DENVER – The Reds really put the ‘bonus’ in bonus baseball.
Faced with the prospect of dropping a third straight game against the Rockies in last place at Coors Field on Saturday night, Cincinnati had to fight their way to a relentless 12-innings victory over Colorado, 6-5. The victory improved the Reds’ extra-inning record this season to 7-2.
“I don’t even know where to start,” manager David Bell said. “But it was fun to be a part of it.”
Cincinnati’s roster was 0 for 10 with runners in goal position until the start of the 11th inning, when Kyle Farmer smashed a two-run homer to give the Reds a 4-2 lead. But Colorado tied the game at the end of the 11th with a two-point brace from Josh Fuentes. Undeterred, the Reds came back straight away with two more points in the 12th, thanks to a brace from Nick Castellanos RBI and an RBI groundout from Eugenio Suárez.
On day nine of a 10-day three-city road trip, after two tough losses at Coors Field, it wouldn’t have come as a shock if the Reds had come out flat on Saturday night. Instead, without Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel in the starting lineup due to respective heel bruises, Cincinnati found a way to do it.
The game had a bit of everything – solid tee shots, effective relief from the bullpen, great defensive play and extra innings hits.
It started with the starter. Tyler Mahle tied a career-high scoring seven innings, giving up two runs on seven hits, walking none and striking out four. It was the first time the right-hander had spent seven this season. It was a welcome sight for a pitching staff who gave up 22 points in the first two games of the series.
“I located my fastball and split finger pretty well – especially the division – to get early contact,” said Mahle. “My slider was below par today, but just having the other two throws was huge tonight.”
Mahle gave way to the reliever box after seven hours, and the trio of Tejay Antone, Lucas Sims and Heath Hembree gave the Reds five solid innings to give the roster a chance to finally break through. Getting into extra innings, as is often the case in this young season, was the wake-up call he needed.
But the game may never have reached the extras other than a spectacular take on the warning track by center fielder Shogo Akiyama in the bottom of the ninth. Garrett Hampson drove a ball deep to the center, bidding for his second extra baseline of the game. With his speed, he would have been at least third if the ball had hit the ground.
Akiyama took him down, however, ending the game with a graceful jump to grab and preserve the tie. Jesse Winker, who was running from left field, immediately gave Akiyama a hug, delighted with the game despite his own night of 0 for 6 at home plate.
“I think Wink’s reaction to Shogo who made this capture is probably as good as that of Shogo who made this capture,” said Castellanos.
All that remained was winning success. Castellanos obliged, fielding a brace down the center-right spread for that third hit of the game – he also pitched his 10th homer of the season in the third and made a single in the eighth.
For Castellanos, this victory was not about an individual throw, a game or a stroke, as well as some of them were.
“I am a strong believer in friendships and bonds, I stand in solidarity and I stand up, I stay in the game and I stay engaged; not just wait until the last spell is over, ”he said. “Even though our record isn’t what we want it to be right now, we still have those kinds of relationships in our canoe.”
The Reds took their punches, whether through injuries or periods of bad play. But if Saturday’s win proved anything, it’s that this club did fight, even if it could. find excuses not to do it.
“At the end of the day, get a win,” said Castellanos. “At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. It’s just a matter of accepting it and believing that we have to do it together.