By Hal McCoy
Eugenio Suarez’s batting average is a microscopic .177 and he has struck out 133 times in 390 at bats.
Those are numbers that would get most major leaguers benched. . .and maybe get that player a ticket to Triple-A for a refresher course.
But there are a couple of outlier numbers that are keeping Suarez in the Cincinnati Reds lineup — 22 home runs, tied for the club lead, and 61 RBI, second on the team.
Suarez struck out three times Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he also ripped a three-run home run, an integral part of Cincinnati’s 7-4 victory.
Suarez keeps slipping lower and lower in the batting order and was batting in the eight-hole Thursday as the Reds won the first game of a four-game series against the last place Pirates.
And with Mike Moustakas just days away from coming off the injured list manager David Bell has a major decision to make.
Jonathan India is entrenched at second base, Kyle Farmer is firm at shortstop and Joey Votto owns first base.
So does Bell platoon Moustakas with Suarez at third base or does Suarez find a seat in the dugout?
Kyle Farmer punched three hits, the sixth time this season he has had three or more hits and 12 times in his career.
“Twelve? That’s a lot. I didn’t know that,” said Farmer. “That’s pretty cool. You like to get the first one because it takes a lot of pressure off your shoulders. That’s a good stat to have and I hope I can get up to 20.”
And Farmer is a strong supporter of Suarez and spoke highly of him batting in the No. 8 hole. Farmer was dislodged from the No. 3 hole with the return of Nick Castellanos off the injured list.
“That’s a really deep lineup,” he said. “If you have the Venezuelan home run king (Suarez) hitting eighth, then your lineup is pretty stacked.
“I was happy for Geno to get that home run and he has 22. That’s incredible,” said Farmer. “I asked him how many 20-plus home runs seasons he’s had and he said six, which is also incredible.”
Bell, who must make a bundle of decisions when Moustakas, Nick Senzel, Tejay Antone and Lucas Sims all return, is firmly in Suarez’s corner.
And Suarez does have a six-game hitting streak with four home runs in his last nine games.
“He made a big contribution tonight and he is such an important player on our team,” said Bell. “Even when there were times when he struggled he was capable of doing what he did tonight. He is going in the right direction, that’s for sure.”
The Reds gave starter Sonny Gray a 7-0 lead in the first two innings, a leadoff home run by Jonathan India in the first inning and a pair of three-run home runs by Suarez and Joey Votto during a six-run second against Pittsburgh starter Wil Crowe.
Gray kept the Pirates quiet for four innings, but he narrowly survived Pittsburgh’s four-run fifth.
The Pirates used a walk and a solid double by Wilmer Difo, then three weak infield hits and a seeing-eye single by Ke’Bryan Hayes for four runs.
After the six-run second, the Reds managed only two hits over the next six innings, but the bullpen held up after Gray left after five.
Jeff Hoffman pitched two scoreless innings (two hits), Justin Wilson pitched a scoreless eighth (one walk) and Mychal Givens pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save in a Reds uniform. Givens
is the 10th different Reds pitcher to record a save this season.
The Reds are at a season-high seven games over .500 (58-51) and are seven games behind division-leading Milwaukee, but only 3 1/2 games behind San Diego for the second wild card spot.