Cincinnati, OH – Josh Willingham crushed a go-ahead two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning to lift the Twins to a 4-3 triumph over the Reds in the rubber match of a three-game series Sunday at Great American Ball Park.
Joey Votto gave the Reds a 3-2 lead with a two-run blast in the bottom of the eighth, but Aroldis Chapman (4-4) was unable to hold the Twins down in the ninth.
Joe Mauer ripped a one-out double to set the table for Willingham, who belted a fastball deep into the left-field seats to give the Twins a one-run lead.
"I was looking for something over the middle and hard and he threw it over the middle and he threw it hard," remarked Willingham. "I wasn't trying to hit a home run. I was trying to stay short and I caught one just perfect and got it up in the air."
Jared Burton, who pitched for the Reds from 2007-11, retired Cincinnati in the ninth to record the first save of his career. Scott Diamond (6-3) got the win in the longest outing of his career after tossing eight innings and giving up three runs on eight hits with a career-high seven strikeouts.
Wilson Valdez finished with two hits, including an RBI single, but the Reds lost for the fifth time in their last six games.
"It was a tough one to lose. It's a tough one for Chappy and us too," admitted Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker about Chapman. "He got behind a good hitter in Willingham and he's a dangerous man."
The Reds struck first in the bottom of the third as Devin Mesoraco scorched a leadoff double, moved to third on a bunt and finally crossed the plate on a two-out single to right from Valdez.
Minnesota tied the game with one swing of the bat in the fifth when Trevor Plouffe crushed a first-pitch sinker into the seats in right-center field.
After the Reds had a run cut down at the plate in the bottom of the sixth, Minnesota broke the 1-1 tie in the top of the seventh.
Mauer led off the frame with a single and Willingham followed with a double down the left-field line. Mauer then scored on an RBI groundout from Justin Morneau to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
Plouffe then slapped a grounder up the middle, but Brandon Phillips made a diving stop and fired home to catch Willingham at the plate and keep it a one- run contest.
Phillips' play loomed large, as Votto followed an inning later with a go-ahead two-run shot to left, but Chapman's second straight blown save in the ninth allowed the Twins to escape with the victory.
Minnesota wrapped up a six-game road trip at 3-3 and finished interleague play at 9-9...The Reds ended interleague play with a 7-8 record...The Reds have lost their last five one-run games...There has been at least one home run hit at Great American Ball Park in each of the last 62 games played there.