By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Freddy Peralta, a 22-year-old rookie from the Dominican Republic, walked to the Great American Ball Park mound Sunday afternoon with a 3-and-0 record and a 1.59 earned run average.
For a kid who had never pitched in Triple-A and pitched in only 13 Double-A games before this year it is a shockingly sensational introduction in to major league baseball.
But it was come-uppance time for the precocious pitcher.
He left GABP late Sunday afternoon with a 3-and-1 record and a 2.28 earned run average after the Cincinnati Reds hung an 8-2 defeat on the Brewers, blemishing Peralta’s perfect record.
And what’s a Reds victory without a grand slam home run — only this time it wasn’t hit by a pitcher like Anthony Desclafani or Michaell Lorenzen. It was hit by shortstop and leadoff hitter Jose Peraza, the ninth grand slam by the Reds this year, tying the club record set in 2002.
However, it was the eighth different player to hit a grand slam. Adam Duvall owns two.
“It’s the ultimate,” said manager Jim Riggleman of grand slams. “You get four (runs) right now. It let’s everybody breathe a little easier, from the manager and coaches. You can set yourself up a little better in the game.”
As Scooter Gennett said, “When the bases are loaded, the pressure is not on you. Or it shouldn’t be. It is on the pitcher.”
And Riggleman said the rest of the team is pleased to have Peraza to join the grand slam parade.
“They are happy for Peraza,” he said. “He is a young guy who is very mature for his years (24). He is becoming a good player and is really finding his game. He is doing a lot of good stuff.”
Peraza was asked what he was thinking as he stood in the batter’s box with the bases loaded — and, no, thoughts of Michael Lorenzen and Anthony Desclafani were not dancing through his head.
“Try to hit the ball. I hit the ball and I see the guy (left fielder Ryan Braun) and I think, ‘Wow, it’s a home run,’” said Peraza. “It makes everybody happy and the important thing is we win the game. Everybody is doing it.”
Peralta ran into a first-inning Reds offensive explosion and the shutdown pitching of Matt Harvey, who has started 131 major league games to five for Peralta.
It took Peralta 43 pitches to cover the first inning. It took Harvey 41 pitches to cover four innings. The first six Reds batters reached base and three scored. Harvey pitched a perfect game until Travis Shaw opened the fourth with a punched single to left field.
And Harvey retired 17 of the first 18 he faced before giving up a two-out single in the sixth to Brad Miller as a summer rain began pounding the field. After Miller’s single the game was stopped and the tarp was yanked onto the field.
Unfortunately for Harvey, the 55-minute delay forced manager Jim Riggleman to bring in relief pitcher David Hernandez when play resumed. Harvey left wet but pleased with 5 2/3 innings of no-run, two-hit, no-walk, six-strikeout pitching.
It didn’t matter. David Hernandez, Jared Hughes and Jackson Stephens took a three-hit shutout into the ninth before Ryan Braun banged a harmless two-run home run off Raisel Iglesias. It enabled the Reds to split the four-game series after losing the first two.
Harvey did get the win, his third straight and each one gets better and better and better.
“It was disappointing to have to come out because that’s the best I’ve felt in a long time,” said Harvey. “It was one of those where you could smell a CG (complete game) coming. I was pretty much in control so it was disappointing. The biggest thing for me is my health. That was the problem at the beginning of the season (with the New York Mets). I needed to pitch and feel comfortable. I endured some injuries and couldn’t get comfortable, so it is nice to get into a groove.”
How good of a groove?
“I had them all (his pitches) today,” said Harvey. “They were all there. Haven’t had that since. . .well, probably the best I’ve felt since 2013.”
Milwaukee starter Freddy Peralta left for a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning. After the three-run, four-hit first inning, he gave up no runs and one hit over the next four innings but needed 92 pitches to get there.
Peraza led the bottom of the first with a ground rule double that bounced into the left center seats. Tucker Barnhart walked and Joey Votto doubled for a run. Eugenio Suarez singled home a second run and Scott Schebler singled home another run.
It was 3-0 and when Adam Duvall walked the Reds had the bases loaded and no outs, poised for a huge inning. But Alex Blandino was called out on strikes, Matt Harvey struck out and Billy Hamilton struck out.
Just as they did Saturday, once the Reds waded into the Brewers’ bullpen they put away the game. On Saturday they scored eight runs in the seventh inning to come from 3-2 behind to win 12-3.
On Sunday, Aaron Wilkerson replaced Peralta in the sixth and gave up five runs, including the grand slam home run by Peraza. Before Peraza’s home run, pinch-hitter Jesse Winker pulled a run-scoring single, his seven pinch-hit in 11 at bats and fifth pinch-hit RBI.
“Winker has really taken to it,” said Riggleman. “That’s the thing about having these four outfielders. When they don’t start, they invariably get at bats. It’s a good thing for them.”
So the Reds have played three straight top-shelf teams — the Chicago Cubs, the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers — and are 8-3 in those endeavors.
“It’s the way we’re all playing,” he said. “We’re feeding off each other. We keep winning and beating good teams. We’ve been playing good and that’s motivation to keep that going, do my part to go deep and keep runs off the board.”
Harvey, a soft-spoken guy who had off-the-field issues in New York, was asked how he liked pitching, “In little ol’ Cincinnati?” His reaction was as expected, “Yeah, I like it. It is still major league baseball and you still are facing good lineups, No. 1 guys in their leagues. You have to go do your job and the guys in here have been awesome to me since I got here. It is fun to see what we can do. We’ve shown a lot that last couple of weeks about how good we can be. It’s really been fun.”