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Albert Chen
May 26, 2003
Home Run DerbyWith three players hammering away, the Reds hang in the NL Central race by trying to outslug the opposition
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May 26, 2003

Baseball

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Four-bag Frenzy
More home runs had been hit in games involving the Reds than any other team in the majors through Sunday. By contrast, the Dodgers had the fewest homers hit in their games (56). Here are the leaders.

TEAM

HRS HIT

HRS ALLOWED

TOTAL

Reds

69

60

129

Rangers

69

51

120

Blue Jays

51

62

113

Brewers

51

61

112

Cardinals

50

55

105

Home Run Derby
With three players hammering away, the Reds hang in the NL Central race by trying to outslug the opposition

Last Saturday felt like Christmas morning to Reds left-fielder Adam Dunn and third baseman Aaron Boone: A package of Louisville Sluggers had arrived for them in the visitor's clubhouse at Miller Park Both hitters were eagerly awaiting the shipment after Boone, who had been using Dunn's bats the past three weeks, shattered the last one in a game the night before. Their giddy excitement dried up, however, when they realized that the new bats were shorter than Dunn's usual lumber. Said Dunn, "That's like asking a barber to cut with the wrong pair of scissors."

It didn't matter. Later that afternoon, Dunn belted his major league-leading 16th home run and Boone connected for his 11th. The next day Boone hit two more dingers, including a two-run blast in the 10th inning, sealing a 6-3 victory over the Brewers. It was the quintessential win for surprising Cincinnati (22-22 through Sunday), which has relied on the long ball like no other team in the majors: Nearly half of the Reds' runs (48.6%) have come off of home runs.

Of Cincinnati's 69 homers, which tied Texas for most in the majors and were 11 more than any other National League team, the trio of Dunn, Boone (13) and outfielder Austin Reams (13) had combined for 42, the most by any threesome this year. Dunn and Reams, both 23, rose through the Reds' system together and advise each other on their hitting. After Dunn had just four hits in his first eight games this year, Reams recommended that he revert to a more wide-open stance that Dunn had used to hit 19 homers in 66 games as a rookie in 2001. Dunn has stuck with that stance since.

At 6'2" and 200 pounds, with 68 career home runs in his five plus seasons, Boone has been the biggest surprise. After hitting a career-high 26 last year, he credits an extensive off-season training regimen for his added strength. "I haven't ever felt this healthy and strong," says Boone.

The Reds' startling display of power leads one to ask: Is it the red-hot lineup or the new stadium? With 36 home runs at Great American Ball Park, which has a short rightfield porch and an outfield jet stream that carries balls hit to left center, Cincinnati was averaging 1.64 per game compared with 1.05 last year at Cinergy Field. "It's a nice park to hit in," says Boone, "but people need to start recognizing that we have a legitimate lineup."

Befitting their swing-for-the-fences ways, the Reds had also struck out more than any other team in the majors (368), led by Dunn's 52 K's (tied for the major league lead). Manager Bob Boone, though, won't let that bother him, not with this group. "We're a home run-hitting team," says Boone, Aaron's father. "You can't train them not to strike out. Players who come up prone to striking out are always going to strike out You can't change who we are."

Carl Everett's Turnaround
He's Been Cool, While His Bat Is Hot

When he was battling for a starting job in spring training, combustible Rangers outfielder Carl Everett gave an indication mat he hadn't changed his ways when he told the media, "Anyone who thinks I can't play this game is an idiot."

But since becoming the regular leftfielder after Kevin Mench went down with a strained left oblique muscle in March, Everett, an All-Star in 2000, has looked like a new man under first-year manager Buck Showalter. At week's end Everett, who hit .267 with 16 homers last year, led the American League in slugging percentage (.694) while hitting .333 with 13 home runs and 40 RBIs—and he hadn't blown his top once.

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