By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Mason Williams wasn’t born in 1968 when another guy named Mason Williams recorded a popular instrumental called ‘Classical Gas.’
Nevertheless, that was some high octane gas that Mason Williams, the Cincinnati Reds baseball player, pumped into a pitch Friday night against Philadelphia’s Nick Pivetta.
The ball landed high in the right field bleachers, a three-run home run that was the difference for the Reds in a 6-4 victory over the Phillies.
Williams was called up from Class AAA Louisville just two days ago and was making his first start for the Reds. His home run, on a 1-and-2 offering, broke a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning. It was his second major league home run, the other coming in his first game in the majors with the New York York Yankees in 2015.
Williams is soft-spoken and non-expansive when talking about his deeds, but his eyes lit up and he smiled broadly when asked, “Have you ever heard the song ‘Classical Gas?’”
He quickly said, “Mason Williams. Bluegrass? No. Instrumental.”
After the inning, when Williams ran toward right field, they played the song on the public address system. Did he hear it? “No, I didn’t it. I don’t hear much when I’m playing. That’s funny, I like that. I have heard the song but I didn’t hear it tonight. That’s cool.”
Manager Jim Riggleman, ever the realist, was also pleased with the fact Williams put down a sacrifice bunt late in the game and made a couple of nifty running catches in right field.
“That homer was a huge at bat, but later in the game he got a bunt down for us and played a good right field,” said Riggleman. “He is a very good athletic young man and he came through big for us.”
Of his heroics, Williams was much more reserved and said, “That home run was nice, it really was. I got enough of it for it to go over the fence. Just trying to help the team win, man. I come up in that situation, I just have to produce.”
While the Williams home run was the decider, the most noteworthy was the daily home run hit by Eugenio Suarez. Yes, he struck again — his fifth home run in the last five games. He led off the second inning with the solo blast that gave the Reds a 1-0 lead and tied the club record for home runs in consecutive games. He was the eighth player to hit homers in five straight games and the last was Jay Bruce in July of 2016. The homer was Suarez’s 24th and the RBI was his league-leading 79th.
“He is hitting the ball out of the park for us,” said Riggleman. What’s that, five in a row? He is having great at bats and when the pitchers make a mistake he really makes ‘em pay for it.”
That 1-0 lead from Suarez’s homer lasted only until the Phillies came to bat in the third inning against Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani. With two outs and nobody on, Rhys Hoskins singled and Odubel Herrera cracked a two-run home run to push the Phillies in front, 2-1. The Phillies hit seven home runs Thursday night, but none belonged to Herrera.
The Reds tied it against Pivetta in the third after there were tw0 outs and nobody on. Jose Peraza doubled and scored on Scooter Gennett’s single.
Tucker Barnhart opened the fourth with a single and took third when Adam Duvall doubled on a 1-and-2. That brought up Williams and he also picked on a 1-and-2 pitch that turned into the three-run homer and a 5-2 lead.
When DeSclafani gave up a run in the fifth and had two on with one out, manager Jim Riggleman pulled him, meaning he didn’t have the necessary five innings to qualify for the win. Riggleman does not mess around with his pitchers. At the first sign of distress, the hook comes out.
“We’re just trying to win the game and I don’t care who is pitching,” he said. “We could leave him in there and try to get five out of him and a win, but his pitch count was getting to the point where that was the game. We had to shut it down right there.”
Said DeSclafani, “I wasn’t tired and I didn’t know that would be my last batter. I know I was in a little bit of a jam. We were up by three, but Jim had a feeling that things were going south so that was his gut feeling and we ended up winning the game.”
Amir Garrett came in and retired Herrera on a ground ball to first base, but Garrett injured his leg covering first base and had leave with a mild Achilles strain. David Hernandez replaced Garrett and recorded the final out of the inning, a pop-up from ever dangerous Carlos Santana.
Philadelphia starter Pivetta left after six. He struck out 12 Reds in those six innings, but gave up five runs and six hits, including the home runs to Suarez and Williams.
More history was made in the seventh inning when the Phillies intentionally walked Joey Votto. It was his 136th career intentional walk, breaking the record of 135 owned by Johnny Bench.
With DeSclafani surviving only 4 1/3 innings, the Reds bullpen was once again taxed and overtaxed but on this night they put up a strong wall. David Hernandez pitched 2 1/3 hitless innings and was rewarded with the victory.
Jared Hughes retired the first two in the eighth, but when he walked Carlos Santana he was replaced by closer Raisel Iglesias and he flicked away Maikel Franco on a ground ball to second, ending the inning.
The Reds gave Iglesias an extra run to work with when they scored on Billy Hamilton’s bases loaded sacrifice fly that made it 6-3. It wasn’t an easy finish for Iglesias. He gave up a run in the ninth when the inning was extended by shortstop Jose Peraza’s error. With two on and the potential go ahead run in the batter’s box, Rhys Hoskins bounced into a fielder’s choice to end it.