To avoid the embarrassment of blowing another eight-run lead after three innings, the Cincinnati Reds built only a four-run lead after three innings Saturday night in Great American Ball Park.
And this time there was no embarrasment as the Reds clutched tightly to the lead and made it stick to beat the San Francisco Giants, 9-2.
They did it with a barrage of five home runs, including the career-first by rookie Nick Senzel, one at bat after he was robbed of a home run when Giants center fielder Kevin Pillar went high above the wall to snag it and bring it back.
That was one day after the Reds had leads of 8-0 and 10-3 before losing to the Giants, 12-11, in 11 innings.
“After last night’s game it says a lot about our team, it really does,” said manager David Bell. “They all bounced back, came out and got an early lead and kept it.”
Draped in their 1902 throwback uniforms with collars on the shirts and gray hats, the Reds received a three-run homer in the second from Eugenio Suarez, a solo home run from Tucker Barnhart in the fourth, back-to-back home runs in the fifth from Derek Dietrich and Senzel and a solo blast in the eighth from Yasiel Puig, who had three of the team’s nine hits.
For Dietrich, it was his third homer in the last two nights over six at bats and, as per usual, he stood and admired it at home plate, even though it landed in the first row in right field.
Timely hitting was in abundance as the Reds scored all nine runs after two outs.
And the Reds mixed in some shut down pitching from Tanner Roark. He was permitted to throw 113 pitches before he was taken down with two outs in the seventh. His line was a nifty 6 2/3 innings, two runs, four hits, two walks and seven strikeouts.
“Tanner Roark did a great job and it was if he almost knew exactly what we needed,” said Bell. “You could tell he was determined to give us what he did.”
And Roark credits pitching coach Derek Johnson and Roark’s father, Toby, for his success on this night.
“I made a little mechanical adjustment in my wind-up and my stretch and I moved a little quicker in my delivery,” said Roark. “That was a big help from D.J.’s (Derek Johnson) part. And I have to give props to my dad who told me before my last start that my tempo was slow and I needed to get the sign and go. It helped a lot today, so thanks, pops.”
After he was robbed on his first home run by center fielder Pillar, a master at home run robbery, Senzel’s next at bat home run was a birthday gift for a young man who snagged the ball in the right field bleachers and returned it to sender.
“I thought the first one was gone and he made a really good play on it and I’m kinda speechless about it,” said Senzel. “He went over the wall and came back with it. I thought I hit it better than that. What can you do? I tipped my cap to him.”
And then he made sure the next one was out of reach of everybody but the Birthday Boy.
“My first one probably went farther than the second one, but I can’t do anything about it now,” he said, happy to take one home run when he narrowly missed two. “I’m happy with my at bats today and our offense is clicking and scoring some runs.”
The Reds had 11 runs and 13 hits Friday in Senzel’s debut and lost, then nine runs and nine hits Saturday and won.
“That was a tough loss,” said Senzel. “We knew it was a new days and we’d give the pitchers some more runs and win.”
Of the five home runs, four came with the bases empty, but the big blow was the first one, the three-run rip by Suarez in the second that broke a 1-1 tie.
“The home runs were the story offensively and all of them were important, but Geno’s (Suarez) home run was the turning point of the game,” said Bell.
After Roark left, Cody Reed celebrated his recall from Louisville Saturday by finishing the game — 2 1/3 innings, no runs, one hit, four strikeouts.
“You talk about determination? Reed was determined to finish the game,” said Bell. “He retired seven of eight and he was pitching with
confidence and had the stuff to go with it.”
And the big thing? Roark and Reed combined to give the bullpen a much-need night of rest.