By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — It was 2000 and Cincinnati Reds manager Bob Boone posted a lineup full of utility players, the bench brigade, for an early-season game.
That night’s starting pitcher, Pete Harnisch, glanced at the lineup card and shouted in his New York accent, “Hey, Skippah, are we tryin’ tonight?”
That could have been the case for Reds starting pitcher Asher Wojciechowski Wednesday night, except Wojo is just happy to be on the mound and for all he cared manager Bryan Price could have put Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs on the field behind him.
IN THE LINEUP WAS Patrick Kivlehan (right field), Stuart Turner (catcher) and Arismendy Alcantara (second base). Out of the lineup was Jesse Winker, Zack Cozart, Tucker Barnhart and Scooter Gennett.
The Reds did win, 8-3, with the Usual Suspects (Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto, Adam Duvall and Jose Peraza) doing the necessary early heavy lifting.
Wojciechowski didn’t care who was standing behind him with gloves on, at least not for five innings when he held the Padres scoreless on three hits.
But the Pad Squad reached him for three runs in the sixth on a solo home run by Manuel Margot and a two-run rip by Wil Myers that sliced his lead in half, from 6-0 to 6-3.
WHEN WOJO GAVE UP A bloop single to left after the Myers home run he was replaced by Michael Lorenzen. For 5 2/3 innings Wojo gave up three runs, seven hits and, get his, no walks.
“Wojo was spot on,” said Price. “You look at his body of work, a three-pitch mix. He had a very good breaking ball that he kept down for called strikes.
“He was in attack mode and took advantage of the fact we jumped out to an early lead and he didn’t relinquish it.”
Said Wojo, after pushing his record to 3-and-1, “I attacked the strike zone until the sixth inning when I fell behind a couple of times. But for the most part I threw everything for strikes and I worked fast and I was getting people out.
“I was able to throw my slider for first-pitch strikes,” he said. “And I put guys away with it (six strikeouts) and I had good fastball command and I had some good change-ups in there as well.”
MIX IN THE FACT HE ALSO stroked his first major league hit and it was a memorable night for the 6-4, 225-pound right hander from Beaufort, S.C., a No. 1 draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010.
Price, of course, was trying to win. He stacked his lineup with all right handed batters with the exception of Joey Votto to face left hander and former Reds pitcher Travis Wood.
“I’ve been running out a lot of those guys pretty steadily,” said Price of his regulars. “We don’t face many lefties and this was an opportunity to get some of these guys in there.
“I’m not going to dodge lefties with Jesse Winker and Scooter Gennett, but in a perfect world you are hitting more against right handers than left handers. So this was an opportunity to get some of the bench players some at bats.”
THE EXTRAS GOT THEIR playing time and their at bats, but it was the regulars doing their regular thing.
Votto extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a two-out double in the first that was followed by a pair of walks. Jose Peraza brought home two with a single and a 2-0 first inning lead.
Adam Duvall, who walked and scored in the first inning, doubled with two outs in the third and Eugenio Suarez cranked hlis 19th home run for a 4-0 lead. Suarez later singled home a run to give him three RBI for the night.
THEN NUMBER THREE CATCHER Stuart Turner wriggled into the act in the fifth inning. After Suarez reached on an infield throwing error, Turner unloaded his first career major league home run for a 6-0 Reds lead. And it was a mammoth, memorable flight, the ball landing three rows deep into the upper deck.
Turner said he and hitting coach Don Long have been refining his swing lately and Turner said of his Big Blast, “I would have taken a wall-scraper, it wouldn’t matter.
“Right before that at bat Don Long was kind of chuckling and said, ‘You’re close. It’s coming.’ He wasn’t talking about the home run, he was talking about the swing we’ve been working on. I got to a 2-and-0 count and got a pitch to drive and luckily I didn’t miss it.”
Turner and Wojciechowski were flipping the same page all night long, working together like Gilbert & Sullivan.
“He had it all working tonight,” said Turner. “He was working ahead with three pitches. Once we were ahead in the count, he went with his change-up. He used it all tonight and made it very easy for me.”
And very easy for the Reds.