LOS ANGELES -- Following an April that was a month to be forgotten, May has turned into a reset for the Reds as they swept the four-game series against the Dodgers with a 5-3 victory Sunday in front of 44,787 in Los Angeles, and ran their winning streak to six games.
Manager Jim Riggleman stated the obvious when asked about Cincinnati's current play: "It feels real good. We're playing good."
The Reds had a chance to break the game open early, loading the bases with one out in the first, but they were unable to get a run across the plate against Dodger left-hander Rich Hill. In the second inning, Billy Hamilton bunted for a single and then stole second and third, but again, the Reds were unable to push across a run.
In the third, the Reds finally got on the board, as Eugenio Suarez hit his sixth home run of the season for a 2-0 lead, scoring Alex Blandino.
The Dodgers cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning on Yasiel Puig's first home run of the season, but Cincinnati got that run right back in the fourth on the legs of Hamilton. After singling, advanced to third on a single by Jose Peraza, and came home to score on a sacrifice bunt by Blandino.
"It was early in the game and by that time we had squandered a couple of scoring opportunities," Riggleman said, explaining his decision to go for the sacrifice bunt. "I didn't want to see another double play where we didn't get anything to show for the inning."
Riggleman also admitted that he was thinking about what had been happening to the Dodgers this series.
"We left some runners out there early ... the Dodgers did that against us and it haunted them," Riggleman said. "I was afraid it was going to do that to us today."
Turned out there was no reason to worry as the Reds extended their lead to 5-1 when Joey Votto followed another Blandino single with his sixth home run of the season.
Meanwhile, Reds starter Luis Castillo gave up only three hits and one earned run through the first six innings.
"Luis really pitched well," Riggleman said. "He's done that now three in a row where he's really taken his stuff forward and responding to some work he's put in the side sessions with the pitching coaches."
Since the calendar turned to May, Castillo has thrown 17 2/3 innings across three games, giving up only six earned runs on 16 hits while striking out 22 batters.
"The small details that I've been paying attention to in the bullpen," Castillo revealed. "I've made the transition from the bullpen to the game and they are helping me a lot."
Castillo started the seventh, but after nearly 100 pitches, it was obvious that he was tired as Yasmani Grandal led off the inning with his sixth home run of the season. When Cody Bellinger followed with a single, Castillo's day was over.
Reliever Austin Brice allowed a single to Matt Kemp and a Chris Taylor ground out that allowed Bellinger to score, bringing the Dodgers within two, 5-3, but then Amir Garrett came in and got the Reds out of the inning. Garrett then struck out the side in the eighth and Raisel Iglesias came in for the ninth, recording his seventh save.
With the winning streak also comes a change in attitude, as Suarez cheerfully noted: "If feels really good, win this series, four on the road, you can see it in the clubhouse."
The Reds' four-game sweep of the Dodgers is their first at Dodger Stadium since 1976, when the Big Red Machine, led by Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose and George Foster, faced a Dodgers team that featured Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Bill Russell and Don Sutton.
The Reds open a three-game series in San Francisco on Monday night with right-hander Sal Romano facing the Giants' Chris Stratton at 10:15 p.m. ET. Since the beginning of the 2008 season, the Reds are 40-27 (.597) vs San Francisco, the best winning percentage of any Giants opponent since then (minimum 50 games); this includes a 29-19 (.604) record over the last seven seasons.