- By Hal McCoy
As Anthony DeSclafani stood in front of his locker Friday night after his short work night against the Philadelphia Phillies of 4 1/3 innings, he was asked about Eugenio Suarez’ home run streak.
“Man, it is like he is playing a video game,” he said.
And then, Saturday afternoon before the game, there was Suarez splayed across a black leather recliner in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse, a plug in his ear as he stared at the screen on his cell phone.
Yes, he was playing a video game.
But it wasn’t a baseball game. That would come later, live and in color on the turf of Great American Ball Park.
And he was chasing history, trying to become the first player in Reds franchise history to hit home runs in six straight games.
He later stood in front of his locker, preparing to take some extra infield practice — you can’t neglect defense just because you are knocking baseballs lopsided. And his ever-improving defense remains impeccable.
But he is swinging the bat like he has never swung the bat before, not even when he was a kid learning the game.
Asked if he was going to hit a home run Saturday night, he smiled broadly and said, “I sure hope so and I will try.” His prospects were decent. The Reds were to face Philadelphia’s Vince Velasquez, he of the 7-8 record with a 4.05 ERA. He has given up 13 home runs in 102 innings.
There were five bats stacked in front of Suarez’ locker, but he has used the same bat to hit the home runs and said, “I’m just hoping I don’t break it.”
If he keeps going, that bat could end up in Cooperstown. The major league record is eight, held by many, including Ken Griffey Jr., which he accomplished when he played for the Seattle Mariners.
Despite missing 16 games in April, Suarez leads the National League with 79 RBI, is third in home runs with 24, is in the top 10 in batting average at .305. Even more:
• He is ninth in total bases with 193.
• He is sixth in on-base percentage at .389.
• He is third in slugging percentage at .588.
• He is ninth in road batting average at .320.
• He is eighth in batting average with runners in scoring position at .344.
• He is second in batting average against left-handed pitchers at .388.
Putting it succinctly, Suarez is in the top 10 in 10 different offensive categories, so just call him an Offensive Machine and be done with it.
THERE ARE TIMES IT seems that first baseman Joey Votto roams too far to his right to chase ground balls, often cutting off grounders that could be fielded by the second baseman.
That forces the pitcher to cover first base, and relief pitcher Amir Garrett injured his Achilles tendon covering first on Friday night when Votto chased a ball to his right that second baseman Scooter Gennett could have taken easily.
But manager Jim Riggleman defends Votto on that issue.
“It is kind of like the third baseman,” he said. “I played third and you are taught, ‘Go get everything that you think you can get.’ The ball that is hit slowly? We want him to go get that because that’s a long way for our second baseman to come and he would have to barehand it.
“I was really pleased we got an out on that play last night. I thought it would be a tough play, thought the guy (Odubel Herrera) was going to beat it, but Joey and Amir pulled it off. It had the makings that it wasn’t going to be a smooth one.”
And it wasn’t. And Amir injured himself on it.
OUTFIELDER SCOTT SCHEBLER remains on rehab, testing his sore shoulder. He played three games, all as a designated hitter, for the Class AAA Louisville Bats and was given Saturday night off.
He walked twice and doubled Friday night, but batting is not the issue, which is why he is DHing. The shoulder botheres him when he throws.
“He throws pre-game, long toss to stretch it out,” said Riggleman. “It is like with any part of your body. You are the only one who knows how it feels. You can’t tell him, ‘OK, you’re ready,’ because he is the one that knows the level of soreness.”