By Hal McCoy
For one night, the Cincinnati Reds expunged the demon San Diego Padres, who have given them nothing but futility and frustration for four years.
They hadn’t won a game in Petco Park in four years, going 0-and-9. And they lost 13 of their last 14 overall to the Padres overall.
And it looked dreary again Tuesday night when they trailed 1-0 after seven innings.
The Reds, though, lead the majors in runs scored in the eighth and ninth innings (41) and they put that to good use.
They pushed a run across in the eighth to tie it, 1-1, then scored a run in the 10th to pull out a heart-palpitating 2-1 win.
Still it wasn’t easy in oh so many ways. After taking the 2-1 lead, it was up to closer Alexis Diaz to close the door.
With the ghost runner starting the bottom of the 10th on second base, Diaz walked number nine hitter Trent Grisham, putting runners on second and first with no outs.
And now he was forced to face San Diego’s version of Murderer’s Row — Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Juan Soto.
He struck out Tatis swinging. Machado lined out hard to left fielder TJ Friedl. And he ended it dramatically by catching Soto looking at strike three.
The Reds owned only two hits entering the eighth inning against relief pitcher Nick Martinez. With one out, Friedl singled to right field and promptly stole second base. With two outs, pinch-hitter Tyler Stephenson walked.
That brought up left-hander Jake Fraley to face the right-handed Martinez and Padres manager Bob Melvin had a major decision to make.
Left-handed and nearly unhittable Josh Hader was ready in the bullpen. Melvin’s decision was fatal. He left Hader watching from the bullpen while Fraley roped a game-tying single to right-center.
He permitted Hader to pitch a 1-2-3 ninth, then replaced him in the 10th with Luis Carcia, he of a 7.71 earned run average.
With ghost runner Matt Reynolds on second, Jonathan India swung at Garcia’s first pitch and lined a run-scoring single to left for the 2-1 lead.
The late uprising saved Graham Ashcraft from absorbing an underserved defeat. He was magnifient. . .six innings, one run, six hits, one walk and three strikeouts.
The only run against him scored in the third on Machado’s two-out single and Soto’s double into the right field corner.
As always, the Reds were mesmerized by San Diego starter Michael Wacha, who entered the game with a 12-3 career record against them when he pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Reds had no runs and two hits against him in six innings after it looked as if they would put him away early. India opened the game by reaching on Machado’s error and and Friedl followed with a single that sent India to third. Friedl took second on the throw.
The Reds looked healthy with runners on third and second with no outs. But Spencer Steer popped up, Stuart Fairchild took a called strike three and Fraley popped out.
After that the Reds have one hit over the next five innings against Wacha and at one point he retired 12 in a row. The 1-0 lead looked like 10-0.
After Ashcraft left, the Reds bullpen was spotless — four innings, no runs, no hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
Lucas Sims pitched a perfect seventh with two strikeouts. Ian Gibaut pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, Derek Law pitched a one-walk ninth and Diaz did his thing in the 10th.
Incredibly, the star-studded pockets-full-of-cash Padres were 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners.
The Reds, who also stranded nine, were 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position, and those two hits provided the two runs that provided the historic victory.
The three-game series ends this afternoon at four o’clock. It is tied at one-one and the Padres have yet to win a home series this season.