By Mark Schmetzer
CINCINNATI — Jay Bruce and Ken Griffey Jr. are even — at least in one category.
Bruce homered twice and matched a career high with five RBIs, and the Cincinnati Reds made a winner of top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson in his major league debut by beating the Philadelphia Phillies 10-6 on Thursday to complete a season-opening sweep.
With his two home runs, Bruce increased his career total to 210, tying Griffey for seventh place on the franchise list. Of course, the Hall of Fame outfielder also hit 417 for the Seattle Mariners and three more with the Chicago White Sox.
“It is an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Ken,” Bruce said. “I saw how he changed the game. He’s a friend of mine. I’m not worthy.”
Eugenio Suarez hit his first career grand slam and Bruce connected for a three-run shot as the Reds scored eight times in the fourth inning, ruining the big league debut of reliever Daniel Stumpf. Bruce capped the 13-batter outburst with an RBI single.
Cincinnati manager Bryan Price believes the work Bruce did in spring training is paying off after consecutive sub-.230 seasons.
“He put a lot of work in to close some holes in his swing,” Price said. “I know he was disappointed in his last two seasons.”
Stephenson (1-0), a first-round draft pick in 2011, was called up from Triple-A Louisville on opening day to fill a temporary hole in Cincinnati’s injury-depleted rotation. The right-hander allowed six hits and four runs — three earned — with two walks and one strikeout in five innings.
“It was very exciting,” the 23-year-old said. “It is good to get the jitters out of the way. I know what to expect when I come back now.”
After the game, Stephenson was optioned back to Triple-A Louisville and the Reds said a corresponding roster move will be made Friday.
Cedric Hunter hit a leadoff homer in the fourth and Ryan Howard had a two-run shot in the fifth for Philadelphia. Carlos Ruiz added a two-run homer in the eighth, but manager Pete Mackanin would prefer to see more consistency on offense.
“It was nice to score six runs, but I’d like to see us string three or four hits together,” Mackanin said. “I don’t think we can rely on home runs.”
The Reds are 3-0 for the second consecutive season. They swept a three-game series from Pittsburgh and added a win over St. Louis to open 2015.
The loss was Philadelphia’s eighth straight in Cincinnati, the team’s longest skid in the Queen City since a nine-game stretch at now-demolished Riverfront Stadium that spanned 1976-77.
The Phillies are 0-3 for the first time since 2007. They have dropped seven in a row overall to the Reds, the most since an eight-game slide in 1996.
Philadelphia was swept in a season-opening road series for the first time since April 2000 at Arizona.
Bruce hit his first homer of the season off starter Charlie Morton (0-1), who allowed five hits and six runs over 3 2/3 innings in his Phillies debut. Morton is winless in six April starts since 2012.
“I felt like I was getting in trouble out of the stretch,” Morton said. “I don’t know if it was (because it was) the second time through (the lineup). I was struggling out of the stretch. I felt like I was getting ahead. Then I started getting into deep counts. Got into a deep count with Bruce and I threw a changeup right down the middle. It was just a bad pitch.”
Morton snapped a 0-for-29 slump by leading off the third with an infield single to shortstop. Morton scored on Howard’s two-out single, but only after Bruce bobbled the ball in right field for Cincinnati’s first error of the season.
Hunter’s first career homer was a 398-foot shot into the right-field seats. A fan threw the ball back onto the field, allowing Hunter to collect a memorable keepsake.
AGAIN AND AGAIN
After driving in the game-winning run Wednesday with a double to left field, Cincinnati outfielder Scott Schebler knocked in the tying run Thursday with a shot to virtually the same spot in the third inning.
Reds 2B Brandon Phillips stayed home with a stomach virus that caused him to be scratched from Wednesday’s lineup. Cincinnati C Devin Mesoraco, CF Billy Hamilton and SS Zack Cozart, all coming off operations that cut short their 2015 seasons, also did not start on Thursday.
Phillies: OF Odubel Herrera, limited to 13 exhibition games due to a jammed middle finger on his right hand, went 1 for 6 in his first two games after batting .419 (18 for 43) in spring training.
Reds: RHP Michael Lorenzen’s comeback from elbow problems that sent him to the disabled list was sidetracked by a bout with mononucleosis, Price said.
Phillies: RHP Jerad Eickhoff is the scheduled starter for Philadelphia in the New York Mets’ home opener Friday afternoon. Eickhoff was 1-2 in three starts against New York after the Phillies acquired him from Texas last July 31.
Reds: RHP Alfredo Simon makes his seventh career start against Pittsburgh in the opener of a three-game series Friday night. Simon was 1-1 against the Pirates in two starts for Detroit last season.