Phillips homers and Reds sweep Pirates in front of Cincy's smallest two crowds


Hardly anyone showed up to see Cincinnati pull off its first doubleheader sweep in 10 years. The two smallest crowds in Great American Ball Park's history saw the Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 and 6-3 on Monday in games played with tennis-match silence much of the time.

Brandon Phillips hit a homer and had another overturned after a review in the second game, which drew the smallest gate in the ballpark's seven-year history. Only 9,087 tickets were sold for the game.

The opener was far, far worse.

Fewer than 2,000 fans showed up for the start of the day-night doubleheader, turning the ballpark into a red-seat echo chamber. Fans could hear the players' banter. Players could hear the fans' chatter. It didn't take long to take a head count.

"I felt like I was back in the Florida State League," said rookie Drew Stubbs, who led off the Reds' first inning with a homer and added a two-run shot in the second game. "I could hear [announcer] Jeff Brantley's voice from out on the concourse and the cars on the highway outside."

Foul balls clattered around the 42,000-seat ballpark. There wasn't much competition for the T-shirts shot into the stands between innings.

"You could hear everything," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I saw one guy who was missing a finger catch a foul ball, and I could hear him say, 'That hurt like hell,' but he caught it. That's one of those days where everyone could get a foul ball and a T-shirt."

The opener ended when Darnell McDonald scored on a wild pitch by Jesse Chavez (0-4) with two outs in the ninth. Nick Masset (5-1) got the victory with one inning in relief on an eerie afternoon.

The game originally was rained out on April 10, after the Reds had already sold 13,051 tickets. A lot of bad things have happened to both teams since.

The Pirates went on yet another trading spree, getting rid of most of their starters. Only Ryan Doumit and Adam LaRoche are left from the lineup that manager John Russell wrote out on that rainy April 10 night.

For the Reds, it's been about injuries. Every starter from that game has been sidelined at some point in the season -- 19 players overall have gone on the disabled list. Joey Votto was the only mainstay left in the lineup from April.

The mood matched the misery.

When Pirates starter Daniel McCutchen -- called up before the game and given No. 62 -- threw a 92-mph fastball for his first pitch in the majors, a fan behind the Pirates dugout yelled: "There you go!" The next pitch was gone, a homer by Stubbs into the lower deck in left. Two fans gave chase as the ball bounced up the empty concrete aisle.

After the fourth inning, the video board showed one fan surrounded by empty seats while Eric Carmen's "All By Myself" played over the speaker system, drawing laughs from other fans who knew the feeling.

McCutchen was glad that the crowd was small and subdued -- better to help him get through the debut jitters that started when he bolted awake at 4:30 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. He singled home a run in his first at-bat, and settled down after Stubbs' homer, lasting six innings.

"I was a little antsy, trying to block that crowd out," he said, breaking into a grin. "That's a joke there."

The second game featured the first reversal in the ballpark's history -- Phillips' drive down the left-field line off Paul Maholm (7-8) was originally ruled a solo homer by third base umpire Dan Iassogna. Replays showed it veered foul, and the call was reversed -- the only thing that went right for Pittsburgh all day.

"I was sure it was foul," Phillips said, "but then when I rounded second and saw them signal home run I was like, 'Yeah, I like this.' Then I remembered they have instant replay."

Johnny Cueto (9-10) returned from a stint on the disabled list because of a sore shoulder and got his first victory since July 1, snapping a streak of six straight losing decisions.

Pittsburgh hadn't been swept in a doubleheader in Cincinnati since July 9, 1976, when the Big Red Machine was on its way to a second straight World Series championship.

The losses left Pittsburgh only five shy of becoming the first major American professional team to string together 17 straight losing seasons. The Reds are nine losses away from clinching their ninth straight losing season, their longest stretch of futility since the 1950s.

Game notes
The Pirates optioned INF Brian Bixler to Triple-A and assigned RHP John Meloan outright to the minors. ... The Reds are 6-4 against the Pirates this season. ... Cincinnati put OF Laynce Nix on the DL between games with a bulging disk in his neck.