchise record.
The win evened the season series at three games apiece. Philadelphia has been one of Cincinnati’s toughest opponents, winning nine of their last 12 games. The Phillies have won their season series each of the past seven years.
Cincinnati’s surge into playoff position has attracted bigger crowds to Great American Ball Park. The Reds topped 2 million in season attendance on Tuesday night, the fastest they’ve reached the mark since the ballpark opened in 2003.
Latos, the Reds’ biggest offseason acquisition, was in the middle of all the early action. He got picked off third base by catcher Erik Kratz in the third inning, ending a rally. He then helped the Phillies pull ahead 1-0 in the fourth because of his control problems.
Philadelphia loaded the bases when Chase Utley doubled, Latos hit Ryan Howard on the arm, and John Mayberry Jr. walked with one out. Latos then walked Domonic Brown — in an 0-for-18 slump — on four pitches to force in a run.
Nate Schierholtz followed with a sinking liner that center fielder Drew Stubbs appeared to catch on the short hop. The Phillies saw first base umpire Chris Guccione immediately rule it a catch, confusing the runners. Stubbs threw to second base to complete a double play.
“Basically our runners, they got all messed up,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “They got all confused. They didn’t know where to go.
“It was a bad break. We could have had a hit there and a run for sure. It’s kind of how things go for us, huh?”
NOTES: Rollins’ double also gave him a seven-game hitting streak. … The Reds recalled RHP Todd Redmond and RHP Pedro Villarreal from Louisville, promoted LHP Tony Cingrani from Double-A Pensacola, and outrighted INF Chris Valaika and RHP Jordan Smith to Louisville. … The Phillies called up INF/OF Pete Orr from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. … Bengals QB Andy Dalton threw a ceremonial pitch to WR A.J. Green. … Latos failed to get a hit, snapping his career-high six-game hitting streak.