By Hal McCoy
As much difficulty as the Cincinnati Reds have had in playing baseball in San Diego’s Petco Park, the San Diego Padres haven’t been invincilble on their gorgeous home grounds.
The Padres hadn’t won a series at home all season, until the Reds showed up.
They rectified that Wednesday afternoon with a decisive 7-1 victory over the Reds to take the series two games to one.
With all the huge money the Padres have invested in Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts, it was a third-string catcher, a career minor-leaguer, who did the Reds wrong.
Brett Sullivan, 29, spent eight years in the minors, 2,956 at bats, before he got his first taste pf the major leagues a little more than a week ago. With injury problems in their catching corps, the Padres called up Sullivan.
Before Wednesday, he had 13 major league at bats and was hitting .154. And he was batting ninth.
On Wednesday, he performed a Johnny Bench imitation Wednesday, driving in the first four Padres runs. He gave San Diego a 2-0 lead in second inning with a two-strike two-run double inside the first base bag against Reds starter Luis Cessa, his first major league RBIs.
His next time up in the fourth inning, he pulled his first major-league home run, a two-run shot off Alex Young to give the Padres a 4-0 lead. During his 2,956 minor league at bats, he hit 68 home runs after he was drafted hin the 17th round of the 2015 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.
As radio broadcaster Jeff Brantley said, “Coming into the game, Sullivan was hitting .154 with no RBIs, no extra base hits, no nothin’.”
Cincinnati’s Spencer Steer hit a leadoff, first-pitch home run off San Diego starter Seth Lugo in the sixth, cutting the Padres lead to 4-1, but Soto, who had walked his first three at bats, attacked Casey Legumina’s first pitch and cleared the bases with a three-run double, pushing San Diego’s lead to 7-1.
Just like Sullivan at the plate, the Reds were done-in on the mound by an unlikely source.
Seth Lugo, a 34th-round pick by the New York Mets in 2011, held the Reds to one run (Steer’s home run), seven hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
For years he wanted to be a starter, but the Mets used him mostly out of the bullpen. The Padres, beset by injuries, plopped him into the rotation and his victory Wednesday gave him a 3-and-2 record.
Reds put a runner on base in each of the first three innings and two on in the fourth, but Lugo worked out of trouble each time. He struck out Stuart Fairchild with two on and two outs in the fourth when the Reds trailed by only 2-0.
Like Lugo, Reds starter Luis Cessa mostly worked out of the bullpen throughout his career with a desire to occupy a rotation spot. The Reds gave him the opportunity late last season and the start of this season.
And it isn’t working. He is 1-and-4 with a 9.36 earned run average. His had no command of the strike zone, no consistency with his pitches and no put-away pitch.
He survived only 3 1/3 innings Wednesday and was charged with three runs, four hits and three walks. He needed 71 pitches to get that far, only 37 for strikes. He went to 3-and-2 on hitters five hitters and couldn’t throw a first-pitch strike.
After going 2-and-1 in Oakland and 1-and-2 in San Diego, the Reds were .500 on the trip. After a day off Thursday, they open a three-game homestand in Great American Ball Park Friday night against the Chicago White Sox.