By HAL McCOY
The Kansas City Southpaws Weekend began Friday night for the Cincinnati Reds in Houston’s Minute Maid Park and John Lamb led the parade.
Lamb didn’t get the win, although he held the Houston Astros to one run and three hits over 5 1/3 innings, but the Reds survived in 11 innings, 4-2.
For the weekend series against the Astros the Reds are sending to the pitching rubber the three left handed pitchers they acquired from Kansas City in one trade for Johnny Cueto — Lamb, Cody Reed and Brandon Finnegan.
Reed is being summoned from Class AAA Louisville to make Saturday night’s start, his major league debut — and several scouts agree that Reed is the best of the bunch.
AN UNLIKELY SOURCE, Eugenio Suarez, ducked his head out of a deep slumber in the 11th inning Friday to pull a run-scoring double off the wall in the left field corner to break a 2-2 tie, scoring Adam Duvall from first base after he led the inning with a single.
Billy Hamilton bunted Suarez to third and he scored on Ramon Cabrera’s safety squeeze bunt to make it 4-2.
Suarez, so slump-ridden he appeared just a few swings away from dispensing Slushees at a Speedway, sat on the bench for the final two games in Atlanta, a mental rest. And he was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts before he delivered.
LAMB WAS ON HIS game early and ended up tying his career high with eight strikeouts. And he hadn’t walked anybody when he had one out in the third inning. But Houston’s Jason Castro worked him for a 15-pitch at bat fouling off 10 pitches.
Castro eventually struck out, but Lamb walked two of the next three hitters and his pitch counted mounted until it reached 107 in the sixth inning.
The game was 0-0 as Lamb and Houston starter Lance McCullers matched zeroes until the fifth when the Reds broke through for a run. A rejuvenated Billy Hamilton, playing his first game after missing eight with a concussion, opened the fifth with a single to left. He was erased when Cabrera hit into a double play, but with two outs Jose Peraza dropped a bunt and beat it for a hit.
Zack Cozart then doubled off the top of the right field wall and Peraza, nearly as speedy as Hamilton, scored from first base for a 1-0 Reds lead.
Houston tied it in the bottom of the sixth when Marwin Gonzalez led the inning with a bunt base hit and continued to second on third baseman Suarez’s throwing error. When Lamb walked two batters to load the bases with one out he was replaced by J.C. Ramirez. His first pitch was pulled into left field by Carlos Gomez for a run to tie it, 1-1, leaving the bases loaded with one out.
Evan Gattis grounded to third and Suarez threw home for a force and Ramirez ended the threat by getting Luis Valbuena to pop out.
THE REDS BARGED BACK in front, 2-1, in the seventh on back-to-back one-out singles by Hamilton and Cabrera and an RBI ground out by Peraza.
Blake Wood, who hadn’t given up a home run this season and hadn’t given up a home run in his lasts 63 innings, came in to pitch the eighth. His first pitch to Carlos Correra ended up in the left field Crawford Boxes, a game-tying home run. Incredibly, it was the 14th time this season that a Reds relief pitcher gave up a home run to the first batter he faced.
And that’s the way it stayed until the 11th, but not without some dramatics.
J.J. Hoover pitched the ninth and the 10th and in the 10th he walked Correa to open the inning. Then he struck out Colby Rasms and Carlos Gomez. Then he walked Evan Gattis, 1 for 35 at the time, putting the winning run on second base. He escaped by striking out Luis Valbuena — two walks and three strikeouts in the eventful inning, enabling the Reds to stage their game-winning uprising in the 11th.