By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — After he and his Cincinnati Reds teammates scored 14 runs and ripped 16 hits Tuesday night, Jesse Winker said the team was a ticking time bomb ready to explode.
The Reds exploded again Wednesday night, but it was late and a much tinier poof of smoke.
For seven innings the Miami Marlins held them to one hit and it looked as if the Reds would suffer their fifth shutout loss in 11 games.
But down, 1-0, in the eighth, Jose Iglesias tied it with a home run to right center and Winker, trying to back his claim, ripped an opposite field home run to left field to give the Reds a 2-1 victory.
Home runs? Nice. Defense? Iglesias did more with his glove early in the game than he did with his bat late in the game, and that late-game home run was big, Big, BIG.
The one run by Miami was a solo home run in the third inning by veteran Neil Walker, who was a Reds’ assassin when he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Cincinnati’s one hit was a first-inning single by Matt Kemp, although they had five other runners reach via walks. Eight straight Reds went down before Iglesias led the eighth with his home run.
For a while it looked as if both starting pitchers in Great American Ball Park were trying to see who could walk the most batters without giving up a run.
Reds starter Tyler Mahle, who didn’t walk a batter in his first game, walked four Miami Marlins in the first two innings Wednesday.
Not to be outdone, Marlins starter Trevor Richards also walked four in the first two innings.
And neither pitcher suffered any damage from it. It isn’t often that eight walks are issued in two innings and nobody scores, but that was the way it was on this night.
Perhaps Mahle should have walked Neil Walker with one out in the third. He didn’t. And Walker deposited a 1-and-1 pitch into the right field bleachers.
Then both pitchers got down to business. Richards struck out the side in the third and Mahle matched him, striking out the side in the fourth.
And it was still 1-0 when Mahle departed after the fifth, giving up only the home run, two hits, four walks and seven strikeouts.
In two starts, Mahle has given up one run over 11 innings and the Reds have scored zero runs while he was on the mound.
Richards, though, pitched on, holding the Reds to one hit over six innings before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
Jared Hughes, Amir Garrett and Raisel Iglesias all put up clean slates following Mahle to the mound. Hughes pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings, Garrett pitched 1 1/3 perfect innings with two strikeouts and Iglesias closed it by striking out the side, all swinging, in the ninth.
While the fans were enthralled with the Reds playing over-the-wall ball to pull this one out, it was defense that saved the day.
And that defense was by shortstop Jose Iglesias, whose game-tying home run came after he saved a few runs early in the game with his glove.
The Marlins had two on with one out in the first when Iglesias sprawled to his right to start an inning-ending double play on Starlin Castro that saved at least one run. In the second with the bases loaded, he sprinted from shallow left field behind the pitcher’s mound to grab a slow roller and make an inning-ending throw on Curtis Granderson.
“As a team, we played great defense and that paid off in the end and I always say defense wins games,” said Iglesias, who furnished nearly all of necessary glovework. “This was a great example.”
Of the second inning play that saved a run, he said, “I was just trying to save a run and when you look at it at the end of the game that’s probably the play where we win the game. Never take it for granted. Every run matters.”
Iglesias was a late signee, brought into camp on a minor league contract. His reputation is as a superb gloveman with some-of-the-time pop in his bat.
Winker is appreciative of what Iglesias did and does.
“Iglesias had a great game and it is so much fun to watch him,” said Winker. “He is one hell of a shortstop and his resume speaks for itself. I’m happy we have him because every night he does something and I’m out there saying, ‘Wow.’ That double play he started in the first changes the game. You look back on it now and know it changes the game when you didn’t realize it at the time because it was 0-0.”
Of the game-tying home run hit by Iglesias, Winker said, “He really put a good swing on that. That was fun. He brings a lot of energy and a lot of fire and is a really good guy.”
And his game-winning home run?
“I was just trying to hit the ball hard, not trying to do anything special,” he said. “It was a fastball middle-middle, maybe middle-away and I was just trying to put the barrel on it.”
He hit it like it was a double-barreled shotgun.