CINCINNATI — All Micah Owings needed was some run support. Jay Bruce provided more than enough.
Bruce homered twice and drove in four runs, helping Owings, a Gainesville High graduate, earn his first win in nearly a year by leading the Cincinnati Reds over the Atlanta Braves 8-2 on Sunday.
"I’ve been working on changing my approach," said Bruce, who’s hitting .455 (10-for-22) with four home runs and eight RBIs during a six-game hitting streak. "I got myself out a whole lot last year, and I got myself out earlier this year. I just want to settle down and not get ahead of myself. The biggest thing is to swing at strikes and not swing at their (best) pitches."
Joey Votto had two doubles, one with the bases loaded in Cincinnati’s six-run fifth inning, to help the Reds salvage the finale of the three-game series after losing the first two.
"Hitting’s contagious," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "One guy gets hot or two guys get hot and, suddenly, the pitcher’s pitching out of the stretch a lot. We got some timely hitting. When that happens, you’re going to score some runs."
Owings (1-2), acquired in the trade that sent Adam Dunn to Arizona, also had two hits while earning his first win in 15 appearances, including 11 starts, since a 9-3 win at Atlanta for Arizona May 25. The right-hander, who was 0-9 with an 8.53 ERA in that span, limited the Braves to six hits and one run with three walks and six strikeouts Sunday.
"I wish I could have gone even deeper in the game, but I don’t want to get greedy," Owings said. "I am going to enjoy this one. I am going to work on going even deeper in games. In the first two games I might have been a little too quick. I had to concentrate on driving my pitches more."
Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones, who had two of the five hits allowed by Owings, was surprised by the effectiveness of the Reds pitcher’s fastball.
"I watched his last two games," Jones said. "He looked more inconsistent with his fastball than he was today. Today, he pitched most of the left-handers in. We couldn’t do anything with him."
"I didn’t notice any difference in my fastball, but for Chipper Jones to say that, you have to respect it," Owings said.
Former Reds catcher David Ross broke up Owings’ shutout bid with a solo home run with one out in the seventh.
The Reds, who scored one more run in the fifth inning Sunday than they totaled for Owings in his first two starts, avoided their first three-game skid of the season and cost the Braves their first four-game winning streak.
Atlanta starter Kenshin Kawakami held the Reds hitless and limited them to just two baserunners until Votto lined a double down the right-field line with one out in the fourth inning. An out later, Bruce hit an opposite-field home run to left. Bruce has gotten at least one hit in all six starts since missing three consecutive starts with a bruised right hand.
The Reds broke the game open with their six-run fifth. Votto hit a three-run double just out of the reach of lunging first baseman Casey Kotchman. Brandon Phillips followed with a run-scoring single and Bruce capped the inning with his second homer of the game and fifth of the season. It was his third multihomer game and first this season.
Bruce’s homer knocked Kawakami (1-3) out, having given up eight hits and eight runs with a walk and a strikeout. The 33-year-old rookie right-hander from Japan has lost his last three starts after starting his big league career with a win.
"He pitched good for the first three innings," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "All Bruce’s (first) homer was was a little flyball. He started getting his offspeed pitches up, then he started getting hit."
Owings held Atlanta to two hits and five baserunners through the first five innings.
"He did it with the bat, too," Bruce said. Notes: Votto was hit by a pitch with two outs and nobody on in the first inning. He went straight to first base despite being hit for the second time in two days. Both benches briefly cleared Friday after Braves SS Yunel Escobar was hit by a pitch, but there were no problems when he was hit again Saturday ... The Reds haven’t made a roster move in the first 21 days of the season, their longest stretch since 1985, when they didn’t make their first move until the 37th day of the season ... Owings was credited with a hit on a sharp one-hopper in the fifth inning that grazed baserunner Ramon Hernandez’s foot between second and third, causing Hernandez to be called out.