By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — It was early in the game and the Great American Ball Park organist played Herman & the Hermits song, ‘I’m in For Something Good.’
As it turned out, it was something very, very good for the Cincinnati Reds, pitcher Anthony Desclafani, second baseman Scooter Gennett and center fielder Billy Hamilton.
So which was the biggest news of the day Sunday for the Reds — that they expunged the hideous 13-game losing streak to the St. Louis Cardinals or that Desclafani won his first game since 2016.
Both played big in the the Reds clubhouse, this 6-3 victory over the Cardinals. For injury-plagued Desclafani, it was his first win since September 28, 2016 and it, too, was against the Cardinals.
The ecstatic Desclafani pitched five-plus innings and the Cardinals collected 10 hits, but Disco danced away from trouble and held them to three runs (two earned) while walking two and striking out six.
Gennett? He stranded four base runners his first two times at the plate, then broke a 2-2 tie his third time with a two-run single to give the Reds their first lead of the three-game series, 4-2.
Hamilton? What didn’t he do? A triple to left center, a walk and an advancement from first to third on a wild pitch, two runs scored, two runners thrown out on the bases and two leaping catches against the wall. Did he drive the bus to the airport? No, they should have given him a limo ride.
“It is definitely good to get that first one,” said Desclafani. “I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be today (10 hits). There is definitely a lot of work from here on out. I was falling behind guys and giving up too many hits. That’s a lot of battling and you’re not giving yourself a good chance to succeed with that many hits.”
But, of course, he’ll take the ‘W’ and put the baseball on his mantelpiece and go from there. He was, however, overawed watching Hamilton scorch the basepaths and challenge the wall for baseballs.
“It’s top-notch, man. A lot of fun to watch,” Desclafani said of Hamilton. “As a pitcher, he helps build momentum. He makes a great catch for the first out you kind of snuck away with an out. It gives you a better chance to get the next two outs. And him throwing guys out? It’s just ridiculous.”
—Billy’s Big Day began with two outs in the first when Jose Martinez hit one into left center and tried to stretch it into a double. Hamilton threw him out.
—In the third, Hamilton tripled to left center and scored on a ground ball, the Reds’ first run.
—In the fourth he walked, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Tucker Barnhart’s single to tie the game, 2-2.
—In the fourth, he threw pitcher Carlos Martinez out at home plate when he tried to score from first on a two-out single.
—In the eighth he plastered himself against the wall and snagged Greg Garcia’s bid for an inning-opening double when the Reds led by three.
—In the ninth, with a runner on base, he went above the wall with a runner on base to hi-jack Matt Carpenter’s bid for a two-run home run.
“That’s why he is so important and that’s with all due respect to everybody who goes out there,” said manager Jim Riggleman. “Nobody can do the things he does and I mean throughout the league. He was really special. He was on display today.”
As usual, the Cardinals struck first. After getting three hits in the first two innings but scoring nothing, they patched two on the board in the third.
And those were tinged in controversy.
The Cardinals loaded the bases with one out with the aid of a couple of walks. Marcell Ozuna drilled one deep to left. Jesse Winker went up against the wall and gloved it, then dropped it and appeared to snag it bare-handed. He threw to third for an inning-ending double play.
Not so fast. A replay/review reversed the call and the ruling was, “No catch, ball hit the wall before hitting Winker’s glove.” Ozuna was credited with a run-scoring single and the bases were still loaded. Yadier Molina hit a sacrifice fly to left and it was 2-0.
The Reds cut that lead in half in the bottom of the third when Hamilton led with his triple to left center and scored on Scott Schlebler’s grounder to second. For the second straight time through the order Martinez walked both Tucker Barnhart and Joey Votto. Then he hit Eugenio Suarez with a pitch, filling the bases with one out.
Martinez struck out Scooter Gennett and coaxed an inning-ending ground ball out of Jesee Winker to leave the Cardinals in front, 2-1.
The Reds struck platinum with two outs and nobody on in the fourth. They batted around and scored four runs to take their first lead of the series.
Hamilton walked with two outs and it was assumed he would try to steal second to get into scoring position. But he stayed anchored for five pitches as Scott Schebler batted. Hamilton, of course, was on the move on the two-out 3-and-2 pitch and when Martinez threw a wild pitch on ball four Hamilton moved all the way to third base.
Speed kills? You betcha. On the next pitch, Tucker Barnhart singled to right field, scoring Hamilton to tie it, 2-2, and send Schebler to third. Martinez walked Votto for the third straight time, this time on a full count, to fill the bases — Martinez’s seventh walk in 3 2/3 innings. And before the day concluded, St. Louis pitchers walked 11.
Scooter Gennett, who stranded two in the first and two in the third, this time poked a 2-and-2 pitch into right field to drive in two and give the Reds a 4-2 lead, their first lead in the three-game series. Eugenio Suarez then lined a run-scoring single to center, knocking Martinez out of the competition and lifting the Reds to a 5-2 lead.
Said Gennett, “Yeah, my first two at bats were not too good. Martinez is a real good pitcher with real good stuff. You mix that with Yadier Molina behind the plate and the way he calls a game and catches the ball, it can be tough. It can be a grind. But we took advantage of key situations. We only had five hits (aided by the 11 walks) but we scored six runs and that’s good baseball.”
How good was Hamilton’s baseball?
“Hamilton is an impact player and when he is out there he can change the game with one play,” said Gennett. On Sunday, it was four or five plays. “That triple today into left field, nobody in the league that I know of can turn that into three bases. And the wild pitch from first to third? You can’t teach that. His defense is incredible and invaluable, no matter what he does at the plate.”
St. Louis scored a run in the sixth and knocked Desclafani out of the game after a double and a single. An unearned run scored on a shallow fly ball to right field as Scott Schebler air-mailed his throw to the backstop.
Pinch-hitter Adam Duvall provided a run-cushion in the seventh when he followed two more walks with single to left field to make it 6-3.
After kicking the St. Louis gorilla off his team’s back, Riggleman said, “To be honest, that losing streak to them was the last thing on my mind. It was all about today. Everything that happened before today was unfortunate and we’ll look back on it and say, ‘Man, they were dominating us.’ But it was just about today, winning today. A lot happened out there, but we got it.”
After a 2-and-4 homestand, the Reds flew to Kansas City after the game where they will play a two-game series Tuesday/Wednesday against the Royals, the American League Central’s last place team. When Sunday began the Reds and Royals shared an identical 22-43 record.
After partaking of Kansas City barbecue for a couple of days the Reds move to Pittsburgh to face the fast-fading Pirates three times. The Reds are 9 1/2 games behind the fourth-place Pirates and if the Reds have aspirations of vacating last place in the National League Central they need to do heavy damage in Pittsburgh.