By HAL McCOY
The Cincinnati Reds made a definitive statement to the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night in Busch Stadium III: “This is not the same team you used as punching bags earlier this season.”
Coming into Busch Friday, the Reds had lost nine of the first 10 games this year to the Cardinals.
But this was a ‘take that’ night for the Reds as the pounded the Cardinals, 9-1, just one game after they lost to the Cleveland Indians, 19-4.
The featured players this night were many — pitcher Matt Harvey, right fielder Jesse Winker, shortstop Jose Peraza, center fielder Billy Hamilton, third baseman Eugenio Suarez and pinch-hitter Dilson Herrera.
The most heart-warming at bat of the game was that of Herrera’s in the seventh inning. With the Reds leading, 5-1, Herrera established squatter’s rights in the batter’s box by seeing 11 pitches.
And the 11th pitch was blasted from here to eternity, a three-run home run that turned the affair into a rout.
For Herrera, it was his first major league hit since 2015 when he played for the New York Mets. The Reds acquired him from the Mets in the Jay Bruce trade. But for the last three seasons he has suffered injury after injury after injury.
He was having a standout season at Class AAA Louisville when the Reds called him up early last week.
Harvey? Five innings, one run, four hits, two walks, five strikeouts. After a wobbly start during which he put five runners on base in the first two innings, Harvey then retired 10 straight.
When he walked the leadoff hitter in the sixth, manager Jim Riggleman, removed him and he was not a happy hurler. But he was rewarded with a win and he is 5-and-3 with the Reds since coming over in a trade with the Mets for catcher Devin Mesoraco.
And is it not time for the Reds to consider trying to keep the veteran pitcher who has so far been an upstanding citizen after bringing a sketchy reputation to Cincinnati. Over his last five starts he has won four times with a 1.86 earned run average.
Jesse Winker had three hits and drove in three of the first four Reds runs. Since he was removed from the leadoff spot and dropped to the middle of the order, Winker has 29 RBI in his last 30 games.
And isn’t it about time the Reds make this Rookie of the Year candidate an every day player and scrap that four-man outfield?
Jose Peraza, playing better and better and better with each passing game, had three hits. After a horrible start to his season, 1-for-16, Peraza has his batting average up to .279.
Eugenio Suarez had three hits, all doubles, and scored two runs to lift his batting average to .317 and continuing to show why he deserved to be selected to the All-Star team.
The much-maligned Billy Hamilton continued his argument to move back into the leadoff spot instead on dead-last-ninth. He had a double and over his last 30 games is hitting .330 and scored 24 runs.
Hamilton, the best center fielder on God’s green earth who hasn’t won a Gold Glove, made perhaps his most spectacular catch of the year — and with all the sensational catches he has made, that’s saying something.
A few years ago he went above the fence to take away a home run from the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter. He said it was his favorite catch because it was the first time he robbed a player of a home run.
Well, it was Carpenter at bat again in the seventh and he drove one toward the center field wall. Hamilton drifted back and when he reached the wall he dug his spikes into it and leaped 3 1/2 feet off the ground. His glove was at least 3 ½ feet over the wall when he snagged the baseball and brought it back.
Pitcher Amir Garrett squatted on his haunches and said, “Oh, my God!” Carpenter said more than that.
After the Cardinals scored a run on three hits in the first inning, they had only one hit after that, a cheapie ground ball to right field by pitcher Carlos Martinez.
After Harvey retired 10 in a row and issued the walk, the Reds bullpen of Jared Hughes, Amir Garrett, Michael Lorenzen and Austin Brice pitched scoreless and hitless innings.
Since June 10, the Reds are 20-9, best record in the National League.