By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — So you thought Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby was a couple of weeks ago, didn’t you?
Yes, it was — won by Washington’s Bryce Harper in his home venue, Nationals Park.
Unscheduled Home Run Derby II broke out Thursday night in Great American Ball Park, a launch party contested between the phirst place Philadelphia Phightin’ Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds.
It was a major mismatch.
There were 13 runs scored, 12 coming on home runs, and the Phillies clobbered seven homers to Cincinnati’s two for a 9-4 victory. Philadelphia’s seven home runs tied a club record that was set in 1998 against the New York Mets. And it ties a record for most home runs hit by an opponent in Great American Ball Park — the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016.
The Phillies received two home runs each from Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco and Nick Williams, plus one from Carlos Franco (still a Reds killer after all those years with the Cleveland Indians).
Although all but one of Philadelphia’s runs came via the home run thunderstorm, they collected 18 hits.
Cincinnati’s pitching staff was not a staff divided as the first three to trudge to the mound each served up two home runs — starter Tyler Mahle, Michael Lorenzen and Austin Brice. The final one came off Kyle Crockett in the ninth inning.
“Last year the ball club set a record for giving up the most home runs (248) and all of a sudden we’ve pushed toward that again,” said manager Jim Riggleman after watching this season’s total climb to 154. “It’s not the elephant in the room. It’s obvious. We’re not ignoring it. We just have to find a way to keep the ball in the ball park. You can’t win a game if you give up three homers, let alone six and seven.”
Starter Tyler Mahle’s two homers both came in the first inning, a solo shot by Hoskins and a two-run blast to Santana. Santana’s home run was the 21st given up by Mahle this season, most in the National League.
Mahle gave up three runs and five hits in that beatdown and needed 45 pitches to get through one inning. And for the night Reds pitchers threw 193 pitches, very few of high quality.
The Reds quickly got into the home run act in the bottom of the first against Philadelphia rookie Ranger Suarez. He is no relation to Cincinnati’s Eugenio Suarez, but Eugenio quickly introduced himself with a two-run homer, his fourth home run in four games. And that cut Philly’s lead to 3-2.
When Mahle gave up a leadoff single in the second, his 53rd pitch, Reds manager Jim Riggleman quickly displaced him, bringing in Lorenzen.
“He must have been putting pitches over the middle of the plate and the Phillies were not letting him get away with it,” said Riggleman. “He just didn’t have it and they got him.”
Amazingly, the first inning wasn’t even over when Lorenzen began warming up in the bullpen, then came into the game one batter into the second.
“I had to get Mahle out of there and the only decision was if I should send him back out for the second and I did,” said Riggleman. “As soon as the first guy got on we had Lorenzen ready.”
Mahle has now thrown in three clunkers in a row, a total of nine innings during which he has given up 14 earned runs (14.00 earned run average) and five home runs. The Reds lost those game 19-5, 12-1 and 9-4.
“Frustrating, very frustrating,” said Mahle. “I’m missing spots and the ones over the plate they are hitting. It all happened so fast tonight that I didn’t go to my breaking ball soon enough. I was not only not locating, I didn’t go to my off-speed stuff quick enough and they were sitting on my fastballs.”
Lorenzen gave up solo home runs to Nick Williams in the third and Franco’s first home run of the night in fifth.
The Reds’ second home run was hit by Tucker Barnhart in the fourth, a two-run rip that tied the game, 4-4.
But Franco’s first home run put the Phillies back on top, 5-4.
Kyle Crockett was Victim No. 3 and he was tagged for Hoskins second homer of the night in the sixth and Franco cranked his second of the evening in the seventh to make it 7-4 and the Phillies tacked on two more from there.
On a positive note, for the first time in Reds history three different hitters have homered in four consecutive game in the same season. Joey Votto did it April 24-27, Scooter Gennett did it May 7-11 and Suarez did it in his last four games.
As one displeased fan said as he left GABP, “I missed a Kenny Chesney concert at River Bend to watch this mess?”