Todd Frazier predicted it, the Great American Ball Park scoreboard operators posted it and Jay Bruce produced it.
Despite being tangled in the longest hitless slump of his career and facing one of the best left-handed relievers in the National League, Bruce blasted a 1-2 pitch from Milwaukee’s Will Smith into the moon deck in right field for a tiebreaking two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday afternoon to lift the Reds to a 4-2 victory and a series victory against the first-place Brewers.
The home run, which snapped a 0-for-26 drought, was the 48th Bruce has hit off a left-hander during the last five seasons, the most by any player in Major League Baseball.
“That exact statistic was up on the board when he hit the homer,” Reds manager Bryan Price said.
“The first thing I was thinking is he has the most home runs against lefties, and what a good time it would be to get one out,” Frazier said. “A couple of guys told me I called it.”
Bruce didn’t call his shot, but he knew sooner or later he would get a big hit to end his skid.
“I knew I wasn’t going to go 0 for the rest of my career,” he said. “I’ve been making hard contact throughout this little funk that I was in. I didn’t realize I was 0 for so much. There’s no way to explain it. There’s no way to will your way out of it. You just have to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.”
Bruce’s blast came just minutes after Milwaukee tied the game in the top of the eighth on a two-out double by Logan Schafer and a pinch-hit RBI single by Rickie Weeks off Reds starter Mat Latos.
“It was an immediate turn of the tide,” Price said. “That could have easily gone the other way. We really didn’t want to lose ground on this team.”
Latos allowed four hits while striking out three and walking one in eight innings, marking his longest outing of the season, as Cincinnati closed to within six games of Milwaukee in the National League Central Division.
In his last three outings, Latos has allowed only four runs on 10 hits in 22 innings, lowering his ERA to 2.41.
“It’s been a little different with him this year from years in the past,” Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco said. “His command has really, really tightened up. He’s really commanded the fastball on the corners and isn’t making a whole lot of mistakes with his off-speed stuff in the middle of the plate.
“For him to do that is very big for this club,” Mesoraco added. “If he can do that every fifth day with the other guys doing what they’ve been doing, we have a chance to win a lot of games.”
Mesoraco collected three hits off Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo, including an RBI single in the first that gave Latos a quick a 2-0 lead to work with.
Bruce drove in the first run by beating out what could have been an inning-ending double play. In his next two at bats he hit the ball hard but right at Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez. Then in the eighth he finally snapped the 0-for-26 skid.
“You guys (media) know very well that this hasn’t been the best year for me yet, but the year’s not over,” Bruce said. “I’m determined to not give into it. Us winning is first and foremost. We’ve been able to do a lot more of that lately and hopefully we continue to roll.”
Jonathan Broxton pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save of the season. Price said after the game Arolids Chapman was unavailable after feeling a tweak in his hamstring during pregame warmups.