By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — They don’t call Yasiel Puig ‘The Wild Horse’ for no reason. His equine trait was on display in Great American Ball Park Tuesday night and it enabled the Cincinnati Reds to dash off the field with a victory.
Puig’s mad dash from first to home on a bloop hit to right field in the 11th inning gave his Cincinnati Reds a 5-4 walk-off win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
It was all-out aggression on Puig’s part as he sprinted around the bases like a thoroughbred dashing for the wire.
He was on first base with two outs after he lined a single to center. Jose Iglesias rainbowed a two-strike pitch to right and Puig sprinted to third.
Milwaukee right fielder Christian Yelich missed the cut-off man and his throw short-hopped first baseman Eric Thames. The ball glanced off his glove and rolled between the pitcher’s mound and third base.
Seeing the loose ball, Puig bolted home to end the game in bizarre and exciting fashion.
And Puig had fun with it after the game. Remember the Chicago series when Cubs pitcher Pedro Strop called Puig stupid, not once, not twice, but at least three times.
“I saw Yelich miss the cutoff-man and the first baseman didn’t catch the ball,” said Puig. “Yasmani (catcher Yasmani Grandal) was going after the ball so I said, ‘OK, let’s try.’ That’s things only Puig can do, being me, being stupid. Sometimes the stupid thing I do in baseball work for myself. I like to play the way I play, even though sometimes it is ridiculous and stupid.”
As Puig talked, Iglesias was a few dressing stalls away and was poking fun after he battled to 0-and-2, fouled off a few pitches when Puig tried to steal, then poked the hit.
“Shut up,” Puig said to Iglesias. “He make me tired. I try to steal a base to give him the opportunity to drive me in. But he hits foul ball, foul ball.
“He hits the little fly ball that bounces in right field and I go to third base and I score on the wild throw,” Puig said. “Now he thinks he won the game. I win the game.”
Puig was super-aggressive the entire game. With the scored tied, 4-4, in the ninth, he reached first when he was hit by a pitch. Iglesias flied to deep center. Puig boldly tagged up and slid into second to get into scoring position.
“There was a perfect throw by Lorenzo Cain, but I do my magic at second base and got safe,” said Puig. “If he throws me out, people are going to say, ‘Hey, what’d he do?’ But I was safe and people are happy. And the team and the manager wants us to play aggressive and that’s what I want to do.”
Unfortunately for the Reds, Phillip Ervin grounded out to deep short to send the game into extra innings.
The Reds only made it into extra innings because the bullpen pitched 4 2/3rds innings of hitless baseball — Michael Lorenzen (1 1/3 innings), Jared Hughes (one inning), Amir Garrett (one inning, three strikeouts) and Raisel Iglesias (one inning),
It enabled the Reds to stop Milwaukee’s string of seven straight victories in Great American Ball Park and it once again moved the Reds to within 5 1/2 games of first place in the National League Central.
The Reds’ propensity for scoring runs in the first inning surfaced again Tuesday.
Nick Senzel said hello to Milwaukee starter Chase Anderson with a single. With one out, Eugenio Suarez unloaded his fourth home run in three days, a deep two-run belt to left center.
That gave the Reds a 2-0 lead and improved their first-inning stat pack. They lead the majors in first-inning runs with 70, first-inning home runs with 24 and first-inning batting average at .303.
Reds manager David Bell often says that scoring in the first inning is a nice jump-start, but to win games his team needs to keep adding on.
And too often it doesn’t.
Christian Yelich cracked his 31st home run into the left field seats in the fourth and Eric Thames launched his 13th home run in the fifth.
So because the Reds went silent after Suarez’s first-inning home run, the game was 2-2 after five.
One inning later the Reds found themselves in arrears, 4-2. Reds starter Tanner Roark walked Yasmani Grandal to bring up Yelich. He escaped that threat by striking out Yelich.
But Roark’s first pitch to the next hitter, Mike Moustakas landed in the right field bleachers, his 24th home run — third home run of the night off Roark.
The Reds drew to within one run in the seventh when Puig lined his 18th home run, a liner into the right field seats to make it 4-3.
Pinch-hitter Derek Dietrich nearly tied it in the eighth with, of course, a home run. But his long drive to dead center was snagged at the wall by Lorenzo Cain.
Then the Reds did it more conventionally in the eighth to tie it. With two outs, Nick Senzel beat an infield hit to shortstop and Joey Votto pulled a double down the right field line to tie it, 4-4, where it stayed until Puig’s madcap trip around the bases.
“It was a fun one to win, no question about it,”said manager David Bell. “When you can win it with base-running and just the determination. Yasiel played hard on the basepaths all night and he was determined to score. He tagged up to take second on a fly ball.
“He worked hard to get a jump to steal a base,” Bell added. “Then his anticipation of what happened. You can live with his aggressiveness. He just willed that win with his base-running.”