The Cincinnati Reds bullpen made a good first impression even as it blew a game.
The bullpen with the best earned run average in the major leagues got to face the Montreal Expos for the first time this season.
Michael Barrett drove in a pair of runs off Reds relievers as the Expos rallied for a 5-3 victory Friday night that dropped Cincinnati a game behind Houston in the NL Central.
Vladimir Guerrero extended his hitting streak to 25 games and forced the Reds to turn to their bullpen when he hit his 29th homer in the sixth inning.
The solo shot off Denny Neagle hit high off the left-field foul screen and cut the Reds' lead to 3-2. It also prompted Reds manager Jack McKeon to get his bullpen ready.
This time, it backfired.
"We couldn't finish them off," McKeon said. "They're not an easy ballclub. If they get decent pitching, they're tough because they've got some kids who can hit the ball. They are not a pushover."
Rondell White started the go-ahead rally with a leadoff walk from Scott Sullivan (3-3) in the seventh. He advanced on Sullivan's wild pickoff throw and moved to third on Wilton Guerrero's pinch single.
Barrett's groundout off Danny Graves scored White to tie it, and Shane Andrews singled through the hole at shortstop with two outs to score Guerrero from second.
"I feel good. The results are bad," Sullivan said. "After the day is done, the question is: Did you get the job done? And tonight the answer is: I did not."
In the ninth, Barrett added his fourth homer off Stan Belinda, his first since April 25.
"I forgot what it was like," Barrett said. "How long has it been? April 25? Oh geez. I didn't even think of it going out of the park because I hadn't hit one in so long."
Batista allowed only one single and a walk to a team that's been one of the hottest in the major leagues.
"They're a very emotional team," Batista said. "When a team's playing as inspired as they are, you've got to make sure you make no mistakes."
Vladimir Guerrero had a pair of singles and the homer in his first three at-bats, matching the Cardinals' Joe McEwing for the second-longest hitting streak in the NL this season. Luis Gonzalez hit in 30 consecutive games for Arizona.
"He makes it look easy, doesn't he?" Barrett said. "I've tried to think what the season would be like without Vladimir Guerrero and I don't see much. He's really carried us."
The Reds pulled ahead 3-1 on Sean Casey's sacrifice fly in the first, Aaron Boone's solo homer in the second and Dmitri Young's solo homer in the fifth off Powell, who gave up six hits and a walk in five innings.
Powell is 0-7 in nine road starts during his two major league seasons with a 6.09 ERA.
Neagle needed 105 pitches to get through six innings. The left-hander gave up six hits and pitched out of three scoring threats before turning a 3-2 lead over to the bullpen.
"I felt like it was a good outing because I was battling myself," Neagle said. "I didn't have my bst stuff, but I was able to fight through it."
"It's tough. You're at the point where you'd like to go out there more consistently with better stuff, but I was able to keep us in the game."
Neagle was 0-3 with 8.17 ERA in six starts before going on the disabled list for the second time with a weak shoulder. Since returning July 30, he's 3-1 with a 3.64 ERA in five starts.
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