By HAL McCOY
In 2010 and 2011 the Cincinnati Reds had a utility infielder named Chris Valaika. And he seldom played.
In 2017, the Colorado Rockies have Pat Valaika, younger brother to Chris, a utility infielder who seldom plays.
But on Wednesday night in Coors Field, Rockies manager Bud Black decided to give regular shortstop Trevor Story a rest because he is slumping, owner of strikeouts in 14 straight games.
And Valaika had a big, big night. He had three hits, drove in three runs, including a two-run home run that provided the major portion of Colorado’s offense in a 5-3 win over the Reds.
The Rockies had only two other hits, five for the game, to 11 hits for the Reds, who couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities en route to their 28 road loss in 41 games.
In addition, opposing pitcher John Gray, 0 for 8 this season and a .108 career hitter, not only hit a two-run home run, but he hit the longest home run this season in Coors Field, a 467-foot rocket launch to dead center field.
Reds starter Scott Feldman was 2-and-0 with a 1.80 earned run average in his last three games. He was matched against John Gray, 1-0 with a 3.93 ERA. But Rockies had won all four of his starts.
Make it all five.
Feldman had two outs and a runner on in the second inning when Gray turned on a 1-and-0 fast ball and deposited it into the rocks, evergreens and waterfall behind the center field wall.
The Reds scored a run in the fourth on Joey Votto’s triple and Scooter Gennett’s single to cut Colorado’s lead to 2-1. Eugenio Suarez followed Gennett’s single with a walk, but Scott Schebler hit into an inning-ending double play.
Mark Reynolds led the fourth with a single and Valaika homered to make it 4-1.
The Reds filled the bases with no outs in the sixth. Gray struck out Scott Schebler and Eugenio Suarez. But Tucker Barnhart singled for a run and another run scored on the rarest of the rare — and error by Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. Billy Hamilton grounded out, leaving the Reds a run short.
Cincinnati All-Stars Zack Cozart and Joey Votto reached base on a single and a walk to open the seventh. But Gennett struck out and Suarez hit into a double play.
Valaika singled home a run in the eighth to make it 5-3 and the Reds put up an argument in the ninth against baseball’s best closer, Greg Holland.
Holland struck out Arismendy Alcantara on three pitches to open the ninth, but the third strike was a wild pitch and Alcantara reached first.
Hamilton hit into a double play and Holland was one out away from preserving Gray’s victory. But Cozart singled and Votto walked, putting the potential tying runs on base.
But Holland knocked down Gennett’s hard drive up the middle and threw him out at first to end it, Holland’s 28th save in 29 chances. And it was only Colorado’s third win in their last 14 games.
The Reds left runners in scoring position with two outs seven times and they were 3 for 15 with runners in scoring position.