By HAL McCOY
As the rebuild continues and the season has less than a month-and-a-half to go, the Cincinnati Reds still have more questions than Alex Trebec asks on Jeopardy.
And most of them are really tough decisions, some of them evident Saturday nigh when the Reds narrowly escaped the Atlanta Braves, 11-8, after leading by seven going into the bottom of the ninth.
WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO with Scooter Gennett? Will they re-sign him after they picked him up off waivers this spring from the Milwaukee Brewers, the biggest bargain since Marge Schott sold hot dogs for $1?
Gennett hit a grand slam home run Saturday night, his third grand slam this season to go with his four home run night. The first half of the season he didn’t even play regularly, but he has 21 home runs and 74 RBI.
His three grand slams tied a team season record, held by six other Reds, last done in 2014 by Devin Mesoraco. The first to do it was Frank Robinson.
THE GRAND PLAN WAS TO have young Jose Peraza become the regular second baseman after they dumped Brandon Phillips. But Gennett has outplayed Peraza in every possible way.
And how about right field? Scott Schebler? Jesse Winker? Phillip Ervin? All three are solid and legitimate candidates.
Schebler came off the disabled list Friday and on Saturday started his first game since going on the DL.
Before going on the DL, Schebler was quietly playing with a bad shoulder, injured on a diving catch in Los Angeles. He kept playing and was 4 for 52.
ON SATURDAY HE WAS ON base his first four times at the plate and had a single, two doubles, a walk, scored twice and drove in a run.
Is he the guy? His average is low, but his power numbers are impressive and he is an outstanding defender. But Winker, a No. 1 draft choice, was supposed to be the right fielder of the future when they traded Jay Bruce.
And Ervin, drafted No. 1 in 2013, has languished in the minors. But he was called up early this week and his first career hit Wednesday in Chicago was a home run. The next night, he hit a two-run home run to break a 9-9 tie and the Reds won, 13-10.
For the game he was 3 for 4 with a home run, a double, three runs scored and four RBI.
AND, OF COURSE, THE PITCHING rotation remains a floating crap game.
Is Robert Stephenson part of it? He pitched creditably Saturday night — five innings, two runs, three hits, one walk and three strikeouts.
With the Reds leading, 5-2, manager Bryan Price removed him, even though he had thrown only 75 pitches. The innings, though, were stressful. The Braves had runners in base in every inning and stranded eight while Stephenson was in there. And for the night the Brave stranded 14 and we 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
And he made two errors and failed to put down a bunt, physical things that have nothing to do with pitching ability. Price more than likely removed him early to give him a positive feeling about himself.
AND HE WAS CREDITED WITH the win, his first of the season after four losses, but it was shaky.
The Reds led, 7-4, entering the top of the ninth and Gennett’s grand slam made it 11-4. They were needed.
Blake Wood started the bottom of the ninth and gave up four straight hits, including a three-run home run to Matt Adams, to cut the lead to 11-7.
Price had to bring in Michael Lorenzen to get the final three outs and it was painful. He gave up two hits and another run scored. He had two on with two outs (both strikeouts) before he ended it by getting Matt Kemp to ground weakly to third.
Surviving the onslaught enabled the Reds to win their third straight.
It would have been somewhat disconcerting had the Reds lost to Atlanta starter Julio Teheran. He was 1-and-8 with a 7.37 ERA in his start at home in new Sun Trust Park. Now he is 1-and-9 (He is 6-and-2 on the road).