By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Due to the two-game suspension of Yasiel ‘The Wild Horse’ Puig, the Cincinnati Reds saddled up Tuesday night with only three position players on the bench to face the Miami Marlins.
It didn’t matter. Extra guys weren’t needed. With Luis Castillo (1.59 earned run average) on the mound for the Reds and Jose Urena (10.38 ERA) pitching for Miami, it was a monumental mismatch.
Cincinnati 14, Miami 0. . .and Cincinnati’s eight-game losing streak came crashing to the grass, although there were few in-person witnesses. For the run-starved Reds, the outpouring of runs was like getting that first olive out of a bottle. Once the first one is dislodged, all the others tumble out in an avalanche. The Reds hit five home runs, including three in a row — back-to-back-to-back in the sixth by Matt Kemp, Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schebler. Jesse Winker and Kyle Farmer also trotted slowly around the bases.
Castillo surrounded the Marlins in saran wrap for his seven innings — no runs, two hits (one an infield hit), one walk and eight strikeouts. And the Reds pounded Urena and his buddies for 16 hits, including a two-run home run and a run-scoring single by Winker, who was not in the original lineup but replaced Puig when the suspension was announced.
“I kept saying we are a ticking time bomb ready to explode,” said Winker, who took extra batting practice before the game with Schebler.
In addition to his home run, the third in the back-to-back-to back sequence, Schebler had two other hits. And the Reds hadn’t hit three homers in a row since 2012.
“I told people when we break out it would be a party and it sort of turned into that tonight,” said Schebler. “We dug ourselves a hole and now we have to start slowly climbing out of that.
“That doesn’t happen very often, I know that,” said Schebler, the No. 3 man in the long ball sequence. “I’ve been in that situation before, going up there after two straight home runs. You put extra pressure on yourself because you say, ‘Wow, the two guys in front of me hit home runs, so it must be easy.’ You need to stay focused and I put a good swing on it. It was a special moment, no doubt about that.”
The game was played in near-empty Great American Ball Park, which resembled a huge auditorium after somebody yelled, “Free hundred dollars bills outside.”
The Miami Marlins? That’s the team that trades more valuable goods than the East India Trading Company. And received little in return, as evidenced by their play on the field.
In less than two years, the Marlins have dealt players like Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto, Dee Gordon, Cameron Maybin and Justin Bour for a clubhouse locker full of zircon and fake beads.
And don’t forget Luis Castillo. The Marlins traded him to the Cincinnati Reds in January of 2017 for pitcher Dan Straily, whom the Marlins released this spring.
Despite two outstanding starts earlier this season, Castillo had a defeat and a no-decision and no wins in his two starts. Now he has a victory and a minuscule 0.92 earned run average.
Amazingly both hits off Castillo were performed by Lewis Brinson and the Marlins had only four hits for the game, the first three by Brinson.
Asked if his adrenaline flowed faster when he faces the Marlins, the team that traded him, Castillo broke into a broad grin.
“Of course, that’s something you look forward to when you are going to face them,” Castillo said through translator Tomas Vera. “When you throw a game like that against a team you pitched for you feel good as the game goes and feel good afterward.”
Castillo owns a sizzling fastball and a devastating change-up and when both are humming and clicking, the opposition has no chance. And on Tuesday both were humming and clicking.
Asked which pitch was working, he said, “Both. The change-up and fastball were super, super, super,” he said. “They were both super-good tonight.”
Of his three straight outstanding starts, Castillo said, “No, no, no. . .this has never happened like this before, not even in the minors, and thank God it is happening now in the big leagues. I am showing that I can do this.”