Zach Duke could not have picked a more pressure-packed moment to make his Reds debut at Great American Ball Park: eighth inning, tie game, runners at first and third for the Cardinals with two outs and Matt Adams at the plate.
Just how dangerous Adams was wouldn’t be discovered until the 14th and 16th innings when he homered twice to lead St. Louis to a 5-4 victory Wednesday.
Duke couldn’t have foreseen that. His only job was to get the Reds out of that inning. That he did, striking out Adams, who snapped his bat in two in frustration and then slammed his helmet on the ground.
Duke was the third of seven Reds pitchers to see action Wednesday. It was an important moment for the 30-year-old veteran who had to fight his way back to the big leagues after being released by the Nationals in June.
“That’s what I was hoping to get into when they called me up,” Duke said. “I was hoping to get into some situations like that. Everyone’s goal is to earn the respect of their teammates and have them believe you can get the job done. Hopefully, I can continue doing that.”
Duke signed a minor-league contract with the Reds on June 13. He was promoted to the Reds last Friday and made his Reds debut that night, pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings
“It’s a pretty easygoing group of guys,” Duke said. “Everyone wants to win. Whoever can get the job done, everyone’s welcoming of whoever it is.”
Duke made his big-league debut in 2005 with the Pirates. He hasn’t pitched a complete season in the majors since 2010 and was 2-0 with a 1.30 ERA in 26 games with Louisville this season.
“Anytime you’re at this level, it’s great,” Duke said. “It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve been able figure some things out. Hopefully, I can keep this thing going.”
Duke has a unique perspective on Pittsburgh’s success this season. He was an All-Star for the Pirates in 2009 when he went 11-16 with a 4.06 ERA. He started opening day in Pittsburgh in 2007 and 2010.
“I’m glad for the fans and the city,” Duke said. “They’re such passionate sports fans. It’s good to see, but at the end of the day, I hope we beat the brakes off them.”
Dodgers at Reds, 7:10 pm., FS Ohio, 700, 1410