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CLE@CIN: Bailey fans eight over seven shutout innings

CINCINNATI -- After having his jaw grazed by a fifth-inning line drive off the bat of Jose Ramirez, Homer Bailey wasn't fazed.

"I've been bit worse by bedbugs down in Saltillo, [Mexico]," said the Reds' starter, who went seven scoreless innings in Cincinnati's 4-0 win over the Indians at Great American Ball Park.

The Reds won the last three of the four-game home-and-home set to claim the Ohio Cup for the first time since 2010.

Bailey got his glove on the comebacker, knocking it down and throwing to first. And while he had seam marks just below his right jaw after the contest, his fight represents Cincinnati's as a team.

After losing nine of their first 10 following the All-Star break, the Reds have won seven of 10, including two consecutive series after dropping four straight. A familiar pattern of strong starting pitching and lively offense has emerged with the club, and it carried the day again in this one.

"We've been hitting the ball pretty good the last couple days," Bailey said. "I just tried to get them back in the dugout and let them do their thing; I think tonight and really this whole series has been a really good series for all of us."

It was a good series for the Reds, and it came on the heels of a 4-2 road trip though Miami and Cleveland. Over the last 10 games:

• Cincinnati has averaged 4.5 runs per contest.

• As a team, the Reds have batted .271. Their season average is .244.

• The starting rotation has produced nine quality starts in 10 outings. It produced only one quality start in the first seven games following the All-Star break, all Reds' losses.

The four-game home-and-home set with Cleveland was one in which the bottom of the Reds' lineup awakened, and the team produced more consistently on offense:

Kris Negron was named Most Outstanding Player of the Ohio Cup series after going 7-for-13 (.538) with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs.

Zack Cozart was 1-for-3 with a triple on Thursday, and in the final three games of the series, he went 5-for-11 (.455) with two triples, a homer and four RBIs.

• The Reds scored 21 runs over the final three games of the series, and they produced at least four runs in three straight contests for the first time since scoring at least four in nine consecutive games from July 6-13.

Billy Hamilton singled to open the first inning on Thursday, and on a Jay Bruce infield single deep in the hole at short, Hamilton bolted for third on Ramirez's throw. First baseman Carlos Santana's throw to third skipped and bounced into the stands, enabling Hamilton to score. Bruce made it to third on the play and scored two outs later on an RBI single by Ryan Ludwick to make it 2-0.

With two outs and none on in the second, Bailey singled on a sharp ground ball up the middle off second baseman Jason Kipnis' glove. Hamilton followed with an RBI triple to left-center, but he was caught in a rundown and tagged out after a wide turn around third.

In the sixth, Negron lined a two-out, RBI single to right to extend Cincinnati's lead to 4-0.

"We were able to get on them early, and that takes the burden off the pitching staff," Negron said. "Getting a couple runs early really helped out."

The Indians were hitting Bailey hard early on, but had nothing to show for it. Kipnis led the game off with a sharp single and the next batter, David Murphy, hit a sharp grounder to first, where Todd Frazier picked it, stepped on the bag and fired to second for a 3-6 double play.

Michael Brantley followed with a double and Bailey walked Santana, but he then struck out Yan Gomes to end the frame. The right-hander allowed only two hits through his remaining six frames, and he finished with eight strikeouts while allowing the one free pass.

"Early on, they were putting some balls pretty good in play," Bailey said. "Then we started being really aggressive, and we put up some runs and when we score runs, I try to get us back in the dugout as quickly as I can, keep [the opposing pitcher] on the ropes a little bit.

"Once you kind of get that rhythm, you can keep attacking and stuff like that. You feel like you've got control all night."

Bailey has been in control often since tossing a shutout in San Francisco on June 29. Since then, he's posted a 1.62 ERA (nine earned runs in 50 innings pitched). Thursday's outing was also his fourth consecutive quality start.

The Reds' solid performance on the mound and at the plate in recent games is helping them stay close in the National League Central as they await the return of Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips from the disabled list. With Thursday's victory, Cincinnati remained four games behind the Brewers after their 3-1 win over the Giants.

"We need a lot of momentum," Bailey said. "We need to capitalize on the schedule we have in August, because September's not going to be an easy one. And we all know that. But I think we're up for the challenge. With pitching, defense, and hitters starting to show what they can do, we can finish this thing right."

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