By HAL McCOY
All Alex Wood needed was a patch over one eye, like the one John Wayne wore in the movie ‘True Grit.’
It was expected that the Cincinnati Reds pitcher would be knocking rust off his left arm. He hadn’t pitched all year, due to back issues, and made his first start Sunday afternoon.
He was in trouble all day, but he bent that problem-plagued back and gritted it out for as long as he could.
That was for 4 2/3 innings and he held the Colorado Rockies to two runs. And while he didn’t get the win, the Reds scored the run they needed in the sixth inning to score a 3-2 victory in Great American Ball Park.
Unfortunately for Wood and the Reds, he was trying to protect a two-run lead with two outs in the fifth inning. After escaping trouble his first four innings, he hung one to former Cincinnati Reds first baseman Yonder Alonso, a 413-foot two-run home run that tied the game.
—Wood had two on and one out in the first inning, but retired Nolan Arenado when left fielder Josh VanMeter chased down a long drive in left center. Then he struck out Alonso.
—He had two on with one out in the second and retired opposing pitcher Peter Lambert on a fielder’s choice bunt and Garrett Hampson on a fly ball.
—A one-out single in the third became harmless when Wood retired Arenado and Alonso on hard-hit balls to the outfielder.
—Wood gave up back-to-back singles to open the fourth and escaped again by striking out Chris Ianetta, retired Lambert on a sacrifice bunt and struck out Hampson.
—He almost escaped the fifth. David Dahl doubled with one out. Third baseman Eugenio Suarez made an above-board play on Arenado for the second out. Up stepped Alonso, who had made two outs to end earlier threats, didn’t miss this time.
Alonso’s home run ended Wood’s day with a line of 4 2/3 innings, two runs, seven hits, one walk, four strikeouts.
“Great, it was great to see him out there,” manager David Bell told the media in his post-game comments, speaking about Wood. “First time out, it was a great step in the right direction, knowing he is healthy.
“I thought he pitched really well and came down to the last hitter, the home run (by Alonso), but it doesn’t take away from what he did,” Bell added.
Said Wood, “I felt good overall. I just made one stupid pitch, which I shouldn’t have made at the end. I should have challenged him.”
Of his wriggling out of turmoil, Wood smiled and said, “That’s kinda me. I put myself in some situations, but I pride myself on competing. You want to wiggle out of those situations when you can.”
After Wood left, the Reds bullpen once again fortified matters the rest of the way as Lucas Sims, Amir Garrett, Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias shut it down.
Sims pitched 1 1/3 innings and gave up no runs and one hit. Garrett pitched a perfect inning with two strikeouts.
Lorenzen pitched an eventful eighth. He walked two and was 3-and-0 on pinch-hitter Raimel Tapia before coaxing a pop foul third out.
Iglesias retired the first two in the ninth, then gave up back-to-back singles. That put the tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first. It ended with Ian Desmond grounding out to third.
For the game, the Rockies were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12.
While the Rockies are not very good, they have been major pains to the Reds. They had won 11 of the previous 18 and had not lost two in the row to Cincinnati.
The Reds scored two runs in the second inning for Colorado starter Peter Lambert. They spliced four straight one-out singles, one scoring on Jose Iglesias infield chopper and one on Tucker Barnhart’s single to left field.
It stood 2-0 until Alonso’s two-run homer tied it. Tucker Barnhart broke the tie in the sixth with some big help from Colorado relief pitcher Jake McGee.
McGee walked Josh VanMeter on a full count. With one out, McKee hit Iglesias with a 0-and-2 pitch.
That brought up the switch-hitting Barnhart to face left hander McGee. Barnhart was 2-for-3 for his career against McGee. But Rockies manager Bud Black elected to permit McGee to face Barnhart and he singled to center field for the deciding run, 3-2.
Barnhart was 3-for-3 with a walk and has five hits in the two games he has played since coming off the injured list.
With Sunday’s win, couple with Saturday’s 3-1 victory, the Reds finally won two straight from the Rockies and took the series two games to one.
And it was an unusual daylight victory. The Reds are now 14-and-30 in day games this year.
The Reds open a three-game series Monday night against the reeling Pittsburgh Pirates. The last place Pirates are three games behind the fourth-place Reds in the National League Central.