McCoy: Encarnacion-Strand, De La Cruz power Reds past Phillies

Cincinnati snaps Philadelphia’s 7-game winning streak

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

After a Mundane Monday, the Cincinnati Reds responded with a Tumultuous Tuesday to crush the Philadelphia Phillies’ seven-game winning streak.

The Reds produced no runs and two hits in a 7-0 loss Monday but turned the table upside down Tuesday with eight runs and nine hits in an 8-1 victory in rain-splashed Great American Ball Park.

In turning the Phightin’ Phillies into the Phrustrated, Phumbling Phillies (three errors), the Reds counter-punched with three hits, two RBI and two runs from Christian Encarnacion-Strand, two hits, an RBI and a two-run home run by Elly De La Cruz and three hits that included a home run by Santiago Espinal.

And there was a marvelous performance by relief pitcher Fernando Cruz.

The turning point arrived in the fifth inning. The Phillies had only two hits, both in the first inning off Reds starter Andrew Abbott when the fifth inning arrived.

The score was 5-1, Philadelphia’s run coming on back-to-back two-out doubles by J.T. Realmuto and Alec Bohm in the first … and that was it.

But Abbott lost complete sight of the strike zone in the fifth and walked the first three batters, the bottom three in the order.

That brought up Philadelphia’s three best hitters, albeit the absence of Bryce Harper, gone on paternity leave.

But the task was to face Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner and Realmuto. With the score 5-1, one big swing of the bat would tie it.

Abbott struck out Schwarber and manager David Bell went to the bullpen, bringing in Cruz to face Turner, owner of an 11-game hitting streak. Cruz struck him out.

Cruz, fast becoming Cincinnati’s Escape Artist, finished it off by getting Realmuto on a line drive to center.

“I’m always about big moments and helping the team win in those situations,” said Cruz during a post-game interview with Bally Sports Ohio.

And how did he escape the big dilemma, other than dazzling the Phillies with his featured diving cutter and sliders?

“It’s just about watching the game and paying attention to details,” he said. “I go to the strongest of my pitches and I saw them swinging at my sliders going away from them. I executed with my best pitch.”

Cruz realizes he is on a positive plane and believes he is at his ultimate best and said, “Yes, 100 percent. When you face big league hitters with those kinds of names (the Phillies), and you make them miss the ball like that, it’s clear, it is just a gift from God.”

Then in the bottom of the fifth, De La Cruz put it all to rest. Encarnacion-Strand led the inning off with a single and De La Cruz deposited a two-run home run the opposite way into the left field seats. It was his seventh home run in 77 at bats.

And, of course, earlier in the game De La Cruz stole his league-leading 11th stolen base.

When De La Cruz returned to the dugout, his first and most exuberant greeter was Cruz, the Cruz without De La in front of his last name.

“We’re real close and I love him like my little brother,” said Cruz. “I talk to him a lot and it is exciting how he has become a better player and a better teammate. It is exciting this year to see him be the first one in the clubhouse every day and the last one to leave.

“He has been an unbelievable guy and an example to follow and he’s only 22 … he’s unbelievable, the guy is unbelievable,” he added.

After the Phillies took the 1-0 lead in the first, third baseman Edmundo Sosa botched leadoff hitter Stuart Fairchild’s grounder for an error and he came around to score on Encarnacion-Strand’s double to the right field corner, tying it, 1-1.

The Phillies collapsed completely, came unglued and unraveled, in the third when two errors aided and abetted a four-run Reds uprising.

With one out, Phillies starter Cristopher Sanchez walked Tyler Stephenson on a full count after he had him 0-and-2. Then he threw a wild pitch, moving Stephenson to second.

With two outs, Encarnacion-Strand doubled to left. Left fielder Cristian Pache’s throw hit Stephenson in the back as he slid home. The ball bounced away, an error on Pache, and Encarnacion-Strand took third.

De La Cruz stole second. Nick Martini grounded to second for what looked to be the third out, but first baseman Bohm, subbing at the position for Harper, missed the throw for an error and two runs scored.

The fourth run crossed when Espinal singled to make it 5-1, then De La Cruz connected for his two-run homer.

When Espinal came to bat in the eighth, Phillies pitcher Ricardo Pinto knocked him down. Espinal got up, brushed himself off, and launched his first home run to make it, 8-1.

When Fairchild came up two batters later, Pinto knocked him down, too. That brought Bell out of the dugout for a lively discussion with home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi about Pinto’s intent.

The Phillies, no doubt, were displeased with De La Cruz standing at home plate to admire his home run handiwork, something that is rampant throughout baseball.

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