By Hal McCoy
For the Cincinnati Reds, it was back-to-back-to back jacks, Mac, Saturday afternoon in Great American Ball Park.
TJ Friedl, Matt McLain and Jake Fraley hit succesive home runs in the sixth inning, all the runs the Reds needed for a 4-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
It was Cincinnati’s fourth straight victory, achieved in front of 40,625 boisterous patrons.
And it didn’t look promising through five innings against Louisville native and Bellarmine University product Brandon Faadt.
The Reds filled the bases with nobody out in the first inning but didn’t score. Fraley struck out, Jonathan India struck out and Joey Votto (2 for 32) grounded weakly to second.
Faadt, a rookie with a 0-3 record and a 9.82 earned run average, went on a ‘Yer out’ stretch, retiring 16 straight.
Fortunately for the Reds,Brandon Williamson (2-2) was on his game, annexing the win with six innings of one-run, three-hit pitching .
The Diamondbacks put their leaoff runners on base in the fourth, fifth and sixth, finally breaking through for a run in the sixth.
Williamson retired the first nine in a row before issuing a leadoff walk in the fourth and a leadoff double in the fifth, the first hit off Williamson.
The D-backs broke through in the sixth when number nine hitter Jake McCarthy doubled and scored on Ketel Marte’s single for a 1-0 lead.
Then a cloudless thunderstrom hit GABP in the personage of Friedl, McLain and Fraley.
With one out, Friedl tried to bunt and fouled it for strike two. Then he pulled one down the right field line, just inside the right field foul pole. Home run. 1-1.
McLain, who hit a grand slam in Friday’s 9-6 win, powered one 404-feet into the left field upper deck. Home run. 2-1.
Fraley wasted no time in making in three in a row, yanking one into the right field seats. Home run. 3-1.
For the Rally Reds, it was their 35th come-from-behind win over a team nicknamed the Answerbacks for their ability to come back.
And they tried to answer back in the ninth inning against closer Alexis Diaz.
The Reds scored an insurance run in the eighth on new leadoff man Spencer Steer’s single, a double by Friedl and pinch-runner Elly De La Cruz’s sprint home on Fraley’s ground ball.
De La Cruz, snagged in a 2 for 31 funk, was given the day off and Steer batted leadoff for the first time this season. And he collected a pair of hits and pinch-runner De La Cruz scored for him..
That gave Diaz a 4-1 cushion that he came close to exploding.
With one out, Arizona’s Rookie of the Year candidate, Corbin Carroll, homered (Hey, what about McLain or De La Cruz or Steer or Christian Encarnacion-Strand for ROY?)
With two outs,Christian Walker doubled and pinch-hitter Alek Thomas represented the possible tying run. Diaz struck him out to nail his 29th save in 30 opportunities.
And the back-to-back-to-backers? All three huddled together on the field for a post-game interview with Bally Sports Ohio.
“Yeah, that was a big weight off my shoulders,” said Friedl. “I’m just trying to grind it out on at bats, trying to get something good to hit. He got a pitch up and I said, ‘Oh,that’s it. It’s gone.’”
Then McLain, faced with matching what Friedl did, hits most of his home runs (10) to the opposite field, but pulled this one toward Covington, Ky.
“It was a fastball in, that’s about it,” he said. “For sure, it pumps you up when he hit a home run in front of you. Why not try to do it again?”
Friedl laughed at McLain’s comment and said, “That’s a good answer. You get a fastball in, you pull it.”
After back-to-backers, it was Fraley’s turn.
“I’m crappin’ my pants,” he said. “I’m tryin’ to do the best I can. You can’t one-up that. One of them hits a home run and the next one does it. I’m just trying to make sure I get a good pitch to hit and don’t get to amped up in the moment.”
So after losing six straight, the Reds have won four straight and are breathing down first-place Milwaukee’s collective necks.
“This is baseball, we’re not robots,” said Fraley. “We’re still gonna lose games, have tough at bat, go through periods where we struggle.
“There is no higher level than this and the teams we are playing are big league teams with big league pitchers who are very good at their jobs. We just have to keep grinding and we get wins like this, do what we’ve been doing. It’s a testament to what kind of guys we have, the talent we have, and we trust each other.”
While the Reds have won four straight, Arizona not so long ago was in first place in the National League West, but have lost 11 of 15 and abdicated first place to the Los Angeles Dodgers.