By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — It is one of those numerical anomalies, an anomaly that is true but not accurate.
After a 4-1 victory over the Miami Marlins Friday night the Cincinnati Reds continue to be atop the league in some offensive categories over their last 11 games. But it isn’t true that those numbers have helped the Reds win because their record during those 11 games is 5-and-6.
Amazingly, despite owning baseball’s worst record, by far (8-24), the Reds’ offense has been kicking dirt off the coffin lids. How about these numbers after Friday’s victory in Great American Ball Park?
Over the last 11 games the Reds lead the majors in walks and on-base percentage and are second in runs scored. And yet the Reds are 5-and-6 in those games, mostly due to abysmal pitching.
Manager Jim Riggleman put the positive numbers in perfect perspective when he said, “When you have those kinds of stats you have to turn some of those into wins.
“It is just one of those things, what we did last year, but last year we hit homers,” he added. With 26 home runs the Reds are 29th in the majors, two ahead of Miami, owner of the fewest homers. “I think we will hit home runs, but we’re just in a bit of a dry time right now.”
The dry time ended, for a short period, in the first inning against Miami left hander Wei-Yin Chen. Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall went back-to-back against him in the first inning. Suarez’s came with two on and Duvall’s, of course, was with the bases empty and they gave the Reds a 4-0 lead.
And the abysmal pitching? Sal Romano put a temporary gag order on that by holding the Marlins to no runs and one hit for four innings Then he gave up a two-out home run to No. 8 hitter Lewis Brinson, cutting the lead to 4-1.
Romano hit Derek Dietrich with a pitch to open the sixth and J.T. Realmuto singled. With one out, Riggleman replaced Romano with Wandy Peralta and he issued a walk.
That was it for him — one hitter, one walk that filled the bases with one out. David Hernandez replaced Peralta and did the deed, preserving the 4-1 lead. Brian Anderson lined to left and Martin Prado flied to deep left.
The Reds had three hits in the first inning, then only four more the rest of the way, none from the third inning until pinch-hitter Jesse Winker pulled a two-out single to right in the eighth and Billy Hamilton followed with a single.
But they weren’t needed because Romano and the bullpen of Hernandez, Jared Hughes and Raisel Iglesias kept the Marlins eerily quiet.
The Reds had opportunities to pile on after their 4-0 first inning. They had two on with one out in the second, but Alex Blandino hit into a double play. They had the bases loaded with one out in the third and didn’t produce a run because Adam Duvall flied to center and Scott Schebler popped up.
Those failures concerned Riggleman.
“That home run by Suarez (in the first) was a big one right there,” he said. “But I was concerned, I really was, the second and third innings we had some men on base again. Chen was on the ropes, had him on the hook, and we just didn’t put him away. You just don’t like to let somebody hang around like that.
“It was a struggle after the third inning because we didn’t do a whole lot,” he added. “It wouldn’t have felt good to score four in the first and let it get away. I was hoping it would get to 6-0 or 7-0 by the third inning.”
Pitching and defense picked up the slack. The Reds turned three double plays, including one in the eighth and one in the ninth. The Marlins put a runner on first with no outs in in the eighth against Jared Hughes. The Reds turned a 6-4-3 double play and Hughes was so excited he ran off the field, even though he need one more out to end the inning. He got it by striking out Starlin Castro.
Closer Raisel Iglesias finished the game by coaxing a 6-4-3 double play out of Martin Prado.
Romano pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up one run and three hits, while walking two and striking out two. He was in trouble in the second with two on and one out. Shortstop Jose Peraza started an inning-ending double play. He started all three Reds double plays.
“I relied more on my off-speed stuff today because I was missing down with my fastball,” said Romano. “After I got out of that second inning I fell into a real good groove. I was able to get some weak contact in the middle innings. I wish I could have pitched longer, but the bullpen came in and did the job.”
Said Suarez, who provided three of the four first-inning runs with his home run, “That’s a good start and it gave strong support for Sal Romano and he did a really good job. When we put hitting home runs, pitching and defense all together we really have a good chance to win and we did that tonight.”