By HAL McCOY
One of pitcher Sal Romano’s favorite things to do during down time in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse is to carry around a baseball bat, a strange thing since he has only one hit all season.
More apropos would be for Romano to carry around an official Major League baseball, holding it with his knuckle curve grip.
Using that specialty pitch to great advantage Wednesday afternoon in Great American Ball Park, Romano held the St. Louis Cardinals to two runs and seven hits over six innings.
And the Reds scored all their first five runs on home runs and all with two outs, to extract a 7-3 victory over Cardinals to win the series two games to one.
The Reds won this one in spite of themselves. If Jim Riggleman is kept as manager for next season, his top priority in spring training should be fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.
The Reds perpetrated at least five fundamental gaffes in this one, but overcame them with the long ball — home runs by Eugenio Suarez, Adam Duvall and Tucker Barnhart.
Shortstop Jose Peraza twice took cutoff throws from the outfield and threw home when he should have held the ball, twice permitting Cardinals base runners to take an extra base.
The Reds botched a rundown between third and home, permitting trapped Matt Carpener to dive back into third base.
Billy Hamilton was picked off first base and Scooter Gennett was doubled off second base on a soft line drive to the shortstop.
But as William Shakespeare told us centuries ago, “All’s Well That Ends Well.”
Things began shakily in the top of the first for Romano when the Cardinals loaded the bases on two bloop hits and an infield hit. And that’s when the Reds bungled the rundown play. Romano, though, retired Dexter Fowler on a superb play by third baseman Eugenio Suarez.
St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty retired the first two in the bottom of the first then walked Joey Votto on a full count and paid dearly. Suarez drove an opposite field home run into the right field seats, his third homer in three games, for a 2-0 lead.
Paul DeJong hit a two-out home run in the second for the Cardinals, but Adam Duvall matched that with a two-out home run in the fourth to push the Reds to a 3-1 lead.
The Cardinals drew to within 3-2 in the sixth when Dexter Fowler walked and Yairo Munoz doubled him home. Peraza threw the relay throw home, enabling Munoz to take third. But Romano bowed his back and struck out Harrison Bader for the third time
Romano then speared pinch-hitter Tommy Pham’s drive threw the box barehanded and threw him out. It was the third time this season that Romano stopped hard-hit balls with his bare hand.
Gennett, 0 for 15 in the first five games after the All-Star break, doubled to lead the sixth en route to three hits. Votto walked to put two on with no outs.
Suarez hit a soft broken-bat liner to shortstop and Gennett was doubled off second. So the Reds now had only a runner on first with two outs. No problem. Barnhart crushed a two-run home run to right field and it was 5-2.
The Cardinals pulled within 5-3 in the seventh when the irrepressible Yadier Molina homered off the relief pitcher David Hernandez, Molina’s third hit.
Reds relief pitcher Jared Hughes pitched himself into a squirmy situation in the eighth by loading the bases with two outs, forcing him to face Molina. He popped up to right field to end it.
The inning featured a great at bat by Matt Carpenter, a 10-pitch battle that saw Carpenter foul off five straight 2-and-2 pitches before he walked to fill the bases.
The Reds put it away in the eighth against relief pitcher Luke Gregerson with a pair of runs on Phillip Ervin’s two-run double.
The Reds, 2-and-4 on the homestand, face the first-place Philadelphia Phillies four games, beginning Thursday night.