By Hal McCoy
The Cincinnati Reds came out swinging from the opening bell Sunday afternoon in Dodger Stadium and they connected with regularity and intensity en route to a 9-0 demoltion of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
They scored seven runs and hit three home runs in the first three innings in front of a stunned and booing crowd of 45,936.
By winning two of three in Chavez Ravine, the Reds claimed the season’s series against the Natinal League West’s first place team four games to two.
The Reds reclaimed first place in the National League Central by a half-game over the Milwaukee Brewers. The Atlanta Braves swept three games from the Brewers, assaulting Milwaukee pitching in the three games with 29 runs, 41 hits and 11 lhome runs.
While the Reds went 3-10 against the Brewers this season, they are 55-39 against all other teams. And after a 7-15 start to the season, they are 51-34, scrambling from last place to first.
The Reds put together a 14 hit assault on the Dodgers, featuring four hits by Elly De La Cruz that included a home run. Jake Fraley contributed three hits. Matt McLain and Joey Votto each homered and Votto also doubled and drove in three runs.
The beneficiary of the offensive eruption was Reds starter Graham Ashcraft (6-7). When the Reds scored three in the first and three in the third, Ashcraftr breezed for six innings — no runs, five hits, no walks, five strikeouts.
Derek Law with two perfect innings and three strikeouts, and Daniel Duarte with a runless ninth, completed the Reds11th shutout this season.
Michael Grove, the third straight rookie to start against the Reds for the Dodgers, was in shock after throwing his first four pitches.
De La Cruz singled on the game’s first pitch. TJ Friedl doubled on Grove’s third pitch, scoring De La Cruz. McLain was hit by Grove’s fourth pitch.
Spencer Steer grounded out, scoring Friedl and Fraley singled for a 3-0 lead.
And the Reds poured it on. By the end of the third, Cincinnati’s top four hitters in the lineup were 6 for 8 with five runs and two home runs.
Grove faced 18 batter and nine reached base in the first three innings, but LA manager Dave Roberts, not wanting to ravage his bullpen in a 7-0 game, kept Grove working.
De La Cruz led the second with a 411-foot home run that plunged deep into the right field seats. They added three more in the third on a pair of home runs.
McLain led with his 11th home run. Fraley recorded an infield hit and stole second. Joey Votto, 5 for 50 after striking out in the first and screaming an epithet, plastered a home run into the Reds bullpen in right field, only his second home run in 51 at bats.
And he nearly added a second home run in the fifth, but LA center fielder James Outman went above the wall to bring it back.
Grove was still on the mound in the sixth when Will Benson doubled and scored on Friedl’s two-out double to make it 8-0.
Amazingly, while he had given up eight runs and 10 hits in six innings, Grove struck out 10. Roberts finally mercifully excused him after the sixth.
And what is always the ultimate embarrassment, the Dodgers used infielder Miguel Rojas to pitch the ninth inning. He gave up a single to Kevin Newman and a run-scoring double to Votto to make it 9-0.
The Dodgers, losers in five of their last seven, were without Mookie Betts. And J.D. Martinez and Will Smith left the game early with injuries.
And the Reds placed Jonathan India on the 10-dayl injured list with plantar faciitis, meaning he probably is safe from being traded before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
The Reds open a four-game seriees in Wrigley Field Monday night against the Chicago Cubs, who had won eight straight before losing Sunday to the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-0.