The Cincinnati Reds scribbled their name in baseball’s history book twice Sunday afternoon— one a positive, one a negative.
On the positive side, the Reds not only became the first team to play in two seven-inning games of a doubleheader, they became the first to sweep two seven-inning games.
Behind shutdown pitching by Anthony DeSclafani and Trevor Bauer, the Reds toppled the Detroit Tigers 4-3 and 4-0.
On the negative side, Detroit’s Tyler Alexander became the first relief pitcher in major league history to strike out nine straight batters, accomplishing it in Game One.
Bauer, not nearly as sharp as he was in his 2020 debut in the early going, battled through it with guile and stubbornness for three innings, then was perfection. He retired the final 13 Tigers and was credited with a two-hit, complete-game shutout, a 111-pitch effort.
DeSclafani came off the 10-day injured list for his first start of the season and was nearly impeccable for his six innings — no runs, three hits, no walks and two strikeouts.
He pitched out of a couple of hot spots while using only 64 pitches, 46 for strikes.
Nick Castellanos, a former Tiger, gave him the runs he needed with a two-run home run in the first and a solo home run leading off the third for a 3-0 lead.
Then the offense went deathly silent. Alexander, a left-hander, set a major league record for a relief pitcher when he struck out nine straight Reds in the third, fourth and fifth.
DeSclanfani handed the baseball to the bullpen in the sixth, which is like handing them a live hand grenade.
Lucas Sims started the sixth and recorded two straight outs. Then a single, a walk and a hit batsman loaded the bases.
Right fielder Castellanos promptly gave back all three runs defensively that he provided offensively.
Victor Reyes hit a high and deep fly ball to right center, a ball center fielder Nick Senzel could have caught. Castellanos, who was upset early his season when taken out for defensive purposes late in game, chased off Senzel. The ball bounced off his glove for a three-run error that tied it, 3-3.
Raisel Iglesias replaced Sims and stranded the go-ahead run at third by getting Jeimer Candelario on a fly ball to left.
The Reds scored the winning run in the top of the seventh against Tigers closer Joe Jimenez. Freddy Galvis doubled, took third on Tucker Barnhart’s single and scored on Shogo Akiyama’s ground single to right.
Iglesias, sniffing a victory, pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, with two strikeouts, including Niko Goodrum to end the game.
DeSclafani gave up a leadoff triple to Candelario, 0 for 17 on the season, to open the third. But two ground balls and a strikeout of Niko Goodrum left the runner at third.
He gave up two singles in the fifth and the Tigers had runners on third and first with one out. DeSclafani escaped again with a pop-up and a fly ball.
“I was not as crisp and I would have like to have been,” said DeSclafani via Zoom after his outing. “There were some hard hit balls right at guys. But, all in all, for a first outing, not facing hitters for two weeks, I was happy with today.”
Of working out of his only two problems, DeSclafani said, “Especially stranding that guy at third with no outs. It’s all about making pitches, I focused and pitch-by-pitch, It ended up working out.”
DeSclafani said he forgot about the game going only seven innings until late.
“Yeah, I forgot about that,” he said. “These seven-inning doubleheaders are definitely different. I guess it’s good in the long run to get all the games in.”
Mike Moustakas was supposed to play both games, but was hit by a pitch on the forearm in Game One and was not available for Game Two.
Both managers sprinkled their lineups with bench players for Game Two, with Reds manager David Bell using Phillip Ervin, Curt Casali, Kyle Farmer, Aristides Aquino and Christian Colon. And Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire benched Niko Goodrum, who owns seven hits in 19 at bats against Trevor Bauer, including three home runs and a double.
Cincinnati’s ‘B Boys’ acquitted themselves with aplomb. Colon had two hits, including a two-run single in the seventh that pushed the Reds from 2-0 to 4-0. Farmer had two hits and a walk. Casali had a hit and an RBI. Aquino batted only once, but had a run-scoring single and stole a base. Davidson had a hit and drove in a run. All four runs were driven in by ‘B’ sqaud members.
The Reds gave Bauer a 1-0 lead in the first on a two-out double by Eugenio Suarez and a 10-pitch run-scoring single by Davidson. They made it 2-0 in the second on Colon’s double, theft of third and an Aquino single.
Just call his team The Big Red Seven-Inning Machine.
Then came Colon’s two-run single in the seventh and Bauer closed the door with a loud slam.
Bauer walked to the mound unhappy about what happened Saturday. He did his full pre-game preparations and warmed up ready to pitch when the game was called. And he was angry and overloaded with motivation.
“I never really locked it in and I was fighting myself the entire time,” he said. “I had no command early and I was exhausted the entire game from, uh, whatever you want to call yesterday. I always had on my mind my competitive spirit. My stuff was really good, but my fastball velocity was down.”
Asked if he had to lobby his way back to the mound to pitch the seventh, he said, “I had to lobby for the fourth, fifth, sixth seventh. . .that was my game and nobody was taking me out of that game.”
Manager David Bell was reading from the same page.
“With Trevor you talk about determined and motivated and just laser focus,” he said. “From pitch one he had every intention to finish that game. It wasn’t easy for him after yesterday. There are not many pitchers I know who would be able to do that.”
And the team?
“We played so well in so many different ways,” said Bell. “And we did it against a very scrappy team that was giving us trouble.”
And there was a downer. Joey Votto woke up with COVID-19-type symptoms and was placed on the injured list until his test results come back.