By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — No Joey Votto, no Scott Schebler, no Jesse Winker, no Adam Duvall, no problem.
Yes, it was a problem earlier in the week when the Cincinnati Reds were annihilated three straight games by the Cleveland Indians when the Reds were missing their first baseman and three outfielders.
But it was no problem this weekend. Those four were still absent with cause and the Reds took apart the San Francisco Giants in a three-game sweep, probably ruining the Giants aspirations for a National League wild card spot.
On Sunday, it was no contest. Cincinnati 11, San Francisco 4, thanks for coming and sorry to see you go. The Great American Ball Park extravaganza featured 17 Reds hits, nine for extra bases that included two triples by wing-footed Billy Hamilton.
“Because of our situation, a lot of guys are getting an opportunity and taking advantage of it,” said manager Jim Riggleman.
The Reds tucked this one away early with an expeditious seven-run explosion in the third inning against San Francisco starter Andrew Suarez.
They sent 12 batters to the plate and hit for the team cycle with three singles, a double, a triple and a home run. In the matter of Suarez Vs. Suarez, San Francisco pitcher Andrew Suarez vs. Cincinnati third baseman Eugenio Suarez, Eugenio won with a two-run home run.
It was Suarez’s career best 27th home run and pushed him in front in the National League RBI category with 91. Catcher Curt Casali had two hits in the inning, a double for a run and a single for a run as the Reds stepped out to a 7-1 lead.
Casali, the back-up catcher, is taking full advantage of his opportunities. The 25-year-old 10th round pick of the Detroit Tigers has bounced around from Detroit to Tampa Bay to Los Angeles (Angels) to Texas and back to Tampa Bay, never getting a fair chance until the Reds purchased him in May from Tampa Bay. And after his three hits Sunday he is hitting .333.
“People say it all the time, but I work my tail off,” he said. “I’ve had a little bit of success in the big leagues, then it goes away. I am really thankful and fortunate for the Reds organization to give me this chance. As soon as I came up here I told myself, ‘I don’t want to go back’”
And the way he is playing that isn’t likely to happen.
“I’ve shown that I belong in the big leagues and I’m perfectly capable of helping in the big leagues,” he added. “I know Tucker Barnhart’s background — a Gold Glove catcher and a switch-hitter. But you know what? Any time I’m in the lineup I’ll do what I can to help the team win. I know I can play. I know I can hit. There were times in the big leagues when I haven’t hit, but that hasn’t fazed me. I’ve just waited for a fresh opportunity, a new team, fresh eyes on me and a lot of confidence behind me.”
The Reds piled on in the sixth, adding two runs on a one-out triple by Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza’s eighth home run and third hit of the day for a 9-1 lead.
That made it fun in the sun for Reds pitcher Luis Castillo, who gave up a run in the second only because infielder trying-out-for-outfield Dilson Herrera misjudged a fly line drive that whistled over his head for a double. Two other runs were unearned when another player out of position, catcher Tucker Barnhart playing first base, missed a throw for an error when it tore through the webbing of the first baseman’s mitt he borrowed from Brandon Dixon. That led to two runs and the end of Castillo’s day.
“I think Dixon is sabotaging my chances for a Gold Glove at first base” said Barnhart with a laugh.
After Castillo gave up a one-out single in the third and the Reds scored seven in the bottom of the third, Castillo went on to retire 13 straight before leaving in the seventh. His day was 6 2/3 innings, three runs (one earned), no walks, nine strikeouts.
Incredibly, Castillo had five strikeouts in the first three innings and had only thrown four pitches out of the strike zone.
“Luis was outstanding and that was as crisp of a fastball-changeup combination we’ve seen from him this year,” said Riggleman. “He threw a lot of nice strikes, just a very nice performance that got us deep into the game.”
Castillo, originally signed by the Giants, was excited to pitch against them and even more excited to keep their bats silent.
“My change-up was really good and my command was really good,” he said. “I’m back to last year, able to throw strikes with my pitches in any count. When you can command all your pitches, you throw every pitch for strikes. That was it today — throwing all my pitches for strikes.”
Said catcher Casali, “Awesome, per usual. He had a really good mix and his change-up was nasty. The difference today was that he was able to throw a back door slider early in the count, a ball moving on them to set up the change-up moving away. He just attacked guys all day.”
The game finished with the Giants doing what so many teams have done this year, including the Reds four times. Position player Chase d’Arnaud took the mound in the eighth. He gave up a one-out single to Phillip Ervin, but nothing more. It was only the fourth time in the 60-year-old San Francisco version of the Giants that they used a position player on the mound.