By HAL McCOY
The Cincinnati Reds seem to be borrowing a message from the movie Network: “They’re mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it any more.”
Suddenly, they are playing baseball with swagger and aggression and a mission, as the Milwaukee Brewers discovered Thursday night in Miller Park.
The Reds took no prisoners while punching the Brewers, 7-1. It was Cincinnati’s fifth straight victory, their longest winning streak of the season.
All season long they’ve received stellar pitching, but it wasn’t supported by consistent and timely hitting.
Suddenly, it is.
Tanner Roark was superb, giving up one run on three hits over six innings, walking nobody and striking out seven.
The only damage done to Roark was a coast-to-coast solo home run in the fourth inning by Christian Yelich. No embarrassment there because it was Yelich’s baseball-leading 28th home run. And it was the longest of his career, a 462-foot explosion.
That, though, was the first hit of the game off Roark and he had struck out five of the previous six Brewers.
Meanwhile, Roark was supported mainly by shortstop Jose Iglesias and center fielder Nick Senzel.
Iglesias drove in four runs with a two-run single and a two-run home run that bounced off the top of the left field wall. Senzel drove in three with a bases-loaded walk and a two-run home run off the left field foul pole.
The Brewers came off a 2-and-6 road trip and were swept in San Diego. The Reds began a six-game trip after sweeping the Houston Astros at home.
After stumbling out of the gate like a 50-to-1 race horse, losing eight of their first nine, the Reds have scratched, scuffled and clawed to get back to .500 and scramble out of last place.
With the five-game winning streak the Reds are back to three games under .500 at 35-38.
They have vacated last place and are sniffing at third place, just three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals. And they are within sniffing distance of the first place Chicago Cubs, just 5 1/2 games behind.
The Reds lately have been putting early pressure on opposing teams by scoring in the first inning and Thursday was no different.
They scored three times against Milwaukee starter Jimmy Nelson, making only his second start this season after coming off the injury list.
Nelson issued two walks and hit a batter to put himself in boiling water. Iglesias, who just returned from a three-day paternity leave (a daughter), made him pay.
The first run scored when Senzel walked with the bases loaded and Iglesias shot a first-pitch two-out two-run single to center field for a 3-0 lead.
Yelich’s home run cut the lead to 3-1, but a suddenly offensive-minded Yasiel Puig tripled and Iglesias homered to make it 5-1.
Senzel put the game on dry ice in the seventh by following Derek Dietrich’s leadoff single with his seventh home run.
There were six batter hit by pitches, three on each side, the most in any game in the majors this season. None seemed malicious. Derek Dietrich was hit twice and has been hit 104 times in his career.
The Reds have three more in Milwaukee, then after an off day Monday, they play two interleague games in Orange County against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.