By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — While 32,000 fans in Nippert Stadium watched FC Cincinnati in a soccer defensive struggle, 21,842 in Great American Ball Park watched the Cincinnati Reds slap some strangling defense on the Milwaukee Brewers.
The heavy-duty glove work and the not-unusual dash around the bases late in the game by Billy Hamilton produced a 4-3 victory.
Defense, though, was the shining light this night for the Reds. Scott Schebler, Adam Duvall, Jose Peraza, Tucker Barnhart and Scooter Gennett all used defense to make this game a winner, the Reds’ second straight over the first place Brewers.
—The Play of the Night was in the second inning when Schebler went above the right field wall to bring back a three-run home run bid by Travis Shaw, turning it into a one-run sacrifice fly.
—Before Schebler’s catch in the second inning, he lost a fly ball with two runners on and nobody out. Center fielder Billy Hamilton, seeing Schebler’s perplexed predicament, ran several yards to cut in front of Schebler and make the catch.
—Peraza made two above-and-beyond stops-and-throws to get outs at critical times.
—And the game ended when the Brewers tried a trick play and catcher Tucker Barnhart and second baseman Scooter Gennett put the double kibosh on it.
THE BREWERS PUNCHED two singles in the ninth off closer Raisel Iglesias, putting runners on third and first.
With two strikes on pinch-hitter Jesus Aguilar, Orland Arcia broke for second, hoping to draw a throw and get into a rundown so the runner on third, Jonathan Villar, could score the tying run from third.
Catcher Barnhart never hesitated when Aguilar struck out for the second out. He ripped a throw to second. Arcia tried to dodge Gennett, but he slapped a tag on him — a game-ending double play.
OF ALL THE DEFENSIVE spectaculars, Barnhart said first of his play, “They were trying to put on a play where he got into a rundown, but Scooter made great quick tag.”
Asked if he looked Villar back to third before making the throw, Barnhart said, “No, I was blind by the (right handed) hitter, so I was just throwing, to be honest. As soon as I let go of it, I thought, ‘Oh, no.’ But Scooter made that great play.”
And the overall defense?
“We’re always going to play defense,” he said. “The term ‘defense’ really makes sense with this team. We a lot of really, really, really good defenders all over the field, including guys who come off the bench.”
ANOTHER ‘DEFENDER’ NEARLY forgotten was rookie pitcher Luis Castillo, making his second major league start after skipping Triple-A and coming directly from Class AA Pensacola. He pitched 5 2/3 innings and held the offensive-minded Brewers to two runs and five hits with three walks and nine strikeouts.
Said Barnhart, “Man, his stuff is electric. It really is. What is going to help him, and he works on it in the bullpen, is running the ball in on right handers. When he starts to be able to do that it is going to open up more for me. He was really good tonight. He got out of some jams and for a guy to be able to come out of Double-A and do that, limiting damage, is huge.”
ALONG WITH STEALING THIS one on defense, the Reds stole it on the basepaths, too, and it is always obvious who the thief-in-the-night was.
It was master baseball criminal Billy Hamilton whose two thefts late in the game broke a 3-3 tie and provided the winning run.
With the game against tied in the eighth inning, Hamilton worked a full-count walk from relief pitcher Corey Knebel.
After Knebel threw over to first base three times, Hamilton swiped second on his first pitch. Then with one out Hamilton stole third base, his 33rd theft this season.
THAT MADE IT EASY for him to score on Adam Duvall’s infield hit that was stopped by diving third baseman Travis Shaw, who couldn’t make a throw.
And the Reds didn’t beat a slouch. Knebel struck out Gennett in the eighth inning, the 39th straight game he has struck out a batter, tying a major league record for relief pitchers, set in 1977 by Bruce Sutter of the Chicago Cubs. Said Reds manager Bryan Price, “I voted for him for the All-Star game.”
Duvall homered in the second. And Gennett’s two-run home run was the second Reds hit and that’s all they had through six innings, three runs and two hits.
Duvall drove in two runs, the first with a home run in the second inning. Gennett cracked a two-run home run in the third but through six that’s all the Reds had — thee runs, two hits. But they led, 3-2, when Tony Cingrani started the eighth. He struck out the first two then gave up a game-tying home run to Travis Shaw to tie it.
HAMILTON, THOUGH, SAVED the day as Duvall provided the infield hit that permitted Hamilton to score the game-winner.
“There was some real nice plays made in the outfield tonight,” said Duvall with a gross understatement which affected the outcome of the game — good defense, timely hitting.”
Of Schebler’s catch, Duvall said, “Yeah, the best catch I’ve seen this year. That was nice and I got to watch it on the big screen in slo-mo. Whenever an outfielder makes a good play we all get excited. We take pride in doing the little things right.”
OF HIS TEAM’S DEFENSE, manager Bryan Price said, “It has been fantastic all year, it really has. I don’t even know what to say. I write notes during the game on my lineup sheet about the defense.”
So what did he write Wednesday:
“Schebler robs a three-run homer (on Shaw,” he read off the card. “Nice catch by Schebler going back to end the sixth inning. Peraza a really nice play to end the seventh up the middle. I just keep writing them down. Hamilton the saving catch in the second when Schebler lost the ball in the sun. Duvall on the 7-to-4 off the wall to nail Hernan Perez at second. Eugenio Suarez knocked down a liner that Eric Sogard hit and was able to make a play. It constantly shows up. . .and certainly the play by Tucker and Scooter to end the game. Just sensational.”