By HAL McCOY
Incredible. Incredulous. Improbable. Impossible — and any other adjectives beginning with ‘I.’
For eight innings against Cleveland Indians All-Star pitcher Trevor Bauer, the Cincinnati Reds were hapless and helpless.
They had no runs, three hits — one a bloop and one an infield hit — and struck out 12 times.
There were down four runs when the ninth began against Tribe closer Cody Allen. Allen hit a batter and walked two, but had two outs.
Just minutes later, the Reds had seven runs on the board and extracted a 7-4 victory. It happened faster than a pickpocket on Cleveland’s Public Square.
Pinch-hitter Jose Peraza started it with a bloop-single to right for a run to make it 4-1. Pinch-hitter Adam Duvall drove one up the left-center gap for a two-run double and it was 4-3.
Scott Schebler was intentionally walked so Allen could face Dilson Herrera, just called up and making his first start for the Reds. Allen missed badly on a 3-and-2 pitch to fill the bases.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Cleveland manager Terry Francona brought in Dan Otero to face Joey Votto.
Votto worked the count to 3-and-2 and tore out the Tribe’s heart with a three-run double that turned the 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 lead. Scooter Gennett was intentionally walked and Eugenio Suarez singled for another run.
Although the Tribe bullpen has been horrendous all season, it was only Allen’s second blown save all year.
It usually isn’t healthy to give Bauer a four-run lead in the first two innings. It is like slipping him a handful of gold nuggets to tuck into a zippered front pocket.
Nobody is going to take them away from him.
That’s exactly what Reds starter Sal Romano did and both he and the Reds paid dearly for it — for eight innings.
Bauer guarded that four-run lead like a Fort Knox security detail for a 4-0 lead after eight innings. And despite the Tribe loss, Bauer made baseball history.
He held the Reds to no runs, three hits and struck out 12 over eight innings. It was the seventh straight time he put together a quality start (six innings and three runs or less) with more than eighth strikeouts and did not give up a home run in those seven games.
No pitcher in modern major league history had done it.
Romano was jolted to attention in the first inning when leadoff hitter Francisco Lindor homered and No. 3 hitter Jose Ramirez homered for a 2-0 Tribe lead. Both home runs came with two strikes and the Reds lead the majors with 50 home runs given up when a pitcher has two strikes.
The Tribe scored two more in the second. Romano walked Jason Kipnis to open the inning and took third on Tyler Naquin’s double, also with two strikes on him.
That put runners on third and second with no outs. The third run scored on third baseman Eugenio Suarez’s error and the fourth on a ground ball.
From there Romano retired 15 in a row and pitched into the eighth inning. And he escaped his ninth loss with a no-decision.
Bauer struck out the side to open the first. By the time the Reds corralled their first hit, a one-out single in the fifth by Jesse Winker, Bauer had seven strikeouts.
Alex Blandino blooped a single to right field to open the sixth. After Bauer struck out Billy Hamilton and Scott Schebler, he walked Dilson Herrera to put two on with two outs. Joey Votto grounded out.
The Reds filled the bases in the seventh when Bauer gave up an infield single to Scooter Gennett and walked two. Billy Hamilton flied to center to end the threat.
There was almost an audible sigh of relief in the ninth inning when Bauer left and closer Cody Allen arrived. For most of the season the Indians bullpen has been as vulnerable as a mouse in a snake cage and the mouse got devoured again.
When it was 4-1 after Peraza’s single, there were two on with two outs, manager Jim Riggleman sent Adam Duvall up to pinch-hit for Billy Hamilton. Duvall, who hit a pinch-hit home run Saturday in Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs in the ninth inning to tie the game, saw five straight breaking pitches from Allen and ripped the fifth one into the left center gap for two runs and it was 4-3.
That brought up Dilson Herrera, just called up and starting his first game for the Reds. Allen went to 3-and-2 and Herrera fouled off a pitch. His next pitch wasn’t even close, a walk to load the bases.
And that was it for the closer after he couldn’t get three outs in one inning with a four-run lead. He hit a batter and walked two.
That brought up Joey Votto to face right hander Dan Otero, against whom left handers were hitting .348. Votto was 0-for-4 against Otero. Votto surged ahead 2-and-0 and took a strike. He took ball three and took strike two on a 90 miles an hour down-the-pipe fastball for a full count
He fouled off the 3-and-2 and then ripped the three-run double up the right field gap. Not only did it give the Reds a 7-4 victory, it gave Riggleman his 700th win as a major league manager.
Incredible, incredulous, improbable, impossible.