CINCINNATI (AP) -- All of those homers flying out of the ballpark put Aaron Harang's performance in perspective.
This was something to appreciate.Harang shut down the Kansas City Royals' surging offense for seven innings Wednesday night and Ken Griffey Jr. hit the last of Cincinnati's four homers, leading the Reds to a 7-2 victory that underscored the importance of keeping the ball down."If Harang wasn't pitching so well, in this ballpark we would have a chance to come back," Royals manager Buddy Bell said. "Harang was just too much for us."Not so for his counterpart.The Reds hit three homers off Scott Elarton (3-9) during a five-run third inning that set the tone and helped Cincinnati snap a four-game losing streak at home. The Reds are 18-20 at Great American Ball Park, where home runs often decide matters."I haven't done great at home," said Harang, who is 3-3 in Cincinnati. "For us to win tonight was big. Hopefully we can get things started at home."Griffey led off the seventh inning against Andrew Sisco with his 551st homer, his third straight game with a home run. Griffey remains in 11th place on the career list, a dozen behind Reggie Jackson.It was Griffey's 153rd homer since he rejoined his hometown team in 2000, moving him ahead of Pete Rose and Joe Morgan into sole possession of 12th place on the franchise list.A few hours before the game, the Reds extended the contracts of general manager Wayne Krivsky and manager Jerry Narron through 2008. Cincinnati has stayed in contention despite a bullpen that has the NL's highest ERA and a defense that has the second-most errors.A potent offense and a surprisingly stout rotation have pulled them through. They did again in front of a crowd of 34,648 that showed up for Barry Larkin bobbleheads.Harang (9-5) matched Bronson Arroyo for the staff lead in victories by dominating for the second straight start. The right-hander was coming off his seven-hit shutout, a 3-0 victory in Cleveland on Friday night.Harang gave up four singles -- two of them infield hits -- and John Buck's solo homer in seven innings, stopping an offense that had averaged seven runs over the last 10 games. He left after throwing 114 pitches."He's been overshadowed by Bronson," said Scott Hatteberg, who had a two-run homer. "Bronson has been phenomenal, but Harang has been right there on his heels."Reliever David Weathers gave up an RBI double to Mark Grudzielanek in the eighth, drawing boos and catcalls from the crowd.Elarton experienced what happens when fly-ball pitchers come to Great American Ball Park -- the ball flies out.The right-hander gave up 32 homers last season and is among the AL leaders in that category again with 22 so far. No one in the AL gave up more fly balls on average last season than Elarton, whose mistakes tend to stay up in the strike zone.In Cincinnati, that translates into home runs.The Reds hit three in an every-other-batter sequence during the third inning. Felipe Lopez started the splurge with a one-out solo shot, and Rich Aurilia and Hatteberg kept it going with two-run homers."I would never blame the park," Elarton said. "I just didn't make the pitches. I made two bad pitches in that inning. Lopez's homer was on a cutter up and over the plate, and I threw a high changeup to Aurilia. You just can't afford to make pitches up there."Tellingly, Elarton was ahead in the count to all three batters. Of the 56 earned runs he has given up this season, 31 have come on homers."He's a fly-ball guy," Bell said. "The five-run inning just put us way behind. But also, their guy pitched pretty doggone good."
A total of 117 homers have been hit in the 38 games at Great American this season, a pace that would set a record for the ballpark's first four seasons. Only 22 games have gone without a homer in the 282 overall. ... The Royals fell to 12-13 in June. They haven't had a winning month since July 2003, when they went 15-11. ... Kansas City is 8-6 in interleague play this season. Cincinnati is 4-7. ... Four of Buck's seven homers have come in interleague play. ... Harang drew his first career walk in the sixth from Elarton. ... Sisco became the 352nd pitcher to give up a homer to Griffey. ... The teams have combined for 11 homers in the first two games of the series.