Brewers Top Reds 5-2 Behind 4 Rbis From Journeyman Dillon
Sunday, September 16th 2007, 7:08 pm
By: News On 6
MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Joe Dillon was coaching baseball at Texas Tech four years ago, not playing it.
Frustrated that he never gave himself a fair shot at a big league career, the former prospect returned and crossed the globe, playing in places like Mexico, Japan and Venezuela while trying to prove he belonged in the majors.
Now, his journey is paying off _ in the middle of a pennant race.
Dillon drove in a career-high four runs to double his season RBI total, and Carlos Villanueva pitched seven scoreless innings to lead the Brewers to a 5-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
``It's been a long road, but this is what we all work for, this is what I've worked for my whole life to get to this point,'' said Dillon, a 32-year-old utility player who was drafted in the seventh round by Kansas City in 1997. ``For me, it's happened a little bit later than most.''
Milwaukee, which scored all its runs with two outs, has won 10 of 15. The Brewers remained one game behind first-place Chicago in the NL Central after the Cubs beat St. Louis 4-2. Milwaukee starts a seven-game trip on Monday in Houston and has lost nine of its last 13 on the road.
But Dillon, who struggled with back problems from 2000-2003, gave the NL's best home team another spark with a pair of two-run doubles to right field.
He said after he had back surgery, he owed it to himself to try to make the majors one more time.
``I'm not a player that's going to be chasing something I don't think is there,'' said Dillon, who signed a minor league contract with Milwaukee in March. ``I still think I can play and contribute.''
Villanueva (8-4) was not spectacular, but kept getting out of trouble early and stuck around for his longest outing this season. He scattered six hits, walked three and struck out four to help the Brewers (76-72) surpass their win total from last year.
``Command of his fastball wasn't great, but his off-speed stuff was really good and got him big outs when he needed them,'' Brewers manager Ned Yost said.
Just like Saturday night, Cincinnati had ample opportunities early. The Reds had runners in scoring position in the first, third and fourth, but couldn't score until rallying against Milwaukee's bullpen in the eighth.
``They made their hits count and we didn't,'' Reds interim manager Pete Mackanin said.
Cincinnati put two on against Matt Wise, who was pulled for Brian Shouse. Adam Dunn had an RBI groundout and Edwin Encarnacion hit a run-scoring single.
Shouse was lifted for closer Francisco Cordero, who struck out pinch-hitter Jorge Cantu to end the inning. Cordero also fanned three in the ninth, getting four outs for the second consecutive day and earning his 43rd save.
It was the first time in Cordero's career he'd converted two saves of four outs or more on consecutive days.
``I don't mind coming out and doing it again tomorrow,'' Cordero said. ``If they want me to come in the eighth inning again with two outs, I will be there.''
Dillon had one major league stint with Florida in 2005. He started Sunday for slumping outfielder Geoff Jenkins and batted third in front of Prince Fielder.
With two outs in the third inning, Dillon, who has played in 54 career games, made the lineup switch by Yost pay off. After Reds starter Matt Belisle (8-9) walked Rickie Weeks and allowed a single to Craig Counsell, Dillon doubled to make it 2-0.
``It's the way I got to Dillon,'' Belisle said. ``The two-out walk to Weeks. I don't walk guys usually. Counsell barely gets hit _ barely. ... It makes me want to puke.''
Dillon, who batted .317 with 20 homers in 93 games at Triple-A Nashville after playing in Japan last season, hit his second two-run double with two outs in the fifth when he blooped the ball down the right-field line out of Ken Griffey Jr.'s reach to give the Brewers a 4-0 lead.
Fielder, who homered in the first two games of the series to set the Brewers' season mark at 46, singled in Dillon to extend his career-best hitting streak to 14 games. Fielder is hitting .408 with seven homers and 13 RBIs in September.
Belisle struck out his first five batters, using a big curveball and a 95 mph fastball as shadows crept across the field. Belisle allowed a walk to the next batter, then struck out Johnny Estrada for six Ks through two.
Belisle added two strikeouts in the fourth and another in the sixth to finish with nine, tying his career high. He allowed six hits and two walks.
``Belisle pitched well,'' Mackanin said. ``He made two bad pitches to Dillon, but they were two mistakes that cost him dearly.''
Notes: Dillon has nine RBIs in his major league career. ... Reds SS Alex Gonzalez (knee) pinch-hit in the ninth. He struck out. ... Brewers OF Corey Hart and Reds 2B Brandon Phillips are the first two players to have at least 20 home runs, 20 steals and a 20-game hitting streak in a season since Vladimir Guerrero did it for the Expos in 2002. ... Brewers 3B Ryan Braun, struggling at the plate recently, got the day off.