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Must C Clutch: Ruggiano rips go-ahead homer in ninth

CINCINNATI -- It was a low-scoring, defensive game -- exactly the type the Marlins needed to win.

And they did.

Justin Ruggiano hit a home run off of Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in the top of the ninth inning to break a 1-1 standstill and give the Marlins a 2-1 win at Great American Ball Park on Friday.

"I just waited him out and got the pitch I was looking for," Ruggiano said. "He's tough, man. It's hard to slow him down. I kind of had a two-strike approach the whole time. I told myself don't get beat up. The one thing I didn't want to do was get beat on a high fastball."

He didn't. Ruggiano extended his hitting streak to five games with the homer, his third of the season.

"You get so used to his being perfect," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Chapman. "It's happened a couple of times last year but not many. It's going to happen. [Ruggiano] hit a high fastball last night too off of [Tony] Cingrani. Maybe he's a high-fastball hitter."

Ruggiano rescued the Marlins from another quiet night at the plate.

Reds starter Mat Latos entered the game with a career 0-3 record and 7.50 ERA against the Marlins, but flummoxed the club for much of the night. He allowed one run on six hits and finished with 10 strikeouts in seven innings.

Ruggiano, Juan Pierre, Giancarlo Stanton and Rob Brantly all struck out at least two times for the Marlins, who had several scoring chances throughout the game but were mostly unable to cash in.

Nick Green and Donovan Solano led off the third inning with back-to-back singles, but Miami mustered only one run. Placido Polanco sent a two-out single to right field to score Green, but Solano -- who was attempting to score from second -- was thrown out on a laser from Jay Bruce.

"If we were scoring a bunch of runs, we wouldn't have to be that aggressive," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "But he's trying to be aggressive and pick up another run. I know it looks bad with Stanton coming up, but he was trying to be aggressive."

Green's run was the first scored by a Marlin this season in a game in which Kevin Slowey was still the pitcher of record.

Slowey has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his four starts. He allowed one run on four hits in six innings against the Reds, walking one and striking out four. He threw 82 pitches (54 for strikes) and lowered his ERA to 1.90, but he remains 0-2 on the year.

"The team winning is the biggest thing, and that comes first," Slowey said. "It sets us up for the opportunity to at least tie -- or possibly win -- a series."

Slowey's last win came on Sept. 18, 2010, against Oakland, when he was a member of the Minnesota Twins. Still, it's hard to argue with his consistency this season, and on Friday he overcame wet conditions and temperatures in the low 40s.

"He's been great," Redmond said. "This is as good as I've ever seen him pitch. He's pounding the strike zone. He's doing a really nice job for us. He's keeping us in the game. That's all you can ask."

Slowey isn't sure if this is the best he's pitched in his big league career, but he said Redmond -- his former teammate -- is a good person to ask.

"He would know certainly better than I would," Slowey. "Throwing to him was pretty easy. He commanded the game back there. But this is certainly one of the best stretches that I've had."

Latos, meanwhile, allowed one run on six hits and threw 105 pitches (75 strikes). He has yet to factor into a decision this season.

The Reds took a 1-0 lead on a sacrifice fly by Joey Votto that plated Shin-Soo Choo in the first inning, but Slowey -- not to mention Chad Qualls and Mike Dunn -- kept the Reds in check for the next seven innings before Steve Cishek closed it out in the ninth.

"Any win on the road is good," Ruggiano said. "That's a tough team. They have a balanced lineup, and they have good pitching. To beat them on the road in a tight game like that -- that's got to be confidence-building. It lets us know we can pitch against anybody and beat them."

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