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Villone Blanks Cardinals


Pokey Reese didn't think his liner was going to clear the wall. When it did, he didn't realize the significance.

Reese hit the first homer off Jose Jimenez by a right-handed batter Wednesday night, heading Ron Villone and the Cincinnati Reds towards a 1-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Reese led off the fourth inning with his sixth homer, driving a first-pitch fastball from Jimenez (5-10) barely over the wall in left-center.

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  • When he got back to the bench, he learned it was the first homer a right-hander has hit off Jimenez during his major league career.

    The rookie had not allowed a homer in 299 at-bats by right-handers, a span of 141.1 innings.

    "Who would have thought it would be me?" Reese said. "I think he might have been just trying to get a ball over and get a strike, but I was thinking what he was thinking."

    That one pitch decided a game controlled by the two starters. The Reds got only three hits -- two by Reese -- and Villone (5-3) and Scott Williamson combined on a one-hitter.

    "Today I made one bad pitch, a high fastball," Jimenez said. "It was good to hit."

    The Reds improved to 19-8 over their last 27 games with their ninth shutout, the most in the majors.

    Villone gave up a leadoff double to J.D. Drew in the first, then allowed only four more runners - on a hit by pitch, two walks and an error.

    It was the third time in his nine starts that Villone has allowed only one hit. He has given up one hit in seven innings and twice held teams tone hit in eight innings.

    "He's our one-hit guy," Reds manager Jack McKeon joked. "We need a one-hitter, we go to him. If he's aggressive, he's got good enough stuff to win."

    Villone was replaced by Williamson after walking Drew to lead off the ninth. Williamson, who had allowed a homer in four of his last five appearances, struck out Ray Lankford, Mark McGwire and Fernando Tatis to earn his 12th save in 17 chances.

    "This time, I had nothing to lose," Williamson said. "I had failed four out of the last five times. I was really pressing. Today I just told myself not to feel any pressure."

    The Cardinals were without manager Tony La Russa, who was bothered once again by an upset stomach. He was taken to a hospital for tests that found nothing serious.

    Rene Lacheman managed the Cardinals and coached third base, where he had little to do because of Villone's dominance.

    McGwire's hex in Cincinnati remained intact -- he has yet to hit a homer in Cinergy Field. He fouled out, flew out twice and struck out, leaving him 4-for-24 with 11 walks in the circular stadium known as a hitter's park. He has nothing more than four singles in 35 plate appearances during regular season games, the 1988 All-Star Game and the 1990 World Series.

    It's the only current stadium in which McGwire has played a regular season game and failed to hit a homer. His longest drive Wednesday was a fly to the edge of the warning track in right field off Villone.

    "He kept guys off-balance," McGwire said.

    McGwire wasn't alone in his frustration. Villone clamped down after giving up the opening double to Drew and hitting Joe McEwing on the knee with his next pitch.

    "After the first inning, I told myself to throw the ball down the middle of the plate," Villone said. "For me, that's hard to do."

    Villone retired the next 13 batters before walking Alberto Castillo in the fifth, then got the next nine in a row before David Howard reached on Mike Cameron's error and was thrown out trying for second in the eighth.

    Villone, moved into the Reds' rotation out of necessity, has been either dominant or drubbed as a starter. He was 0-2 in his first three starts with a 10.80 ERA, 3-0 in his next three starts with a 0.82 ERA, and 0-1 in his two most recent starts with a 10.38 ERA.

    Jimenez also has been a pitcher of extremes. Since throwing a no-hitter at Arizona on June 25, he's gotten just one victory -- also over the Diamondbacks.

    Jimenez allowed only three hits in seven innings and walked two. Aside from Reese's home, the Reds got only one other runner to second.

    Cincinnati's Sean Casey went 0-for-2, ending his 12-game hitting streak and dropping his NL-leading average from .373 to .371.

    Notes

    • Drew's opening double extended his hitting streak to eight games (13-for-35).
    • McGwire is 14-for-66 career against Cincinnati with four homers, all in St. Louis.
    • Reds pitchers Gabe White and Danny Graves went out of their way to shake hands with McGwire before the game, and Steve Parris asked McGwire to pose for a photo with his 5-year-old son, Cole. McGwire obliged and traded his home run uppercut with the boy.
    • Reds pitcher Denny Neagle and catcher Brian Johnson will report to Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday to start rehab assignments. Neagle has been sidelined most of the season by shoulder weakness and Johnson is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.

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

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