By Hal McCoy
The Cincinnati Reds wore different uniform tops Thursday night and, indeed, they were a different team.
They wore ‘Los Rojos’ (Spanish for ‘The Reds’) in honor of Cinco de Mayo. And they did a Mexican Hat Dance on the Milwaukee Brewers, 9-5, in Great American Ball Park.
In so doing they vaulted out of last place and over the Brewers by a half game.
THERE WERE A LOT of positive notes attached to this one:
—Alfredo Simon pitched 7 1/3 innings, the longest a Reds starter has pitched in a game this season.
—The Reds hit three home runs, including Adam Duvall’s third in three games as he continues to wrap a firm grasp around the left field position.
—The defense, which has been shoddy for most of the season, turned three double plays and didn’t make an error.
—They opened the game firing bullets, scoring five runs in the first inning against Milwaukee starter Chase Anderson and two more in the second.
When Anderson pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season the Reds scored one run in 20 2/3 innings.
And Jay Bruce was 0 for 5 with four strikeouts against Anderson for his career, but wiped that clean in the first inning with a three-run home run.
OF COURSE, THERE had to be at least one negative. That dubious relief pitching record was extended.
The bullpen had given up at least one run in 22 straight games, a major league record, when J.J. Hoover trudged to the mound in the ninth inning with a 9-3 lead.
The streak was extended to 23 when Hoover gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, Chris Carter. It was the sixth home run off Hoover in only 9 2/3 innings this season. He followed the home run by giving up a double and that run also scored.
Simon, though, was The Big Story. He entered the game with a 0-and-3 record and a 13.50 earned run average.
Simon had given up only one run and six hits through seven innings and hadn’t walked a batter. No Reds starter this year has not given up a walk.
He retired the first two in the eighth, then issued his first walk and Alex Presley hit a home run on Simon’s 111th pitch.
That’s when he was removed and Blake Wood gave up an infield single before retiring Jonathan Lucroy.
HERE’S HOW THE first inning went for the Reds: Zack Cozart singled on the first pitch. Billy Hamilton drove the first pitch he saw to deep center off outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ glove for a double. Joey Votto drew a four-pitch walk, the first of his three walks, to load the bases.
Brandon Phillips lined one hard to center that Nieuwenhuis ran down and a run scored after the catch. Bruce blasted his three-run homer, his 34th career homer against Milwaukee to make it 4-0. Adam Duvall reached on an error and Tucker Barnhart drove him home for a 5-0 first inning.
COZART DOUBLED TO open the second and with two outs Phillips hit one where Nieuwenhuis couldn’t catch — a two-run home run to left center.
After the Brewers crept back to within 7-3, Eugenio Suarez doubled to lead the eighth and Duvall launched his home run, the eighth for the Reds in their last two games.
Cozart, who made a couple of outstanding defensive plays, went 2 for 5 and pushed his average to .345.