DENVER — The Reds really put the “bonus” in bonus baseball.
Facing the prospect of dropping a third straight game to the last-place Rockies at Coors Field on Saturday night, Cincinnati had to claw its way to a hard-fought, 12-inning victory over Colorado, 6-5. The win improved the Reds’ record in extra-inning affairs 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.”
Cincinnati’s lineup was 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position until the top of the 11th inning, when Kyle Farmer crushed a two-run homer to give the Reds a 4-2 lead. But Colorado tied the game in the bottom of the 11th on a two-run double by Josh Fuentes. Undeterred, the Reds came right back with two more runs in the 12th, thanks to a Nick Castellanos RBI double and an RBI groundout by Eugenio Suárez.
On the ninth day of a three-city, 10-day road trip, coming off two difficult losses at Coors Field, it wouldn’t have been a shocker if the Reds had come out flat Saturday night. Instead, without Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel in the starting lineup due to respective heel contusions, Cincinnati found a way to get it done.
The game had a little bit of everything — strong starting pitching, effective relief out of the bullpen, great defensive plays and clutch hits in extra innings.
It started with the starter. Tyler Mahle tied a career high by going seven innings, as he gave up two runs on seven hits, walking none and striking out four. It was the first time that the right-hander made it through seven this season. It was a welcome sight for a pitching staff that gave up 22 runs over the first two games of the series.
“I located my fastball and split-finger pretty well — especially the split — to get some early contact,” Mahle said. “My slider was below average today, but just having the other two pitches was huge tonight.”
Mahle gave way to the bullpen after seven, and the trio of Tejay Antone, Lucas Sims and Heath Hembree gave the Reds five solid innings to give the lineup a chance to finally break through. Getting into extra innings, as it has so often in this young season, was the wake-up call it needed.
But the game may never have reached extras if not for a spectacular catch on the warning track by center fielder Shogo Akiyama in the bottom of the ninth. Garrett Hampson drove a ball deep to center, bidding for his second extra-base hit of the game. With his speed, he would’ve been standing on third, at minimum, had the ball hit the ground.
Akiyama ran it down, though, capping the play with a graceful leap to make the grab and preserve the tie. Jesse Winker, who was running over from left field, immediately gave Akiyama a bear hug, overjoyed at the play despite his own 0-for-6 night at the plate.
“I think Wink’s reaction to Shogo making that catch is probably just as great as Shogo making that catch,” Castellanos said.
All that was left was the game-winning hit. Castellanos obliged, lining a double into the right-center-field gap for this third hit of the game — he also launched his 10th homer of the season in the third and singled in the eighth.
For Castellanos, this win wasn’t about an individual pitch, play or hit, as great as some of them were.
“I’m a big believer in friendships and bonds and pulling for each other and staying up, staying in the game and staying engaged; not just waiting til the last out is over,” he said. “Even though our record isn’t what we want it to be right now, we still have those types of relationships in our dugout.”
The Reds have taken their hits, whether through injuries or stretches of poor play. But if Saturday’s victory proved anything, it’s that this club has fight, even when it could make excuses not to.
“At the end of the day, just get a win,” Castellanos said. “At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. It’s just buying into that and believing that we’ve got to do it together.”