By Hal McCoy
Nick Senzel said it and it sounds like Captain Obvioius, but it is right on point: “We can’t get to where we want to go if we don’t win games.”
And it wasn’t easy Wednesday night, but it was mission accomplished, a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers that wasn’t tucked away until the last pitch.
The Tigers had the tying run on second base in the ninth inning with two outs against Reds closer Alexis Diaz.
Parker Meadows, 0 for 25, sen it to 0 for 26 with a line out to first baseman Spencer Steer and Diaz had his 36th save.
And with Arizona losing to the New York Mets, the Reds slid into a three-way tie with the Diamondbacks and the Miami Marlins for the final wild card spot.
It was an ugly, ugly win, but the Reds will take them in any way, shape or form these day.
Cincinnati’s infielders spent the night chatting with Detrtoit baserunners because there were always Tigers on base.
The Tigers put runners on base in every inning and left 12 standing harmlessly on base and they were 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position.
They stranded two in the second, three in fifth, two in the sixth and two in the seventh.
There were 16 full counts, 14 walks and 18 strikeouts.
“We can’t take our foot off the pedal,” said second baseman Jonathan India before the game. “We have to keep winning, no matter what.”
As has been their modus operandi all season, the Reds played another one-run game, their 58th, and they’ve won 33, both the most in the majors.
They adore playing interlleague games with their 26-14 record. And they are the only team in the majors with a winning record on the rtoad (40-32) and a losing record at home (36-39).
This one, as have many recently, belonged to the bullpen. Manager David Bell pulls relief pitchers like loose teeth and Wednesday he went through seven of them.
Fernando Cruz, Sam Moll, TJ Antone, Lucas Sims, Ian Gibaut, Daniel Duarte and Diaz held the Tigers scoreless on three hits over the final five innings.
And the once highly-maligned and seemingly overused bullpen has spliced together 21 straight scoreless innings.
The Reds faced Detroit’s best, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and he was all over Wayne County while giving up four runs on four hits and five walks.
And it was the same for Cincinnati’s rookie starter Connor Phillips, making his second major league start.
In four innings, he gave up three runs, five hits, four walks and a hit batsman.
So, it was 4-3 Reds when both starters took the rest of the night off.
The Reds struck first in the second inning on a single by Christian Encarnacion-Strand, a full-count walk to Harrison Bader and TJ Friedl’s two-out two-run triple over the first base bag into the right field corner, his eighth triple.
The Tigers tied it, 2-2, in the third when Phillips walked Zach McKinstrey on a full count and Spencer Torkelson drove his 28th home run on the first pitch into the right field seats.
The Reds moved in front, 4-2, in the fourth and the fourth run was gift-wrapped.
Bader walked, again on a full count and Noelvi Marte singled. Friedl dropped a bunt and beat it, his MLB-leading 16th bunt hit.
That loaded the bases and Marte scored on a fielder’s choice by Luke Maile, putting runners on third and first with two outs.
Maile bolted for second and Detroit catcher Carson Kelly foolishly threw to second. Maile stopped between first and second and became engaged in a rundown.
While the Tigers were chasing Maile like Keystone Kops, Marte sprinted home to make it 4-2. Marte made his major league debut at shortstop. Elly De La Cruz didn’t start, but entered the game as a pinch-runner in the seventh inning.
Another Phillips walk led to a Detroit run in the fourth. He walked Parker Meadows, a guy who was 0 for 23. Meadows stole second and scored on a double by Akil Baddoo, who was 1 for 18.
There was a sobering moment. TJ Antone, just back after a two-year absence and two Tommy John surgeries, left the game in the sixth inning with right elbow tightness.