CINCINNATI – Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman was too fast to hit in his big league debut, throwing 102 mph during one perfect inning, and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-4 on Tuesday night, wrapping up the best August by any team in the majors.
The NL Central leaders moved a season-high seven games ahead of St. Louis, which lost to Houston 3-0, getting shut out for the second straight night. The Reds haven't led by so many games since 1995, the last time they reached the playoffs.
Now, they have a radar-busting reliever to help them get there again.
Chapman joined the Reds' bullpen and matched the hype his first time out, throwing four pitches clocked at 100 mph or better. The Reds called up the hard-throwing lefty, hoping he can add some sizzle to their September — and beyond.
The Reds have pulled away from second-place St. Louis in the NL Central by going 19-8 in August, the best mark in the majors.
Joey Votto drove in three runs with a pair of doubles off Yovani Gallardo (11-7), hearing "MVP!" chants each time he reached. Sam LeCure (2-4) pitched two innings in relief of Aaron Harang, who struggled in his return from back spasms.
From the start, the Reds had their attention on September.
They called up Chapman from the minors before the game, making him eligible for postseason play. Chapman's fastball has been clocked as high as 105 mph in the minors, making him something of an urban legend before he even reached a major league mound.
Fans started snapping pictures when he took off his jacket and started warming up after the seventh-inning stretch. The crowd cheered when Chapman — wearing No. 54 — was shown on the videoboard.
Chapman got a standing ovation from the crowd of only 19,218 when he jogged out of the bullpen to pitch the top of the eighth with the Reds leading 8-3. Fans let out a collective "ooh" after each high-velocity warmup throw.
His first pitch to Jonathan Lucroy registered 98 mph, and the third one hit 102 mph, drawing a loud cheer. Chapman made quick work of the three batters he faced — a strikeout by Lucroy on an 86 mph slider and two weak ground balls by Craig Counsell and pinch-hitter Carlos Gomez. Half of his eight pitches reached triple digits, topping out at 102.
He walked off the field to another standing ovation.
Votto put the Reds ahead to stay with his first-inning double, which extended his hitting streak to 10 games. The first baseman has led the NL's top offense in August, pushing his overall RBI total to 97. Scott Rolen broke the game open with a bases-loaded double in the sixth.
The Reds are trying to find out if Harang can help them down the stretch as a starter. He returned from a nearly two-month stay on the disabled list because of back spasms, and had a tough time. The right-hander left in the fifth after failing to retire a batter.
Harang took Counsell's liner off his left foot in the fourth inning but stayed in the game.
Gallardo has struggled in his last three starts, giving up 20 runs in 15 innings. He allowed eight in five-plus innings on Tuesday.
NOTES: The Reds put OF Laynce Nix on the 15-day DL with a sprained left ankle, hurt on Aug. 23. They also optioned RHP Edinson Volquez to Class-A Dayton to make two starts, hoping he'll fix problems with his delivery. ... 2B Brandon Phillips was out of the lineup for the fifth straight game with a bruised right hand, which was hit by a pitch. ... RF Jay Bruce was a late scratch with pain in his right side.