CINCINNATI -- So, this is why the Reds made that blockbuster trade.
Adam Dunn drove home two runs with a single shortly after close friend Austin Kearns was traded in a major revamp of Cincinnati's bullpen, one that had yet another near-meltdown before finishing off a 9-7 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Thursday night.
The Reds took a six-run lead into the ninth, but wound up having new closer Eddie Guardado -- acquired in a trade a week ago -- get the last two outs to earn his first save with Cincinnati.
"I'll tell you what: It's exciting," said Guardado, who gave up an RBI double to Clint Barmes before striking out Todd Helton to end it. "I haven't felt like that in a while."
Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 555th homer, and Juan Castro added a three-run shot in the seventh inning as the Reds built a cushion that came in handy. Left-hander Eric Milton (6-4) pitched six innings and singled home a run, ensuring that the Reds led the whole way on a night of mixed emotions.
A few hours before the first pitch, the Reds made a high-stakes move to shore up the bullpen that has been their downfall.
The Reds sent Kearns -- their everyday right fielder -- and shortstop Felipe Lopez to Washington in an eight-player deal that netted relievers Gary Majewski and Bill Bray. Dunn is a close friend of Kearns -- they came up through the minors together and were roommates -- and couldn't bring himself to talk about the trade before the game.
He got over the jolt and started the Reds' offense rolling with a two-run single in the first inning off Jeff Francis (6-8).
"I've got nothing to say for the first time in my life," Dunn said after the game. "They'll be sorely missed -- both of them."
Manager Jerry Narron understood what Dunn was feeling.
"Everybody in baseball has a friend traded away at some point in their career," Narron said. "They know they're making trades to make the club better. Dunn was as close to Kearns as you could be."
Griffey's solo homer in the seventh off Scott Dohmann made it 5-3 and left him eight behind Reggie Jackson for 10th place on the career list. Dohmann became the 355th pitcher Griffey has homered off during his career.
The Reds then pulled away against left-hander Ray King, who gave up Jason LaRue's RBI single and Castro's second homer since he rejoined the Reds in a June 15 trade. King gave up hits to four of the five batters he faced, leaving him in his monthlong slump.
And, he's not the only one struggling in the Rockies bullpen.
"It's difficult," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's one of the more difficult aspects as far as managing when you've got more than one (reliever) struggling. We've got some issues out there."
Then, the Reds bullpen showed why it needed a major overhaul.
Jason Standridge gave up an RBI double to Choo Freeman in the ninth, followed by Cory Sullivan's pinch-hit, two-run single that cut it to 9-6. Given his first chance to save a game for Cincinnati, Guardado won a game-ending matchup with Helton. He worked the closer to a full count, then fouled off four pitches before striking out.
"We shouldn't be behind by that much," Helton said. "I had a great opportunity in the ninth and didn't come through. We've got to learn something from it."
Like the Reds, the Rockies are hoping to turn an unexpectedly strong first half into a playoff run. They had a winning record at the All-Star break for only the fourth time in franchise history.
The loss Thursday was their fourth in a row, dropping them to .500 (44-44) for the first time since June 26.
Colorado managed five hits in six innings against Milton, including Helton's two-run homer that added to his history of strong second halves. Helton's .349 career average after the All-Star break is the best among all active players.
|Ken Griffey Jr. rips homer No. 555, leaving him eight behind Reggie Jackson on the all-time list. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Jamey Carroll, 2B||4||0||1||1||1||0||1||.323|
|Clint Barmes, SS||5||1||2||1||0||1||2||.211|
|Todd Helton, 1B||5||1||2||2||0||1||2||.298|
|Matt Holliday, LF||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.336|
|Garrett Atkins, 3B||4||1||1||0||0||0||1||.305|
|Brad Hawpe, RF||4||0||1||0||0||2||2||.310|
|Yorvit Torrealba, C||4||2||2||0||0||0||1||.240|
|Choo Freeman, CF||4||1||1||1||0||0||1||.248|
|Jeff Francis, P||2||0||0||0||0||2||1||.118|
|a- Jorge Piedra, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.158|
|Scott Dohmann, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Ray King, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|David Cortes, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Cory Sullivan, PH||1||1||1||2||0||0||0||.274|
|a-grounded out for Francis in the 7th|
|b-singled for Cortes in the 9th|
|2B - Clint Barmes 2 (18, Milton, Guardado), Choo Freeman (4, Standridge)|
|HR - Todd Helton (11, Milton)|
|RBI - Jamey Carroll (20), Clint Barmes (45), Todd Helton 2 (45), Choo Freeman (10), Cory Sullivan 2 (14)|
|2-OUT RBI - Jamey Carroll (11), Clint Barmes (14)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|DP - Carroll-Barmes-Helton|
|Jeff Francis (L,6-8)||6||8||4||4||2||5||0||4.15|
|HBP - LaRue (by Jeff Francis)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Francis 115-78, Scott Dohmann 27-15, Ray King 18-11, David Cortes 12-8|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Francis 11-1, Ray King 1-0, David Cortes 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Jeff Francis 28, Scott Dohmann 5, Ray King 5, David Cortes 3|
|Chris Denorfia, RF||5||0||1||0||0||1||2||.385|
|Brandon Phillips, 2B||5||0||0||0||0||1||3||.301|
|Ken Griffey Jr., CF||4||2||1||1||1||1||0||.255|
|Rich Aurilia, 1B||5||1||2||0||0||0||0||.270|
|Adam Dunn, LF||4||2||2||2||1||1||1||.241|
|Edwin Encarnacion, 3B||3||1||2||1||1||0||1||.275|
|Jason LaRue, C||3||2||2||1||0||0||2||.195|
|Juan Castro, SS||4||1||2||3||0||0||2||.251|
|Eric Milton, P||2||0||1||1||0||1||0||.200|
|a- Ryan Freel, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.297|
|David Weathers, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Javier Valentin, PH||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.221|
|Todd Coffey, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Jason Standridge, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Eddie Guardado, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-grounded out for Milton in the 6th|
|b-singled for Weathers in the 7th|
|2B - Rich Aurilia (16, Francis), Adam Dunn (15, Francis), Juan Castro (8, Francis)|
|HR - Ken Griffey Jr. (19, Dohmann), Juan Castro (3, King)|
|RBI - Ken Griffey Jr. (51), Adam Dunn 2 (62), Edwin Encarnacion (37), Jason LaRue (13), Juan Castro 3 (20), Eric Milton (2)|
|2-OUT RBI - Adam Dunn 2 (22), Edwin Encarnacion (12), Jason LaRue (4), Juan Castro 3 (12)|
|SB - Adam Dunn (3, 2nd base off Francis/Torrealba)|
|Team LOB - 8|
|DP - Aurilia-Castro-B. Phillips|
|E - Adam Dunn (10, Wild throw)|
|Eric Milton (W,6-4)||6||5||3||3||1||4||1||5.19|
|David Weathers (H,4)||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||4.97|
|Eddie Guardado (S,6)||0.2||1||0||0||0||1||0||5.11|
|WP - Eric Milton (1)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Eric Milton 105-68, David Weathers 10-7, Todd Coffey 15-9, Jason Standridge 20-14, Eddie Guardado 22-16|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Eric Milton 7-6, David Weathers 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Eric Milton 23, David Weathers 4, Todd Coffey 4, Jason Standridge 5, Eddie Guardado 3|
|Attendance - 20660|
|Game Time - 3:12|
|Temperature - 86|
|Umpires - Home - Jim Wolf, First Base - Joe West, Second Base - Ed Rapuano, Third Base - Tony Randazzo|