By HAL McCOY
It was another horrible evening for a Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher, but this time the team was able to fight back and tie the game.
This time, though, the bullpen, in the name of Blake Wood, let them down.
Wood came into a tie game in the eighth inning and gave up a two-run home run to Kendrys Morales, the two runs the Toronto Blue Jays needed to produce a 6-4 victory.
ASHER WOJCIECHOWSKI STARTED for the Reds and his teammates gave him a 2-0 first-inning lead on back-to-back home runs by Zack Cozart and Joey Votto on successive pitches.
Cozart’s home run was his seventh straight hit with two strikes on him. And it was the sixth straight game in which the Reds score in the first inning. In addition, they have hit home runs in 11 straight games.
But they’ve still managed to lose the first two games in Toronto by a combined score of 21-6.
WOJO FIERCELY GUARDED that 2-0 lead for three innings, facing the minimum nine batters. He gave up a leadoff single to Morales in the second but he was doubled off first on a line drive hit to Joey Votto.
Wojo needed only 35 pitches (23 strikes) to cover the first three innings.
Then came the fourth and the Blue Jays blew the roof off Rogers Centre and nearly knocked down the adjacent CN Tower with three home runs and nearly a fourth.
Wojo hit Kevin Pillar, who was 1 for 22, to open the inning. Then he gave up a 435-foot upper deck home run to Josh Donaldson to tie it, 2-2.
Three pitches later Jose Bautista reached the second deck in left center with another home run. Morales nearly made it three home runs in a row but Scott Schebler caught the long drive against the right field wall.
WITH TWO OUTS, RUSSELL Martin hit the third home run of the inning and it was 4-2 after 1,277 feet of home runs and a 357-foot out. After throwing 35 pitches in the first three innings, Wojo threw 34 in the fourth.
Michael Lorenzen replaced him and put a muzzle on the Blue Jays’ loud bats, three scoreless innings.
And the Reds battled back.
COZART HIT HIS SECOND home run of the game in the fifth, tying LA’s Corey Seager with six for the most home runs by a National League shortstop.
The Reds tied it in the seventh with a run, but it could have been much, much more.
Jose Peraza singled and stole second base, moving on to third on catcher Russell Martin’s throwing error. He scored on Billy Hamilton’s single.
Hamilton then stole second base, his league-leading 28th theft. Cozart walked, putting runners on second and first with no outs.
With Joey Votto batted, Hamilton inexplicably tried to steal third and was thrown out. Votto then walked. But Adam Duvall lined hard to left center and was robbed on a diving catch by Ezequiel Carrera, saving two runs. Eugenio Suarez ended the inning by striking out.
The Reds frittered an opportunity in the eighth, too. Scott Schebler led the inning with a double.
At that point, Cincinnati native and Wright State University product Joe Smith entered the game for the Jays.
Devin Mesoraco, 0 for 14, struck out to go 0 for 15. Pinch-hitter Scooter Gennett lined out hard to first baseman Justin Smoak. Peraza beat an infield single and then stole second, putting runners on third and second with two outs. Billy Hamilton flied meekly to center field leaving it 4-4.
WOOD ENTERED FOR THE eighth and quickly gave up a single to Jose Bautista and the game-winning home run by Morales, the fourth of the game by the Jays — the first home run given up by Wood this season.
Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna easily buzzed through the heart of the Reds order in the ninth — a fly to center by Cozart, a ground ball to shortstop by Votto and a game-ending strikeout of Adam Duvall.
Wojciechowski was the fifth rookie to start a game for the Reds this season and the 10th different starting pitcher.
Before the game, the Reds optioned pitcher Robert Stephenson back to Louisville and called up rookie Jackson Stephens. When Stephens makes his debut he will be the 22nd different pitcher used by the Reds this season.
The plan for Stephenson is to stretch him out at Louisville so he could possibly return to the Reds as a starter.