By Hal McCoy
The Rally Reds. The Relentless Reds. The Big Road Machine. America’s Team.
The Cincinnati Reds lead baseball in nicknames and they live up to every one of them.
They were relentless and they rallied Sunday afternoon in Minute Maid Park to snatch a 10-inning, 9-7 victory over the Houston Astros.
That completed a three-game sweep as the Reds became the first team this season to sweep the defending World Series champions.
And it was Cincinnati’s eighth straight win. Big Road Machine. All eight wins were on the road and they completed the three-city trip through St. Louis, Kansas City and Houston with an 8-1 record.
The Rally Reds? They trailed 2-0, 3-1 and 5-2. They rallied to tie it, 5-5, in the sixth and took a 6-5 lead in the eighth on Jonathan India’s home run.
The Relentless Reds? The Astros tied it in the bottom of the ninth, but the Reds shook off that slight adversity with three runs in the 10th ining that led to the 9-7 victory.
And they came within a whisker of claiming another nickname: The First-Place Reds. Pittsburgh led Milwaukee, 2-0, in the eighth inning Sunday in Milwaukee. But Pirates pitcher and former Reds bullpenner Dauri Moreta gave up three runs in the eighth and the Brewers claimed a 5-2 win. That left the Reds still in second place, a half-game behnd the Brewers.
It’s a team that always finds a way and they found in the 10th by scoring three runs on one hit.
Reds manager David Bell went against the analytics to start the 10th, analytics that say the visiting team should not try to bunt the ghost runner to third base.
But Bell did it and it paid and paid big. With ghost runner Nick Senzel on second, Bell had his best bunter, TJ Friedl drop one. And it was perfect, so perfect that Astros third baseman Alex Bregman threw it away and Senzel scored.
They didn’t stop there. With one out, India limped to the plate after hurting his leg turning an inning-ending double play that prevented a Houston walk-off win.
And he was hit by a pitch. Stuart Fairchld ran for him. Elly De La Cruz crushed a run-scoring single to right on a 0-2 pitch and the third run scored on Jake Fraley’s ground ball.
When was the last time, before this year, that the opposition didn’t want to see any of the Reds’ bullpen faces. For several years, they raced each other to the bat rack when the Reds brought in a relief pitcher. Not any more
Reds starter Luke Weaver was luke warm all afternoon. Seven of the first 10 Astros to face him ripped hits. In five innings he gave up five runs, 10 hits and walked two. The hits included four doubles, a triple and a home run.
He left after fivc, trailing, 5-2. Newly arrived Daniel Duarte pitched two scoreless, hitless, one-walk innings and Lucas Sims pitched a perfect eighth with two strikeouts.
The Reds tied it, 5-5, in the sixth with a three-run outburst. Matt McLain started it with a single and took second on a passed ball. De La Crush smashed one hard to first baseman Jose Abrue. Speed? To burn and some left over. With a head-first dive De La Cruz, running 90 feet, beat Abreu’s 15-foot dash for the bag.
Spencer Speer then unloaded a 409-foot home run that scattered bodies in the Astros’ bullpen, tying it, 5-5.
Then India untied it in the eighth by crushing a 3-and-1 slider of Bryan Abrue.
Closer Alex Diaz was unavailable for this one, so Ian Gibaut was given the closing opportunity. Instead he kept Houston’s door open in the bottom of the ninth.
He walked the first batter, Kyle Tucker, always a treacherous thing to do. He stole second and scored on a one-out, first pitch single by Yainer Diaz, tying it 6-6.
The Astros then filled the bases with one after Bell made another important and decisive move. He had Jeremy Pena intentionally walked with first base open, setting up a double play.
Needing just a routine fly ball for a walk-off win, Corey Julks hit into a 5-4-3 doube play, completing the best laid plan of manager Bell.
The positive number keep piling up on the Reds’ ledger. The y now have come from behind 23 times to win games. After a 1-9 start on the road, they’ve won 19 of their lasrt 27 games away from Great American Ball Park. And they are 15-9 against American League teams.
In addition to get swept for the first time, the Astros have lost four straight games for the first time this season. On Sunday they earned it. They were 5 for 29 with runners in scoring position during the three games and on Sunday they stranded 12 runners.
The Reds used nine hit to the great efficiency that included home runs by Fraley, Steer and India that accounted for six of the nine runs.
After going 6-0 against the American League’s Kansas City and Houston, the Reds return to GABP Monday to begin a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies just lost four straight in Atlanta and were outscored, 40-12.
After the Rockies leave, the Braves come to town for a three-game series.