Cozart, Cave go back-to-back; Reds top M's

March 13th, 2016

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Shortstop Zack Cozart and Rule 5 center fielder Jake Cave laced back-to-back home runs in the third inning off Mariners starter Nathan Karns on Sunday to lead the Reds to a 5-3 victory in Cactus League play at Peoria Stadium.

Cozart, playing his second game in his return from June reconstructive knee surgery, went 1-for-2 before being replaced in the fifth inning.

"We had some nice at-bats. Cozart, of course, was terrific to see," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Cave crushed that ball to center [field]. A lot of balls were hit right on the screws."

Karns zipped through two perfect frames on just 22 pitches before giving up four hits and three runs in the third, with Cozart's two-run blast to left followed by Cave's solo shot to center. The right-hander, competing for Seattle's fifth starting spot, finished four innings on just the four hits and three runs with one walk and one strikeout.

"I thought I was cruising through the third until I got back-to-back home runs hit off of me," Karns said after the two-out blasts. "But that just shows you, you have to execute your pitches throughout the whole inning. Until that third out is made, you have to stay on top of it. One pitch got away from me and the next pitch I didn't get quite as far off the plate as I wanted. It's early and these guys are aggressive."

Reds right-hander Anthony DeSclafani also went four frames, allowing three hits and two runs with one walk and four strikeouts. The only mark against the 25-year-old was a two-run single by center fielder Boog Powell in the third.

"The line score wasn't great for Disco, but I thought he threw about as well as you could throw," Price said of DeSclafani. "He gave up that chalk double on the left-field line and then he gives up the soft base hit that drives in two to left field. You can't prevent soft contact. That's really what you're pitching to or trying to attain."

Reliever Pedro Villarreal followed DeSclafani and threw two scoreless innings while giving up just one walk with two strikeouts.

Mariners left fielder Norichika Aoki went 2-for-2 with a double, a walk and run scored, raising his Cactus League average to .250. Nelson Cruz made his first start in right field after being limited to designated hitter duties early in camp by a sore knee. Cruz went 0-for-3 and is now hitless in 13 at-bats this spring.

"Just timing issues," Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Cruz. "He didn't play for the first three to four games and is a little behind. But he's healthy. He's fine. He just needs to get his timing down. He's not swinging at great pitches right now, either. But his knee is fine. No problem there."

Mariners third baseman Shawn O'Malley hit his first double of spring in the bottom of the eighth and later scored on Daniel Robertson's single off Caleb Cotham.

Mariners up next:Felix Hernandez makes his Cactus League debut on Monday in a 1:10 p.m. PT game against the Rockies in Peoria, while Taijuan Walker faces the D-backs at the same time at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale in a split-squad day. Hernandez's start will be available on MLB.TV.

Reds up next:Raisel Iglesias, who began camp behind the other pitchers because of a special right shoulder flexibility program he underwent in the offseason, is slated to make his spring debut at 4:10 p.m. ET Monday vs. the Angels in Tempe. Iglesias is expected to get five starts in Arizona before his first regular-season game in April. Also slated to pitch vs. the Angels are Jumbo Diaz and Tony Cingrani.