CINCINNATI — Anthony Ranaudo minimized damage for the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday afternoon, and first baseman Mike Napoli did some damage.
Napoli hit a two-run home run, and Ranaudo pitched six innings to earn his second career win, lifting the Boston Red Sox to a 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the finale of a brief two-game interleague series at Great American Ball Park.
Ranaudo (2-0) was making his second major league start and first against a National League opponent. He allowed four earned runs on eight hits including two homers.
After issuing four walks in his first career start, Ranaudo knew that wouldn’t get the job done on a relatively warm summer afternoon at Cincinnati’s home-run friendly ballpark.
“I try to throw to contact,” Ranaudo said. “They put some balls in play against me. Getting fly ball outs was huge. Filling up the zone was my main focus.”
Right fielder Skip Schumaker and starting pitcher Mike Leake homered for Cincinnati, which has lost nine of 10 regular-season meetings with the Red Sox.
“We’ve got to play better baseball,” said Reds manager Bryan Price. “We’re playing hard but falling short. We have to find a way to win some of these. We’re two steps forward, two steps back.”
A couple of decisions paid off for Red Sox manager John Farrell on Wednesday.
Farrell knew going into the series that he would give David Ortiz and Napoli one game each. The decision worked out when Napoli started the finale and belted his 15th homer, which proved to be the game-winner.
“I didn’t want David to have three days off, so that’s why he was in there last night,” Farrell said.
Farrell also tried to avoid using closer Koji Uehara on Wednesday, so Edward Mujica got the call in the ninth. That situation was a bit nerve-racking at the start.
Schumaker singled off Mujica leading off the ninth. Shortstop Zack Cozart fell behind 0-2 after two sacrifice bunt attempts then lined a single to left. Second baseman Ramon Santiago struck out trying to bunt before Mujica retired the next two batters for his third save .
“Three foul balls changed the complexity of the inning,” Farrell said of the Reds’ bunt attempts.
“Santiago is our best bunter. I wanted to get the winning run in scoring position and make them make a decision,” Price said. “Mujica has that power sinker, he made it tough on Cozart, too.”
Leake (9-11) allowed five earned runs and eight hits in five innings. He walked one and struck out five.
The Red Sox pounced on Leake in the first inning. Second baseman Brock Holt led off with a walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on right fielder Daniel Nava’s RBI hit.
Nava later slid home on a Napoli’s grounder to make the score 2-0. Napoli went 1-for-4 with three RBI.
Schumaker, a late replacement in right field for Jay Bruce who was scratched due to illness, tied the score 2-2 with a 411-foot solo shot in the fourth.
Two batters later, Leake hit his fourth career home run to put Cincinnati ahead 3-2.
“I knew he could hit when he was at Arizona State,” Ranaudo said of Leake. “I tried to get ahead with the fastball. He put a pretty good swing on it.”
The Red Sox responded in the fifth with an RBI single by left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and a two-run home run by Napoli, putting them ahead 5-3.
Second baseman Kristopher Negron tripled and scored on third baseman Todd Frazier’s sacrifice fly to trim the Reds’ deficit to 5-4. That’s as close as Cincinnati would get.
NOTES: Cespedes left the game after six innings with a right hand contusion. “In his last at-bat he got jammed pretty good,” said Farrell. “It was precautionary that we took him out. He was fighting to stay in.” … Red Sox CF Jackie Bradley Jr.’s second-inning single snapped an 0-for-35 skid. … Reds 2B Brandon Phillips could begin a minor league rehab assignment as early as Friday. Phillips, who has been on the disabled list since suffering a torn ligament in his left thumb making a diving stop on July 9, began taking batting practice this week. … Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia was given a day off on Wednesday. “He understands,” Farrell said. “I think that 19-inning game (on Saturday) took a lot out of the position players … plus day game after a night game. I think it’s a good day for a break.”