By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — What happens when two bad baseball teams show up together on a Tuesday night, when school is back in session, when the weather is sketchy, when they aren’t giving away a bobblehead and football season is about to begin?
Mostly it means more empty than occupied seats. It was Bark in the Park Night at Great American Ball Park and not even many dogs showed up. The announced attendance was 12,946, smallest gathering of the season at GABP.
The only reason to play the game was because each team started a rookie pitcher, both trying to win spots on their team’s rotation next year.
And the Cincinnati Reds were trying to win their first game against the New York Mets since September, 2014. They had lost 14 straight and 19 of the last 21 games played between them.
AS FAR AS THE ROOKIE pitcher match-up, Cincinnati’s Sal Romano won the argument over New York’s Chris Flexen and it enabled the Reds to finally post a win over the Mets, 14-4.
It helped the Reds that the Mets didn’t have Jay Bruce (traded), Curtis Granderson (traded), David Wright (disabled list), Michael Conforto (disabled list) and Yoenis Cespedes (disabled list). And more than half of the Mets starting rotation is absent with injury.
Romano gave up a run in the top of the first and nothing more until the sixth when he gave up two more. He left after six innings and fell an inning short of becoming the first Reds pitcher to last seven or more innings three games in a row this season,
After pitching seven innings (one run) against Atlanta two starts ago and after pitching 7 1/3 (two runs) in his last start, Romano gave up three runs and six hits over six innings to push his record to 4-and-5.
And he is making a stern and sterling statement toward winning a spot in next year’s starting rotation.
ROMANO BELIEVES HE WAS as good in this start as in his previous two and said, “I pitched to a lot of contact and got strikeouts (five) when I needed them. It was an overall good day.”
Even though he is a rookie with limited time in the majors, Romano was aware of the Mets’ domination and said, “I think it was 14 games in a row they’ve beaten us and it was nice to be a part of stopping that.
“I felt I was as sharp in this one as the last two, even though I left some change-ups up in the zone,” he said. “I felt really sharp, had all my pitches working.”
AFTER FALLING BEHIND, 1-0, in the first, Romano was given five runs in the bottom of the first on a run-scoring single by Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schebler’s first career grand slam home run.
Schebler later singled home a run during a two-run fifth inning to give him five RBI for the night, tying a career high.
While trying to play with a sore shoulder, Schebler went 4 for 52 before ‘fessing up that his shoulder hurt and he was placed on the disabled list.
Since coming off the DL on August 18, Schebler is hitting .387 (12 for 31) with three home runs, three doubles, a triple and 11 RBI.
“This kid has an opportunity to be a real beast,” said Reds manager Bryan Price. “He defends, he runs well, he throws accurately and plays right field extremely well. The power is phenomenal. But the ability to command the strike zone and increase his on-base percentage also is in there.”
ASKED IF HE CONSIDERED it a compliment that his manager said he could be a baseball beast, Schebler smiled and said, “I think that’s a good word, right? Somebody told me I need to grow a beard because I’m the only guy in the starting lineup without a beard, so. . .huh.”
IT TOOK SCHEBLER SEVERAL moments to think about his last grand slam home run in professional ball before fishing it out of his memory.
“I don’t remember, I honestly don’t,” he said. “Yeah, I hit a walk-off grand slam once in high-A. Those don’t happen very often and they haven’t happened for me. I’m not like Scooter Gennett who hits one every other at bat (three grand slams this year).”
Schebler also realizes now that his shoulder was debilitating enough that he should have had it taken care of rather than try to play through it.
“I guess I didn’t realize how important that shoulder is — it was my non-dominant shoulder,” he said. “I thought I could play through it, gradually get better with the rehab I would do. But my swing is pretty violent and it would undo all the rehab I did.
“It just needed rest and, yeah, the first day after coming off the DL I said, ‘Yeah, there was something seriously wrong.’ And I did it for nearly a month and a half. I learned my lesson on that.”
The Reds turned a 7-3 lead into an 14-3 rout in the bottom of the eighth with seven runs that included a three-run home run by Adam Duvall, his 31st. And the Mets used a position player, catcher Kevin Plawecki, to finish the eighth inning.
Just to spread some fudge on the cake, Reds relief pitcher Alejandro Chacin, pitching the ninth with an 11-run lead, gave up two walks and two singles for a run before ending it on a double play.
In addition to the home runs by Schebler and Duvall, big nights was had by others. Joey Votto, who walked five times Sunday, walked three more times in his first four plate appearances Tuesday (eight walks in nine plate appearances) before he singled in the eighth inning.
Eugenio Suarez had three hits, a walk and scored two runs. Scooter Gennett had two hits, a walk and scored three runs. Zack Cozart had two hits, a walk and scored three runs.