By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — As Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona sat in his visitor’s clubhouse office before Monday night’s game, entertaining the media, he leaned back in his chair and said, “I don’t imagine you see too many 2-1 games in this ballpark.”
No, Terry, you certainly don’t, not in Great American Small Park or Great American International Airport, where meek fly balls become wall-scraping home runs.
Well, Francona nearly saw a 2-1 game Monday night against the Cincinnati Reds — that was the score heading into the bottom of the seventh with the Indians trailing the Reds.
THE REDS, THOUGH, MADE Francona’s comment self-fulfilling when they manufactured three runs in the seventh inning with a hit-and-run and a safety squeeze play en route to a 5-1 victory.
Before that, though, it was indeed a rare pitcher’s duel between Cincinnati’s Scott Feldman and Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin, a pair of pitchers without glossy portfolio’s before the game.
Feldman, 2-and-4 with a 4.29 earned run average when the game began, struck out the first five Indians he faced and six of the first seven.
Asked what he was thinking when he struck out six of seven, he grinned and said, “Why can’t I do this every time? My breaking ball was pretty good and I was getting it where I wanted it to go.”
He pitched six innings and gave up one run, four hits, walked two, struck out nine and picked up three contusions. The Indians hit him three times with batted balls and he turned all three into outs and said, “I made a couple of plays with my foot and my wrist.”
TOMLIN TOOK THE MOUND with a 2-and-5 record and a 6.86 earned run average and pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up five runs (four earned), nine hits, no walks and he struck out four. But before the seventh he had muzzled the Reds on two runs — a first-inning run on Adam Duvall’s two-out single and a second-inning run on Scott Schebler’s 13th home run.
After tripping along at 0 for 13, Schebler has six hits in his last 13 at bats that includes three home runs, one in each of the last three games.
The Reds led, 2-0, when Jason Kipnis led the sixth with a home run. Then Francisco Lindor doubled and Michael Brantley walked on four pitches.
SO IT WAS 2-1 AND FELDMAN faced runners on second and first with no outs. But he coaxed a double play ground ball out of Carlos Santana and former Reds infielder Edwin Encarnacion took a called third strike, the third time Feldman struck him out.
With two on and nobody out and the Reds precariously leading by one run, pitching coach Mack Jenkins came to the mound and Feldman said Jenkins, “Told me to get a double play and it worked out. I listened to him. Santana is a good hitter and I went with a first-pitch change-up, a pitch I don’t throw often. I thought I might fool him on it and luckily he rolled it over.”
And before he struck out Encarnacion for the third time, Encarnacion hit a 425-foot foul ball, a ball that hooked barely hooked to the left of the foul pole. A home run would have put Cleveland up 4-2. Instead it stayed 2-1 Reds.
“I nearly had a heart attack when he hit that ball,” said Feldman. “I would have hated to see the lead surrendered right there. I probably went in there (inside) one too many times and didn’t get it in far enough. Luckily, it hooked foul.”
Then he struck him out for the third time.
The Reds put it away in the seventh when Jose Peraza singled with one out and Tucker Barnhart singled on a hit-and-run, smallball that started a three-run rally..
Arismendy Alcantara, batting for Feldman, pushed a safety squeeze bunt up the first base line and Cleveland pitcher Tomlin threw it into right field and a run scored. Alcantara was credited with a hit and an RBI.
With two outs, Zack Cozart singled to center field to score Barnhart and Alcantara to make it 5-1 – a smallball rally that produced three runs.
ABOUT THE HIT-AND-RUN with Peraza running and Barnhart batting, manager Bryan Price said, “You can’t steal off Tomlin. He is too quick to the plate, varies his times to the plate, throws over to first a lot. Nobody steals against him.
“So our option was to get Tucker the (hit-and-run) sign and put the ball in play,” Price added. “And the safety squeeze? Alcantara is such a good bunter and he was able to put down the perfect safety squeeze. Having a fast runner at third like Peraza made it not a terribly challenging decision to go that way.”
After Feldman left, the reliable bullpen did its thing — Wandy Peralta, Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias combined to each pitch a scoreless inning to close it out.