By HAL McCOY
The Cincinnati Reds are breathing rarefied air right now.
They are in fourth place. They are out of last place in the National League Central.
And they didn’t just kick in the door to get there Tuesday night. They knocked that door off its hinges by annihilating the Milwaukee Brewers, 14-6.
They climbed the stairs out of the cellar when the Pittsburgh Pirates lost to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Reds are a half-game ahead of the last place Pirates.
And when the Chicago Cubs lost to the San Francisco Giants, the Reds chopped another game off Chicago’s lead to seven games.
The Reds wasted no time laying waste to the Brewers and their starter, Zach Davies. Davies was 8-and-2 with a 2.79 earned run average when the night began.
He looked more like a 2-and-8 pitchers with a 9.72 ERA in the first inning. The Reds scored four runs on a pair of two-run home runs.
Of course, the first one was hit by Eugenio Suarez, his third home run in three at bats after hitting two in his last two at bats Monday.
Right now opponents would do better to just point to first base and tell Suarez to go there, an intentional walk.
The second was hit by Jesse Winker, playing left field instead of red-hot Phillip Ervin.
Nick Senzel struck out to open the game, but softened Davies with a 10-pitch at bat. And Davies needed 39 pitches to get out of the first.
To put an exclamation point on the night, the Reds didn’t stop scoring after the first inning, as they so often do.
They scored five in the fifth, two in the sixth and three in the seventh.
An error by shortstop Tyler Saladino on a sure-cinch double play ball lifted the drawbridge on the five run fifth.
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell lifted Davies with the bases loaded and brought in left hander Alex Claudio. Reds manager David Bell countered by pulling Winker for Ervin. He promptly cleared the bases with a three-run triple, his fifth triple this season.
When the inning ended, it was 8-0.
Reds starter Tanner Roark shut the Brewers down for four innings, but wobbled through the fifth, giving up a pair of runs. His night was finished, just enough innings to qualify for the victory.
He gave up two runs, five hits and struck out five to level his record at 6-and-6.
The Reds scored two more in the sixth on a two-run hard-hit home run to right field by Joey Votto, only his ninth this year. Votto also doubled and scored three runs. His resurgence continues since he decided to hold his bat on the knob instead of choking up.
Votto’s home run made it 11-2. Then there was one slight blip. Robert Stephenson replaced Roark and nearly permitted the Brewers to climb back in.
Ryan Braun reached on catcher’s interference and Eric Thames walked to open the sixth. Stephenson struck out the next two. But Manny Pina cracked a three-run home run and it was 11-5.
The Reds quickly erased those three runs by scoring three in the seventh to recapture the nine-run lead, 14-5.
Pitcher Sal Romano was recalled from Class AAA Louisville Monday when Tyler Mahle was placed on the injured list.
Big Sally made his 2019 debut in the eighth and gave up a run, three hits and a walk in three innings to annex one of the all-time easiest saves.
Eugenio Suarez added two other hits to his home run and drove in three runs and scored two as the Reds ripped 17 hits.
After a slow start against the Brewers, the Red have won five straight over Milwaukee and are 8-and-7 this season. They beat the Brewers only seven times all last season.
The bottom of the Reds lineup was potent. Scooter Gennett, Jose Iglesias and Ryan Lavarnway each stroked two hits.
The Reds go for a sweep Wednesday afternoon and Lucas Sims makes his second start of the season. In his one start early this season, he took a shutout into the eighth inning and retired two batters before giving up a grand slam home run.