By HAL McCOY
What chance would one give for a team to win a baseball game when the eight position players go into the game with these batting averages: .153, .234, .175, .190, .229, .170, .136 and .262.
Those are the batting averages of the eight position players Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell sent out to play Saturday night in Petco Park.
There were three mitigating factors, though, and both led to a 4-2 Reds victory.
ONE: The Reds were playing the San Diego Padres, who have now lost six straight games.
TWO: The Reds starting pitcher was Luis Castillo, whose mantra is, “Give me a couple of runs and I’ll take it from there.”
THREE: Suddenly, Reds closer Raisel Iglesias is his team’s version of Eliot Ness, “Untouchable.”
For the third straight night, Iglesias pitched an inning and struck out the side — nine batters faced, nine strikeouts.
The Reds gave Castillo a run in the first, a run in the fourth, a run in the fifth and a run in the sixth, all he needed in leading the Reds to a third straight win in this four-game series.
And Castillo was not at his best. Early in the game, he went to 2-and-0 on nearly every batter, but mostly battled back to record strikeouts with his Mario Soto-type change-up.
Soto may have had the all-time best change-up when he pitched for the Reds and there must be something about Bani, Dominican Republic. Both Soto and Castillo were born in Bani.
In his six innings, Castillo gave up one run, four hits and struck out nine, with seven of the strikeouts coming on the change-up.
The only run he gave up was a leadoff home run in the second inning by Eric Hosmer. Castillo, though, got even with Hosmer in the sixth when he struck him out and as Hosmer left the batter’s box he glared at Castillo with a smirk, as if to say, “Are you kidding me?”
Castillo, whose nickname is La Piedra (the rock), has pitched 30 2/3 innings over his five starts and given up just 13 hits and struck out 41.
Even though Jose Peraza was 0 for 24, manager David Bell batted him leadoff and it paid off with a run in the first inning. He broke his death-slide by opening the game with a bloop single to center field — and resisted the temptation to ask for the ball.
San Diego starter Eric Lauer, a Kent State University product, retired the next two, but walked Matt Kemp. Jose Iglesias singled to score Peraza.
Hosmer’s home run in the second tied it, 1-1, but the Reds scored a run in the fourth with four-straight one-out singles by Scott Schebler, Kyle Farmer and Tucker Barnhart.
The Reds stretched that lead to 3-1 in the fifth without a hit. Eugenio Suarez walked and took third when pitcher Lauer tried to pick him off and threw the ball into right field. Suarez scored on Yasiel Puig’s sacrifice fly.
Jesse Winker batted for Castillo in the seventh and pole-axed a home run to right field, pulling the ball for his sixth homer. His previous five home runs were all to the opposite field.
The only real San Diego threat surfaced in the eighth. Robert Stephenson started the inning and Fernando Tatis Jr. tripled to the left field corner when Matt Kemp had difficulty chasing down the ball. Then the Reds caught an umpiring break. On a 3-and-2 pitch to Francisco Mejia, umpire Chris Guccione called him out on a pitch clearly inside and not in the strike zone.
So when Stephenson walked Manny Machado on four pitches, the Padres would have had the bases loaded with no outs. Instead it was just third and first with one out.
Stephenson got Hunter Renfroe to pop out for the second out and Bell brought in left hander Amir Garrett to face left hander Eric Hosmer, he of the earlier home run. On Garrett’s first pitch Hosmer lined a run-scoring single to center field to make it 4-2. One pitch and Garrett was gone.
Bell brought in Jared Hughes to face Will Myers and on the first pitch Myers grounded into an inning-ending force out.
It was Iglesias Time. After striking out the side Thursday and striking out the side Friday, Iglesias struck out Ian Kinsler, Jose Pirela and pinch-hitter Franmil Reyes to end it.
With one game left Sunday in Petco Park, the Reds have already won the series, the first series they’ve won in San Diego since 2012.