By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — When Matt ‘Grizzly’ Adams played for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cincinnati Reds deployed a heavy defensive shift to the right. Then, more often than not, Adams punched a hit to left field.
Now he plays for the Atlanta Braves, shorn of beard and weighing 40 pounds less after a winter of hibernating away from the kitchen cabinets.
After hitting a grand slam home run earlier in the game, Adams came to bat with one out in the 12th inning of a tie game.
As usual, the Reds shifted everybody to the right, with second baseman Jose Peraza in shallow right field. And Adams drilled a home run to left field off Blake Wood to give the Braves a 12-inning 6-5 victory Saturday in Great American Ball Park.
The shift meant nothing.
Adams came to bat in the fifth inning and because the bases were loaded, the Reds pretty much played him straight up.
It didn’t matter. The only way to stop him on this at bat was to place the outfielders on the other side of the walls and that’s illegal.
ADAMS REVERSED A SCOTT FELDMAN fastball far over the center field wall and into the grass, a grand slam home run that was the eventual impetus for the victory, even though Atlanta second baseman Brandon Phillips tried to give it away.
With his team up 5-1 in the fifth inning and one out, the Braves had an apparent force out at second base, the second out. But it was ruled that Phillips came off the bag taking the throw and everybody was safe and Phillips was charged with an error.
After a walk, Arismendy Alcantara singled for a run, Zack Cozart took a bases loaded walk and Joey Votto singled home run two runs and suddenly the game was 5-5.
THE RETURN OF PHILLIPS TO Cincinnati, as expected, didn’t go without him drawing attention to himself.
Phillips refuses to talk to any print media while here but the fan favorite, traded to the Braves in February, had plenty to say to FoxSportsOhio and WLW-T because he never ducks a camera.
He said he was distraught and disturbed that the Reds quickly issued his old uniform number ‘4’ to Scooter Gennett.
“I still can’t believe somebody is wearing my No. 4,” he said. “That’s kind of a slap in the face, too. But it is what it is. People have their own opinions, and I have mine.”
The number, of course, is not retired and Phillips, of course, is not in the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, so why should his number be sacrosanct?
And he went even farther.
“I’m Mr. Cincinnati, regardless of what anyone else says. I still run this place,” he said. Mr. Cincinnati? Wonder how Pete Rose and Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr., true Cincinnatians, feel about that? And if there is a Mr. Cincinnati right now, it is Joey Votto.
AFTER GOING 0 for 5 with two strikeouts in a 3-2 Atlanta loss in 10 innings Friday, Phillips was on base five times Saturday, twice via hits.
He singled in the first inning, but nothing came of that. He was hit by a pitch in the third, reached on an error, walked (and was thrown out trying to steal), struck out and singled with two outs in the 11th.
With one out in the fifth and the Reds leading, 1-0 after Jose Peraza’s home run, Phillips pulled a ground ball to third baseman Eugenio Suarez. His throw went over first baseman Joey Votto’s head for an error.
Feldman walked Nick Markakis, Matt Kemp singled hard to left field, loading the bases, and Adams unloaded them with a quick flick of his bat to make it 4-1. After the grand slam, a double, a hit by pitch and a single by Kurt Suzuki made it 5-1.
That led to Phillips’ faux pas that helped tie the game. The Reds bullpen pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings to take the game into the 12th before Adams beat Wood.
ATLANTA’S BULLPEN, THOUGH, WAS better, finishing the game with 6 2/3 scoreless innings, including a 1-2-3 12th by closer Jim Johnson.
The Reds, though, stranded 15 runners, including two in the each in the ninth, 10th and 11th.
—With one out and two on in the ninth, Scooter Gennett struck out and Jose Peraza grounded out.
—With two on and two outs in the 10th, Joey Votto struck out.
—With two on and nobody out in the 11th, Gennett took a called strike three, Peraza hit into a fielder’s choice and Devin Mesoraco popped out.
In addition to stranding 15 runners, the Reds were an incorrigible 3 for 17 with runners in scoring position.
“You get guys in scoring position when you can win the game, you always want those hits to win that game,” said manager Bryan Price. “But Atlanta is trying to win, too, and they made some plays and they made some pitches. It is disappointing in that the opportunities were there, but their pitchers aren’t rolling the ball in there underhanded.
“We did a pretty good job in some tough situations, too, and it just came down to that solo home run to give them the lead and then not being able to do anything with Johnson,” Price added.
Adding to the misery, the Reds lost two-thirds of their starting outfield mid-game. Both center fielder Billy Hamilton and right fielder Scott Schebler strained their left shoulders trying to make diving catches and left the battle.
“We’ll have a better idea of how they are doing tomorrow morning,” said Price. “Right now it doesn’t seem serious enough to suggest a DL is in order for either one. We’ll learn a lot overnight. Right now there is not a concern.”
Said Schebler, ”It is a stinger. My shoulder went numb. I had the same thing in Toronto (when he made diving catch in foul territory) but it cleared up right away. This time it didn’t go away as fast but I came in here and I had full range of motion and strength.
“It won’t be a long term thing,” he said optimistically. “It is tight right now but that’s because of the ice. I could wake up tomorrow and feel great and be ready to go. If I need a day tomorrow, I’m pretty sure I’ll be ready by Monday.”
THE OTHER CONCERN IS FOR the bullpen, used extensively in the last two games of 10 innings and 12 innings.
Starter Feldman gave up five runs (four earned) and seven hits over 4 1/3 innings. Then Austin Brice pitched 1 1/3 scoreless, Michael Lorenzen pitched two scoreless, Raisel Iglesias pitched one scoreless, Wandy Peralta pitched one scoreless Drew Storen pitched one scoreless — 6 2/3s total until Wood couldn’t keep Adams in the park.
“Playing extra innings and emptying out the bullpen the last two days hurts,” said Price. “We used our primary guys both games. We have a couple of length guys left, but our primary guys could have some limits for Sunday’s game.”