By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — For some obscure reason, the Cincinnati Reds decided to play a baseball game Monday night in Great American Ball Park that should have been postponed due to a lack of interest.
After a rainy afternoon and with the hometown team losing nearly every game, there could not have been more than 1,000 people actually seated in the stands.
Nevertheless, the Reds and Atlanta Braves plodded through nine innings as every sound in the ballpark came with an echo.
And those who wandered into the park to see why the lights were on were treated to something rare so far this season, a Reds victory, 10-4 over the Braves as most of the echoes emanated from Cincinnati bats.
A strong and stern pitching performance by Sal Romano, a two-run home run by Scott Schebler and a pinch-hit run-scoring single by Jesse Winker pushed the Reds to their fourth victory in 22 games.
On a somber note, the Reds are still one game behind the losing pace of the 1962 New York Mets, who set a major league record with 120 losses. Those Mets were 5-17 after 22 games to Cincinnati’s 4-18.
It was a night of positives for the Reds. Sal Romano pitched six innings and gave up two runs and four hits.
“I didn’t have all my best stuff, but had the two-seamer (fastball) working and that was a big thing for me tonight,” said Romano, now 1-and-2. “Right now, we’ll take a win any way we can get one. The way we pitched and the way the bats came alive for us was a huge step forward.”
Romano fell behind, 2-0, after four innings. A leadoff walk and left fielder Adam Duvall’s throwing error led to an Atlanta run in the third and a home run by Nick Markakis in the fourth made it 2-0.
Schebler, batting leadoff in his second start after missing 16 games with an elbow injury, crushed a two-run home run over the center field wall to tie it, 2-2 in the fifth. The Reds had not hit a home run in their previous 244 plate appearances.
“Schebler’s home run jump-started our offense and our bats really came alive for us,” said the appreciative Romano.
Schebler was looking for a high fast ball from Atlanta pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, had one gift-wrapped to him, and he jumped on it like kid on a trampoline.
“We’ve known him to go up in the zone late in the count because he has a really good fastball,” said Schebler.
Schebler & Company talked about this game unpacking some good things for the future. They have short memories. Their last win was 10-4 in Milwaukee, then they lost two straight 2-0 games to the Brewers and three straight in St. Louis.
Schebler, though, takes the high road and said, “Let’s hope it plays out just like tonight. The whole season we just haven’t had any momentum offensively. We were great offensively last year and I fully expect us to be like that the rest of the year.”
The Reds broke it open in the seventh, batting around to score five runs off the Braves’ bullpen. Even though he had a four-game hitting streak (6 for 15), Jesse Winker was not in Monday’s lineup.
But interim manager Jim Riggleman sent him up to pinch-hit with the bases loaded and no outs. He pushed a run-scoring single to left field to make it 3-2 and the jar was open and the olives rolled out.
Winker fell behind 0-and-2 and then 1-and-2 before delivering against relief pitcher Pete Moylan.
“Really, all I wanted to do was put the bat on the ball with the bases loaded and no outs,” said Winker. “Early in the bat I just wanted to hit something in the air. Then I fell behind 0-and-2 and after that I was just trying to stay on the ball. He is a side-armer and everything was running away from me and I just wanted to stay on the ball and put a good swing on it.”
Pinch-hitting is not an easy vocation and it is even tougher on a young guy like Winker, but he said, “Doesn’t matter to me. It was my turn to sit today and when I was called upon I was getting and was ready. Any time I get to play baseball I think I’ll be all right.”
Jose Peraza, who has not struck out in 32 plate appearances, lobbed a run-scoring single to right (4-2), Joey Votto walked with the bases loaded (5-2) and Scooter Gennett singled home two runs (7-2).
The Braves scored two off Wandy Peralta in the top of the eighth, then the Reds retrieved three runs in the bottom of the eighth. Billy Hamilton singled and stole second. He scored on Schebler’s single, his third RBI of the night. Adam Duvall finished it off with a two-run double.
The victory was the first win as Reds manager for Riggleman after three losses in St. Louis. When congratulated, he offered his thanks and added, “I keep in touch every day with Bryan Price because I respect and love that man so much. There are 29 other teams I’d prefer t manager over this one because of the circumstances.
“I was really proud of the guys tonight because we were down again (2-0) after losing a lot of ballgames and Schebler got it going for us.”