By Hal McCoy
The Cincinnati Reds magic carpet ride soared above the clouds Tuesday night in Great American Ball via another head-shaking walk-off victory.
Two rookies, Elly De La Cruz and Christian Encarnacion-Strand performed another baseball magic trick after journeyman Nick Martini pulled off a deju vu with a pinch-hit game-tying three-run home run.
With the scored tied with one out in the bottom of the ninth and Elly De La Cruz on second via an infield hit and stolen base, Christian Encarnacion-Strand drove a game-winning single to center field for a 7-6 victory.
That was the easy part.
The difficult part was coming from 5-1 and 6-3 behind. And Reds manager David Bell opened his magic tricks bag and pulled out the right pinch-hitters to tie the game in the eighth.
Down 6-3, Noelvi Marte drew a one-out walk. Evem though Luke Maile had a single and a walk, Bell sent Tyler Stephenson to bat for him and he drilled a single.
Then the massive decision. He sent Martini up to bat for Stuart Fairchild. Just last Friday against the Chicago Cubs, the Reds trailed, 2-1, with one out and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth.
Pinch-hitter Martini homered to tie it, 2-1, and later in the inning Marte singled home the winning run for a 3-2 walk-off win.
Could he do it again? He did.
He pulled relief pitcher Justin Tapa’s pitch deep into the right field seats, a three-run rip to tie it, 6-6.
When CES delivered in the bottom of the ninth, the Relentless Rally Reds had their 10th walk-off win, their 31st one-run victory and their 44th come-from-behind win.
Martini was a free agent begging for a job when the Reds signed him to a minor-league contract on February 3, just before spring training. And he spent most of the season at Class AAA Louisville until the injury-ravaged Reds had little choice but to call him up.
“I knew that guy (Topa) likes his slider and I was just trying to put a good swing on it and fortunately it had enough to get out,” Martini told Bally Sports Ohio after the game.
“It’s special and I don’t take any days I’m here for granted,” Martini added. “To have a chance to contribute to a winning team, it will always be special to me.”
Encarnacion-Strand’s game-winner was his third hit that included a home run in the sixth, the same inning Marte hit his first major league home run.
“Magic? Yeah, we’re young and we have a lot of energy,” he said. “We have some veterans guys too, who teach us along the way. It is an incredible atmosphere to be in”
Rookie pitcher Connor Philiips made his debut for the Reds and reasons were plentiful why he should be nervous. It was his debut and he was facing that traded him to the Reds as the player named later in the deal that sent Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker from the Reds to Seattle.
Phillips, the 16th player this season to make their major league debut with the Reds this season, struck out the first batter he faced. But with two outs, he issued a walk and Teoscar Hernandez homered to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead.
The Reds cut it to 2-1 in the third on Jake Fraley’s double. Fraley, playing with a broken toe, was hit twice on that toe in two other at bats.
After hitting four batters in the opener Monday, he Mariners hit three more Tuesday.
It stayed 2-1 until the fifth wen Julio Rodriguez smashed a three-run home run of Phillips.
CES and Marte each hit solo home runs in the sixth to draw the Reds within 5-3.
Then Rodriguez homered again in the eighth, this one off Derek Law. If Rodrigues played for the Reds he might hit 80 home runs. He is right-handed, but he has three homers in the first two games, all the opposite wau to the cozy and close right field seats.
There was drama in the ninth. Reds closer Alex Diaz came on to protect the 6-6 tie, but he walked Hernandez to open the inning. With one out, Ty France hit into an inning-ending double play. . .temporarily. Replay-review revealed that France was safe, so the inning continued.
Diaz hit Michael Ford with a pitch, putting runners aboard second and first with two outs.
Up stepped Eugenio Suarez, the former Reds third baseman who would have liked nothing better than to break some chairs in the upper deck.
He flied weakly to center field and the stage belonged to De La Cruz and Encarnacion-Strand.