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Question of the Day
CINCINNATI (AP) — Jay Bruce was Mr. Clinch again, hitting the homer that got the Reds’ championship party started on the second try.
Bruce’s 34th homer put the Reds ahead to stay, and they made good on their second chance to win the NL Central title by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-0 on Saturday without Dusty Baker, who was missed in the frothy beer-and-champagne shower in the clubhouse.
The 63-year-old manager spent another day in a Chicago hospital getting treated for an irregular heartbeat. The Reds brought him his fifth division title as a manager, including two during the last three years with Cincinnati.
“He is here everywhere,” owner Bob Castellini said, looking around the dripping clubhouse. “He is here in spirit, and everybody knows he’s here. We hope to see him tomorrow.”
He missed a clinching game that featured a familiar swing.
Bruce’s first-pitch, leadoff homer in the ninth off Houston’s Tim Byrdak clinched the title for Cincinnati in 2010. On Saturday, he led off the fourth inning with a first-pitch homer off rookie Stephen Fife (0-2), and Cincinnati’s main offseason pitching acquisition made it stand up.
Mat Latos (13-4) allowed six hits and didn’t walk a batter in eight innings. Left-hander Aroldis Chapman made his first appearance since Sept. 10 — a tired shoulder had sidelined him — and finished it off by getting Hanley Ramirez to hit into a double play off a 99 mph fastball.
The celebration was on, though more subdued than the one two years ago.
“A couple of years ago, we were a surprise,” said Joey Votto, who was the NL MVP that season. “It kind of crept up on us. We didn’t expect it. This year, we felt we had something to prove.”
As the Reds pulled away, second baseman Brandon Phillips pretended he was shaking a bottle of champagne and spraying it everywhere while sitting on the bench in the dugout. Phillips says the only other time he’s had champagne was during the 2010 clubhouse celebration.
After the final out, players formed a huddle to the side of the mound, with pitcher Johnny Cueto spraying them with a bottle of water. An attendant rolled out a cart of gray championship shirts and hats.
Cincinnati became the first team in the majors to clinch a division title this season, leaving it with one goal left. The Reds are vying with Washington for the NL’s top seed in the playoffs, both with 92 wins that lead the majors.
It’s unclear when Baker will be back. The three-time manager of the year also won division titles with the Giants and Cubs. Baker reached the World Series once as a manager, losing a Game 7 against the Angels in 2002, his final season in San Francisco.
The Reds had their first opportunity to take the title on Friday night, but lost 3-1 to the Dodgers in 10 innings. Bruce had a chance to win it with another game-ending homer, but struck out leading off the ninth.
A day later, Bruce connected, Phillips added a solo homer, and rookie Todd Frazier singled home a run for more than enough. The Reds added three runs in the eighth, aided by reliever Jamey Wright’s throwing error.
By Donald Lambro
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