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Published: Saturday, 5/17/2008

Walk ends HR derby as Indians fall to Reds

Cincinnati's Jerry Hairston Jr. is tagged out at home by Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez. Cincinnati's Jerry Hairston Jr. is tagged out at home by Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez.

CINCINNATI - Adam Dunn homered and drew a tie-breaking walk with the bases loaded in the eighth inning last night, sending the Cincinnati Reds to their season-high fourth straight win, 4-3 over the intrastate rival Indians.

The Reds got home runs from Brandon Phillips and Dunn, then won it with the only run in the game not produced by a homer.

Cincinnati loaded the bases in the eighth on Joey Votto's double and a pair of walks from Jensen Lewis (0-2), who was pitching in his hometown on his 24th birthday. He decided the game by missing with a full-count pitch to Dunn, one of the NL's most selective hitters.

"He threw me some really good pitches," Dunn said. "I was seeing them pretty good. I just didn't want to get myself out."

Lewis attended high school in Cincinnati and estimated that more than 50 family members and friends were in the stands. Manager Eric Wedge talked to him for a few minutes in the corner of the clubhouse after the game.

"Not exactly the homecoming you envision," Lewis said. "Obviously, there's some emotion involved in pitching in front of family and friends. It's the first time I've come home and pitched here."

David Weathers (1-2) escaped a threat in the eighth, forcing the Indians to strand a runner at third. Francisco Cordero pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save in nine chances.

The interleague series matched two teams from opposite ends of the state and opposite ends of the standings. The Indians lead the AL Central, while the Reds are last in the NL's counterpart division.

"We're playing good right now," Dunn said. "We're finally getting some timely hitting. We've been getting pitching all year, but the offense has been scuffling. Hopefully, this is a turning-point, breakout series."

Both teams have been having problems scoring runs. The Indians have overcome them with exquisite pitching - four shutouts in the last six games.

Left-hander Jeremy Sowers wasn't up to recent standards.

Phillips' upper-deck homer emphatically ended Cleveland's streak of near-perfect pitching in the first inning. The two-run shot off Sowers produced the first earned runs off Indians starters in 52 innings.

Sowers was called up earlier in the day to make his second start of the season. He has failed to beat the Reds - the team that originally drafted him - in four career starts, going 0-2 while allowing 19 earned runs in 20 innings.

Afterward, Wedge said Sowers was headed back to the minors.

"He gave us every chance to win the ballgame," Wedge said. "But we just weren't able to do anything beyond those [three] home runs."

Dunn added a solo shot deep into the Indians' bullpen in the second inning for a 3-0 lead that looked solid the way rookie Johnny Cueto was dominating. The 22-year-old didn't allow a hit through the first five innings against a lineup seeing his 95 mph fastball for the first time.

Just like that, he lost his touch.

Cueto gave up a leadoff homer to Casey Blake in the sixth. Designated hitter Travis Hafner, forced to the bench in an NL ballpark, pinch-hit and homered off the right-field foul pole three pitches later.

When Jhonny Peralta also homered to tie it one out later, Cueto angrily threw back his cap, grabbed the resin bag and flung it down. Cueto has given up 12 homers in nine starts.

"They hit one home run and you think, well, OK, no problem, no big deal," manager Dusty Baker said. "Then he started centering the ball. He was still throwing strikes, but they were bad strikes, and they know what to do with bad strikes."

The intrastate series remains popular in Cincinnati, drawing 33,433 fans last night. By comparison, the Reds sold only 12,756 tickets for a game two days earlier against Florida.

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