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Despite loss Expos return 'home' in first place

4/20/2003

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- After a long day of longballs, the
Cincinnati Reds left the island with a much-needed win. The
Montreal Expos packed up, too, still in first place and ready for
their real home opener.

Pinch-hitter Adam Dunn and Felipe Lopez hit consecutive home
runs in the ninth inning and the Reds connected six times in all to
beat Montreal 7-5 Sunday and stop a five-game losing streak.

Aaron Boone homered twice, Austin Kearns hit his major
league-leading ninth shot and Jose Guillen also went deep for the
Reds at cozy Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

"We needed this one so bad,'' Kearns said.

The Expos were hoping to cap their 10-game stay in the Caribbean
with a sweep. Even so, it was a productive stay at their part-time
home, as the surprise NL East leaders went 6-4.

"After about 19 days of taking suitcases, I'm looking forward
to getting to Montreal and finally leaving the clothes in the
closet,'' Expos manager Frank Robinson said.

Montreal will play its official home opener on Tuesday night
against Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks, and a crowd of
about 35,000 is expected at Olympic Stadium.

The wrapup of this visit to Puerto Rico attracted a crowd of
11,619 for a game that was delayed by rain for more than an hour.
The Expos are playing 22 games here this season, with the next game
June 3 against Anaheim.

"It was a beautiful experience, with beautiful fans,'' Expos
pitcher Tony Armas Jr. said.

As for the return to Montreal, "it's the same, I just hope the
people back us,'' he said.

Overall, the first 10 games drew an average of 14,282, topping
the Expos' average of 10,031 last season in Montreal. With tickets
ranging from $10-$85, the extra revenue will produce a boost for
the team owned by major league baseball.

Dunn gave the Reds a boost with his seventh home run. He batted
for Scott Sullivan (1-0) and hit his first career pinch-hit homer,
connecting on an 0-2 pitch from Luis Ayala (1-1). Lopez followed
with his first homer of the season.

"You have to try to block out how small the dimensions are,''
Dunn said. "If you go up there trying to hit it out, you won't.
You just have to hit it square and it'll fly.''

There were a total of seven homers at the ballpark where it's
399 feet to dead center, 315 to left and 313 to right. In all, the
Expos, Reds, New York Mets and Atlanta combined for 34 home runs in
10 games at San Juan.

Plenty of other shots almost left the park. Fernando Tatis' bid
for a go-ahead drive in the Montreal eighth was caught by Kearns in
right-center, up against an outfield billboard that advertised
"Home Rums.''

"A lot of fly balls go out,'' Reds manager Bob Boone said.
"This is the smallest park you'll play in in the major leagues.
And with the artificial turf, it's a hitter's dream and a pitcher's
nightmare.''

Endy Chavez got the home-run derby started with a leadoff shot
in the bottom of the first. His drive off Danny Graves landed in
bleachers that were dotted with brightly colored umbrellas, brought
by fans to ward off the sun.

The thunder and lightning came later when the Expos were making
5-all in the seventh on an RBI single by Chavez, and there was a
rain delay of 1 hour, 22 minutes after the inning ended.

Armas did not give up a home run in his first 26 innings of the
season. The Reds changed that, quickly tagging him for a
career-high four.

"He made bad pitches and the Reds were in launch mode today,''
Robinson said.

Kearns homered on the first pitch of the second inning and Boone
connected one pitch later. Kearns homered in all three of the Reds'
games in Puerto Rico.

"I can always remember coming here,'' Kearns said. "I've never
been a big traveler wanting to go to other countries, but it's
definitely enjoyable.''

Jose Guillen hit a solo shot in the third and Boone launched a
two-run drive. Boone started the day in a 2-for-26 rut and had been
hitless in his last 10 at-bats.

"I think it's the result of the park, a little bit,'' Boone
said.

Scott Williamson pitched the ninth for his third save.

Game notes
Kearns has 19 hits this season -- nine homers and 10
singles. ... Chavez hit his first career leadoff home run. ...
Promoted Saturday night, IF Ryan Freel reported to the Reds and
pinch-ran in the ninth. RHPs Chris Reitsma, Jeff Austin and Brian Reith are expected to join the team Tuesday.