CINCINNATI(AP) Jonny Gomes had hit three home runs in a game once before. This time meant more to him.
Gomes homered in his first three at-bats to back Bronson Arroyo 's two-hitter and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Washington Nationals 7-0 on Thursday night.
The three-homer game was Gomes' first since July 30, 2005, against Kansas City.
''This one's a lot more emotional for me,'' said Gomes, who opened the season with Triple-A Louisville after signing a minor-league contract with Cincinnati in January. He joined the Reds on May 22. ''I was in Triple-A to start this thing off, and now - not too many at-bats later - I have three home runs.''
Gomes hit two-run homers in the second and fourth innings and added a solo shot in the sixth to help the Reds take a 7-0 lead. He struck out in the eighth inning, but still finished with a single-game career-high five RBI.
He is the sixth player to hit three homers in a game this season. Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen was the last on Aug. 1.
Gomes became the 24th player in franchise history to hit three home runs in a game and Ryan Hanigan added a solo shot to give Arroyo plenty of breathing room.
Gomes' performance reminded manager Dusty Baker of games he's seen from all-time home run leader Barry Bonds and Dave Kingman .
''That was one the best performances I've seen in a long time,'' Baker said. ''We needed those runs and the victory, and that was an outstanding performance by Bronson, too. It was like he didn't break a sweat.''
Arroyo (11-11) had been 0-3 in his previous four starts and hadn't won since beating Milwaukee 4-0 on July 17. He allowed just one runner as far as second base. He walked one, hit a batter and struck out three.
''That's what a big-game pitcher does - he saves the bullpen,'' Baker said. ''We were kind of running on fumes after getting in really late (from St. Louis).''
Laynce Nix ended the game with a leaping catch of Ryan Zimmerman 's line drive at the left field wall, one of three impressive defensive plays turned in by the left fielder.
''Early on, they hit a couple of balls hard, and Laynce made some great plays,'' Arroyo said. ''I got a lot of groundballs right at people on my changeup and sinker. The ball rolled my way today, and those three runs we got early on were huge. Lately, it seems like I've had fight and scratch to keep the score close early.''
Collin Balester (1-2) allowed three home runs and five runs for the second straight start.
''I left the ball up,'' Balester said. ''My tempo was off. I was getting ahead of myself. Other than the three pitches for home runs, I threw the ball OK, but I left pitches out over the plate.''
Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a single in the seventh. He had a club-record 30-game streak earlier in the season. Former Cincinnati player Adam Dunn had the only other hit, singling in the second. Manager Jim Riggleman had a brief post-game meeting to address what he considered to be a lackluster effort.
''You have to create some energy,'' Riggleman said. ''I told the guys to make sure to run everything out - to keep playing hard. If you hit a fly ball, round the base hard. Let the other team know that you're beating us, but we're going to keep coming at you.''
Nix led off the second inning with a double to right-center field. Gomes followed with his 12th home run of the season, a 439-foot high drive five rows into the upper deck in left field.
One out later, Hanigan snapped a career-worst 0-for-20 slump with a homer to left field, his second of the season and first in 153 at bats since a 5-1 win May 20 against Philadelphia. The RBI was Hanigan's first since June 13.
Nix singled to lead off the fourth inning, and Gomes launched his second homer of the game into the lower deck down the left field line.
Gomes made it three homers in three at-bats with a 410-foot blast to center field off of Jason Bergmann with one out in the seventh inning. He pumped his fist in the air while watching the ball clear the fence as he rounded first base and stepped to the top step of the dugout and raised his left hand to acknowledge the crowd's request for a curtain call.
Brandon Phillips added an RBI double in the seventh.
Notes: Gomes has two multi-homer games this season and seven in his career. ... Reds RHP Edinson Volquez is optimistic that he could return from his Aug. 3 '' Tommy John '' surgery in a year, if not sooner. ''I surprised them because they've seen me do a lot of stuff in exercises for the first week-and-a-half,'' Volquez said. ''They're happy now.'' ... Reds players have hit three home runs in one game a total of 29 times. The last player to do it was Joey Votto against the Chicago Cubs on May 7, 2008.
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