By Hal McCoy
CINCINNATI — Eugenio Suarez’s English is getting better and better and it was near-perfect early Tuesday afternoon in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse as he walked around singing, over and over, the first stanza of, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Because it was a scheduled day off for Suarez, he should have been singing in the dugout during the game, “Put Me Into the Ball Game.”
Manager Bryan Price waited until the seventh inning and did just that — put him into the ball game.
With the Reds down three run to the Cleveland Indians and with two runners on base, Price dispatched Suarez to the batter’s box as a pinch-hitter.
On a 3-and-2 pitch, Suarez drove one into the right center field seats, a three-run home run, his first career pinch-hit home run, and it tied the game, 7-7.
NOW IF THE REDS WENT on to win it from there it would make a good story for Reds fans, right.
Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for the many Indians fans occupying seats in the Great American Ball Park, the Tribe scored the winning run ingloriously — a two-out wild pitch by Drew Storen in the eighth inning that led to an 8-7 Cleveland victory.
Perhaps it wa poetic justice that the Indians won it because they attacked the outfield seats for four home runs off Reds starter Amir Garrett, two by former Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion.
AND ENCARNACION ALMOST started the day the same way as Suarez, sitting in the dugout lounging through a day off.
But he talked manager Terry Francona out of it.
“Glad I didn’t give it to him,” said Francona. “He kinda really talked me into it. On one hand, you are really glad to hear it when a guy wants to play that bad. I appreciate that. He is getting more and more dangerous.”
After hitting 42 and 39 home runs the last two seasons for Toronto, Encarnacion’s two homer Tuesday gives him nine this year.
ABOUT NOT TAKING A day off, speaking through a translator, Encarnacion said, “When I feel this way I want to play. I feel good on the field and that’s where I am going to improve. I can’t improve when I’m sitting on the bench.”
Asked if he liked hitting in Great American Ball Park, where he hit 26 home runs for the Reds in 2008, he broke into a broad smile and said, “Yes, of course.”
FRANCONA, THOUGH, ISN’T certain he could survive managing in GABP and he doesn’t like seeing the Reds in the batter’s box.
“They have a really good offensive club,” he said. “If you make a mistake, as we found out, they can put up some numbers in a hurry. There was traffic all night with hits, walks, hit batsmen. It seemed like they had two guys on every inning.
“They had the one big inning (Suarez’s home run) and fortunately we scratched one across.”
THAT CAME IN THE TOP of the eighth without benefit of a hit. Drew Storen issued a walk and Encarnacion reached on third baseman Scooter Gennett’s error. The Indians bunted into a fielder’s choice at third base, but Encarnacion took third on a deep fly to right and scored the winning run when Storen bounced a pitch in the dirt.
For Amir Garrett, it was a second straight clunker since his recall from a 10-day exile in Louisville, where he could save pitches and save the team service days.
After giving up six runs, five hits and four walks in Chicago against the Cubs last Thursday, he was raked by the Tribe for seven runs, seven hits (four home runs) and a walk in five innings.
THE REDS GAVE GARRETT a 3-1 lead in the first two innings before Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco settled in.
Francisco Lindor homered in the first inning for the Tribe’s only run until they spliced together four hits, two of them home runs, for five runs in the third inning.
Encarnacion’s first home run was a two-run rip and Yan Gomes finished the inning with another home run and a 6-3 Cleveland lead. Encarnacion homered again in the fifth to make it 7-3.
THE REDS had Tribe relief icon Andrew Miller staggering in the eighth. Jose Peraza led the inning with a single and stole second. With two outs, Miller was 3-and-2 on Zack Cozart and he lined a single to right field.
Third base coach Billy Hatcher, knowing Peraza owns flying feet, waved him homeward with the potential tying run. But right fielder Daniel Robertson threw strongly and accurately to catcher Yan Gomes, who made a plush sweeping tag and Peraza was out, with the next scheduled hitter, Joey Votto standing near the plate.
“That was a heck of a throw,” said Francona. “He got a good runner on second and we don’t need to get that game tied again. . .on the road. That was a hard game to win.”
Votto led the ninth with a full-count walk against Tribe closer Cody Allen. Adam Duvall went to 3-and-0, but struck out on the next three pitches.
Pinch-hitter Tucker Barnhart singled to center, putting the potential tying run on second and the winning run on first with one out. But Devin Mesoraco popped to second and Scooter Gennett struck out to end it.
Afterwards, asked how he liked the ball park, Francona spat out a few humorous expletives and said, “Oh, man. Suarez’s ball? I know he hit it pretty good, but damn, a home run?”
Francona shook his head and said, “One of our coaches, Mickey Callaway, made the point by saying, ‘How’d you like to go through this every day. I mean, every day.’ You are holding your breath. And it hasn’t even got hot yet.”