The Cincinnati Reds (57-77) fell 20-games under .500 after their loss to the Milwaukee Brewers (75-60) on Thursday, but, honestly, I am not writing about that game. I want to talk about what happened Wednesday night.
The Reds and Brewers played a game that may fly under the radar, when national writers look back on this season, but it deserves a lot of attention. The Brewers being a team right in the middle of the hunt for playoff October and the Reds simply existing for another 30 games. Close to four and a half hours later, they both collapsed as if runners who just finished the Flying Pig.
There is much on the stats for the game, but I am going to focus on the narrative and feel. My seat was right next to the ball boy, down the third base line. Being near the Brewers bullpen, the visiting fans encircled me. They were happy from the get-go as Milwaukee got two quick runs in the first inning. Nestled in there was Christian Yelich’s first hit of the night, a single.
Right as I was about to down my beer and go get another to deal with, what looked to be another debacle of a game, Billy Hamilton clocked a Freddy Peralta pitch into the moon deck. I mean, it was a shot you’d expect to see Joey Votto or Eugenio Suarez uncork, but this was Billy, it revived the crowd a bit. An actual half-inning of scoreless baseball happened for the Reds in the top of two, something Harvey would put together until the fifth.
Then, in the bottom of the second, Tucker Barnhart laced a two-out double. Honestly, and there are no numbers to back this up, but I feel like Tucker hits .700 when I attend games, but I digress. Curt Casali then shot a laser into left and scored Tucker from second to tie the game at two.
Needing a refill in the fourth, I ran up to the bar that stretches down the third base line. The place includes many fine local, as well as national brews. I got a MadTree Rounding Third to kick the game off so I figured I’d change it up with a Rivertown Lager. Just as the guy was getting the pour going, Tucker launched the Reds second homer for the lead. Feeling pretty good about things, my buddy Pat and I took a walk to check out the team store in the top of the fifth…little did we know the score would turn sour as Milwaukee put a four-spot on the board. Also, the team store did not have the Phil Ervin shirt I am in search of…so double whammy.
Now back in our seats, the Brewers fan next to me was happy. They had a three-run lead on the home team, and, although the Reds had runners on first and third with one out, Josh Hader was coming in to pitch. “They can’t hit Josh,” the Brewers fan said, “Not a chance!” Scooter Gennett then doubled in the two runners (Dilson Herrera and Billy) knotting the game up at five. “Lucky break, Josh won’t give get hit, again!” Suarez blasts a moon shot to the moon deck to give the Reds a two-run lead. Brewers fan, now dumbfounded, “Josh never gets hit…I don’t understand…”
After Yelich doubled for his fourth hit (he singled in the third and homered in the fifth) and moved Orlando Arcia to third, Travis Shaw brought Arcia in on a sac-fly, which perked Brewers guy up, ever so slightly. Hader, subsequently, gave up a walk to Tucker and a single to Casali to start the sixth, prompting Brewers guy to leave the stadium when Hader was then pulled for Taylor Williams. Little did he know, what happened next sparked controversy.
Michael Lorenzen, who came in to pitch the top of the sixth, came to bat. He squared around to bunt, foul ball, strike one. Squared around again, missed, strike two. He settled in one more time, trying to move the runners from first and second to second and third. As the pitch approached, it was bound for his chest. Lorenzen is then hit with the ball, but the sound of a bat resonated through the stadium. Had he stayed squared and, technically, fouled off the third bunt attempt, for strike three? Those of us in the stands thought so…but the home plate umpire said “Not so!” He ruled Lorenzen had pulled the bat back, as he fell, and the ball incidentally contacted the bat, making it a normal foul, dead ball, still two strikes on him. Mirroring Craig Counsel, the Brewers fans around me were incensed. “He’s out! He was offering at the pitch! This is ridiculous!” and other, less-than-savory things were said. Didn’t matter, the umpires all conferred and agreed that Lorenzen was not yet out. Given a 4th strike, or not, Lorenzen then crushed the very next pitch into the terrace outfield seats, giving the Reds their largest lead of the night at 10-6. Pat and I were jumping up and down, high fiving, and overall elation was had.
The celebration led to a trip to Taft’s concessions stand, right next to Gapper’s Alley, where I got my favorite Great American Ballpark beer of 2018, Taft’s Nellies. Light, refreshing, nothing better to drink while watching a game. Anyways…
Despite the advantage, the first two Brewers got hits: one a single and the next a two-run homer. Immediately, the mood in the ballpark changed from Reds fans cheering, back to Brewers fans. I think there were 11,000 fans at the ballpark, probably 2,000 of them were for Milwaukee.
David Hernandez then came in…and had a bad night. He started by watching Billy making a diving catch on a liner hit to shallow center. Things then collapsed as he hit Manny Pina in the face with a pitch, allowed Lorenzo Cain to double (scoring pinch-runner Erik Kratz), bringing up Yelich. Already 4-for-4, many fans in the stands, and I’m sure plenty at home, were yelling to walk him. No such strategy was in place. Yelich flared his fifth hit, a triple into right field, giving him the cycle. First of those I’ve witnessed. Oh, and that officially erased all that the Reds had built to that point, and we were all tied up at 10. The Reds got nothing in the bottom of the seventh and then the Brewers took the lead on a Mike Moustakas homer in the top of the eighth.
Feeling the normal angst a Cincinnati sports fan knows, spirits were low in the stands. With two outs and Billy on third, there was a smidgen of hope. Joakim Soria then threw a shoe-shiner into Erik Kratz that bounced straight back toward the mound. Ready to go on anything but a straight catch, Billy broke from third and streamed toward home. He went into a head-first slide, on the right side of home plate, and snuck by the tag, as he is so apt at doing. But no, the umpire ripped it out from underneath of the fans. No tie, he’s out….but not so fast, my friend (shout out Lee Corso). Jimmy Riggs darts out of the dugout and challenges the call. Review overturns it as the replay shows Billy’s hand finds the two inches of home plate not blocked by Kratz, officially tying the game at 11.
A sterile inning ensued in the ninth, something that hadn’t happened since the third inning, although Yelich beat out an infield single, getting his sixth hit of the night. That hasn’t happened in Cincinnati since something like 1949…just wish it was a Red who did it. Raisel Iglesias did nail down free pizza for everyone, so that’s cool, too. Just one more thing that happened in this insane turn of events.
Walking up to the concourse to finish the game by the Reds Live show set, the Brewers scored a pair in the top of the tenth. One of the cameramen for Reds Live was beside himself, “We have a noon game, tomorrow, which means my day starts at eight. I’d like to get more than an hour of sleep tonight, is this ever going to end?” Brandon Dixon then made us think it would last longer, as he nailed a Jeremy Jeffress pitch into the batter’s eye, but that was it for the Reds and the game ended, 13-12, in 10 innings.
And if you read this all the way to the end, you know some semblance of how much this game just refused to quit. I had to be up for work in the morning, but that didn’t stop me from watching every minute of the game and getting home after 1 a.m.
The Reds have the Cardinals, in St. Louis, up next. Keep it tuned to @lockedonreds and @jefffcarr for your daily Reds content.
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