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Gant, Phils Slam Cincy


This time, Ron Gant led with his bat.

Gant homered, doubled and drew one of two bases-loaded walks during a four-run sixth inning that sent the Philadelphia Phillies to a 9-3 victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Reds.

Rob Ducey and Scott Rolen added solo homers as the Phillies ended their week-long fade with their second win in eight games.

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  • The three-game series started on a down note Friday when the Phillies put starter Curt Schilling on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. Gant called a clubhouse meeting to boost his teammates' spirits.

    "Ronnie gave us a nice speech before the game that first night," said Robert Person (7-3), who went seven innings Sunday to get the victory. "It was definitely inspirational. We played hard the whole series."

    The speech didn't translate into a win until Sunday, when Gant took the lead on the field as well. He hit a 428-foot homer in his first at-bat his fifth homer in seven games to get the Phillies rolling.

    "I had to get us going and give us a little spark in that first inning to show them we had to win this game," Gant said. "I think they didn't sweep us because we were determined we were going to win today."

    Cincinnati lost for only the sixth time in its last 21 games because starter Denny Neagle (3-4) struggled and the bullpen had a rare meltdown.

    The Phillies broke it open by sending 10 batters to the plate in the sixth and taking advantage of the Ntional League's top bullpen. Philadelphia's rally featured two singles, four walks two of them with the bases loaded one hit batter and one wild pitch.

    Manager Terry Francona hopes that inning marks a turning point for the Phillies, who trail two teams for a wild card playoff spot.

    "We needed to find a way to win any way we could," Francona said. "Hopefully we can look back at the end of the year and say we halted that slide just in time."

    Neagle (3-4) took his first loss in four starts since returning from the disabled list July 30. The left-hander gave up six hits and five runs in five-plus innings, by far his worst performance in the comeback.

    Person blew a pair of leads but got the win by going seven innings and allowing three runs on six hits. He gave up Greg Vaughn's 29th homer in the second inning and a two-run double by Pokey Reese that tied it 3-3 in the fourth.

    Things caved in on the Reds in the sixth.

    Scott Sullivan started"wisming up when Neagle walked Scott Rolen to open the inning, then came on following a single by Mike Lieberthal. After Sullivan's wild pitch, Kevin Jordan had a run-scoring groundout and Kevin Sefcik singled softly over a drawn-in infield for another run.

    Sullivan walked Domingo Cedeno and hit Doug Glanville on the left knee to load the bases, then walked Gant on a 3-1 pitch to force in a run. Gabe White relieved and walked Bobby Abreu to make it 7-3.

    Sullivan leads the National League in innings pitched by a reliever with 83 and had allowed only two runs over his last seven appearances. He had no idea why he couldn't throw a strike Sunday.

    "I'll tell you what, your guess is as good as mine as to what was going on out there," Sullivan said. "I just want to apologize. This late in the season and this far along in the race, there's no excuse to come out and throw like that."

    Despite the loss, the Reds remained ahead of Houston by percentage points for the NL Central lead. The Astros lost to Pittsburgh 2-0.

    The Phillies got a scare when Glanville remained facdown in the dirt after he was hit. He eventually walked off the field, and X-rays found no fracture.

    Ducey hit his first career pinch homer and the second by the Phillies this season off Stan Belinda in the eighth. Rolen added his 26th homer in the ninth off Belinda.

    Neagle had won all of his three starts since coming off the disabled list for the second time this season and was coming off his best start, a 4-2 win at Pittsburgh on Monday in which he allowed only one hit in seven-plus innings.

    Neagle allowed only five runs in his previous three starts; he matched that total while giving up five hits four of them for extra bases and walking two in five-plus innings Sunday.

    Notes

  • Philadelphia's other pinch homer this season was by Dave Doster on May 14 against the Mets.
  • Before his homer, Gant was only 2-for-20 career off Neagle with six strikeouts.
  • Cincinnati's Mike Cameron had an infield single in his first at-bat, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games (20-for-48). His previous best was an 11-game streak in 1997.
  • Vaughn and Dmitri Young extended their hitting streaks to nine games, season highs for both of them.
  • The Reds failed to draw 30,000 fans for any of the three weekend games, even though first place was at stake. They had crowds of 26,353, 25,214 and 27,059.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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