CINCINNATI -- Tyson Ross helped the Padres capture something on Thursday that had eluded them for the first six weeks of the season: a road series win.
The big right-hander tossed seven strong innings to pick up his fifth win, and the Padres belted three homers for the first time this season in a 6-1 victory over the Reds to split a day-night doubleheader at Great American Ball Park.
Ross allowed one run on three hits while walking five and striking out eight. He yielded that run without allowing a hit in the first inning, when Billy Hamilton walked, stole second and third, and scored on Brandon Phillips' slow ground ball to short. But despite walking four more the rest of the way, Ross kept Cincinnati's offense at bay.
"[Pitching coach Darren Balsely] made that trip out to the mound [in the first inning] and kind of calmed me down a little bit," Ross said. "He told me to just get back in the strike zone and let the movement work. So, I just made a little adjustment and tried to pound the strike zone."
Reds manager Bryan Price said his club missed its chance to get to Ross early in the game, and it was too late once he settled into a groove.
"The kid, Ross, kind of figured it out after that first inning, and really started making some good pitches," Price said. "He got a good slider going and he has some good velocity and deception. Sometimes, that's when you have to try and win your ballgame -- in those early innings when guys haven't settled in. And once he settled in, he made it very difficult for us to establish any type of a rally."
Ross turned in his third consecutive quality start and fifth in nine starts overall this season. Manager Bud Black was impressed with his outing.
"The two walks in the first generated their run, but after that Tyson settled in, had good life on the fastball and a good, hard slider," Black said. "He made pitches. He made some good hitters look a little bit uncomfortable."
One of those hitters was Cincinnati's cleanup man, Joey Votto, who struck out three times against Ross.
"I think in those at-bats, I was able to execute right off the get-go," Ross said. "I was able to get strike one fairly early and just mix speeds and locations."
The Padres grabbed a 2-1 lead in the second when Cameron Maybin singled with two outs against Reds starter Jeff Francis and Rene Rivera followed with a two-run homer to left. It was Rivera's second of the season and sixth of his career (139 games).
"I've been working hard and [hitting coach Phil] Plantier has also been doing a great job," Rivera said. "I just wanted to put the ball on the bat and whatever happens, happens."
San Diego added another run in the third, as Chris Denorfia doubled to right and scored on Chase Headley's single up the middle. Then in the sixth, Yonder Alonso grounded an RBI single into left to make it 4-1 after Reds reliever Logan Ondrusek walked the bases loaded.
Both Everth Cabrera and Alonso went deep for the first time this season, with Cabrera lining a solo shot into the left-field seats off reliever Sean Marshall in the seventh and Alonso belting one out to right against Sam LeCure in the eighth to extend the Padres' advantage to 6-1.
Alonso's 2-for-4 effort was his fourth multi-hit game in six starts, and the homer was his first since May 9, 2013, against the Nationals. Even his two outs on the night were hit hard.
"I talked to Joey Votto, and he said 'Good hitters always line out, so you might as well get used to it,'" Alonso said. "Eventually, you'll keep hitting line drives and they'll fall, but that's just how the game goes ... If I continue to put on good swings and continue to hit the ball, things will turn."
Black said he sees Alonso, who hit .167 in April before heating up this month, turning a corner.
"We're starting to see Yonder hit the ball to all parts of the park," Black said. "That's his style of hitting, that's what he has to do. I think early in April, you saw a lot of balls on the pull-side. I think in May, we're starting to see balls all over the field."
Just like Alonso, the Padres as a team may be turning a corner, having won five of their last six games as many injured starters have gotten healthy and returned to the lineup, such as Headley and Carlos Quentin, who stroked his first hit of 2014 -- a single -- into left field in the seventh.
After scoring 24 runs in three weekend games against the Marlins, San Diego's offense only mustered two in the opener against the Reds on Tuesday. Then, ace Johnny Cueto shut out the Friars in the first game of the twin bill on Thursday before the bats came alive again in the nightcap.
The Friars will look to ride that momentum into Coors Field, where they'll open a three-game set with the Rockies on Friday after 18 innings of baseball on getaway Thursday.
"It's great," Rivera said. "We got Carlos back and we've got Chase healthy. Our team is complete, and now the team is getting together and playing hard, and hopefully, we'll go up there to Denver and have a good series."
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.