- By Mark Schmetzer Contributing Writer
Tucker Barnhart’s 2018 pinch-hitter record is spotty, at best, but he came up big on Saturday night.
Barnhart, normally the Reds starting catcher, was 1-for-9 with one run batted in when he hit for pitcher Amir Garrett with runners on first and second and two outs with the Reds trailing Arizona, 3-2, in the eighth inning. The switch-hitter, batting left-handed right-hander Archie Bradley, battled staunchly enough to push the count to 3-2 before lining a two-run, go-ahead double up the left-center field gap. Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto added RBI singles to cap Cincinnati’s 6-3 win over the Diamondbacks, who went into the game tied with the Dodgers for the National League West Division lead.
“Pinch hitting is the hardest thing to do in baseball,” Barnhart said after the game. “When you’re in the game, you get into a flow. When it got that late and Mason (Williams) and Joey (Votto) were in the game, it was between me and (Preston) Tucker. The coaches do a great job of keeping us in the loop.”
“Tucker’s hit was huge,” Riggleman said. “Tuck’s a good hitter. He can drive in a run. His numbers don’t indicate how good a hitter he is. We felt pretty good with him up there.”
Barnhart was 6-for-39 (.154) as a pinch-hitter in his career going into the at bat, but interim manager Jim Riggleman had no qualms about using him in that spot.
“Tucker’s hit was huge,” Riggleman said. “Tuck’s a good hitter. His numbers don’t indicate how good a hitter he is. We felt pretty good with him up there, and he was up to it.”
Back again: Votto returned to Riggleman’s starting lineup for Sunday’s finale of the three-game series against Arizona after sitting out until pinch-hitting in the seventh inning and staying in the game at first base. The veteran, who’s in his 11thfull season, has been hobbled by a bruised right knee, the result of being hit by a Ryan Madson pitch on August 4 in Washington.
Streaky: Third baseman Eugenio Suarez went 0-for-2 Saturday to see his hitting streak snapped at 10 games, his third of the season of at least 10 games. He also has had two 13-game streaks, joining Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and Houston’s Yuri Gurriel as the only three major league players with three hitting streaks of at least 10 games.
While he was hitless, Suarez still found ways to contribute to Cincinnati’s win. He led off both of Cincinnati’s scoring innings, the two-run sixth and four-run eighth, by getting with a pitch.
Ohio Cup II: The Reds, who’ve won five of their last six series against first-place teams and split the sixth, and Cleveland Indians are scheduled to meet Monday at 7:10 p.m. in their second three-game inter-league series of the season. Cincinnati won two out of three in Cleveland July 9-11, but the loss was by a decisive 19-4 score in the finale.
Right-hander Homer Bailey (1-9), who gave up 11 hits and five runs over 3-1/3 innings in his last start last Monday against the Mets in New York, is due to make his first start against the Indians since Aug, 7, 2014. Right-hander Shane Bieber (6-2) is Cleveland’s scheduled starter.
The Reds are 10-5 against American League teams this season and need one win to match their single-season high in interleague wins, set when they went 11-8 in 2013.
The Indians, who lead the American League Central Division, played former Red Edwin Encarnacion on the 10-day disabled list on Sunday with a right hand contusion. Encarnacion is the only player with multi-homer games at Great American Ball Park while playing for three different teams – April 20, 2008, for the Reds, June 20, 2014, for Toronto and May 23, 20-17, for the Indians.
The Reds haven’t won the Ohio Cup, awarded to the team that wins the annual inter-league series, since taking three out of four from Cleveland in 2014.