By Hal McCoy
In a pre-game meeting, Cincinnati Reds pitchers most likely were told, “Don’t let Aaron Judge and/or Anthony Rizzo beat us. They are the only guys we have to fear.”
Guess who was the two guys who beat the Reds, 6-2, Friday night in Great American Ball Park?
Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo. And it was a black night for the unveiling of the Reds’ new black City Connect uniforms.
Judge, the second batter of the game for the New York Yankees, smashed Ben Lively’s 2-and-2 pitch 431 feet over the center field wall, his seventh home run in seven games.
From there, Lively had the weak Yankees lineup grazing from his hand. Other than Judge and Rizzo, the rest of the Yankees lineup owned batting averages of .212, .252, 232, .215, .205, 197 and .194.
After Judge’s first-inning home run, Rizzo singled. Then Lively retired 16 straight Yankees and the Reds only trailed by 1-0.
But when Lively walked Judge with one out in the sixth, either manager David Bell (sitting in his office after getting ejected in the bottom of the fifth) or interim manager Freddie Benavides, decided to lift Lively.
Why? Good question.
Perhaps it was because Rizzo was coming up and he owned two home runs in his first three at bats against Lively and owned 22 career home runs in Great American Ball Park.
So in came relief pitcher Ian Gibaut and out went the baseball, a 424-foot bolt to right field for a home run that gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Rizzo must have thought Lively was still in the game.
Bell was ejected before the bottom of the fifth when the umpires made Yankees pitcher Clarke Schmidt go to the clubhouse and wash his hands after something was detected in his palm.
When the umpires did not eject Schmidt, permitted him to retake the mound, Bell objected vehemently and was ejected.
The Reds were afforded opportunites all night but could only convert once.
They put their leadoff hitters on base in the second, third and fourth innings, but didn’t score.
—Spencer Steer led the second with a single, but Tyler Stephenson hit into a double play.
—Henry Ramos led the third with a walk and Wil Myers singled, putting runners on second and first with no outs. But Ramos tried to steal third and was thrown out. Jose Barrero and Jonathan India both struck out.
—Matt McLain beat an infield single to start the fourth, but Jake Fraley struck out, Steer grounded out and Stephenson flied to right.
The Reds finally broke through in the sixth when India led with a single and McLain doubled, sending India to third. Schmidt was replaced by hard-throwing Jimmy Cordero and Fraley doubled to left, scoring both runners. And the Reds trailed by one, 3-2.
The Yankees brought in left-hander and former Reds relief pitcher Wandy Peralta in the eighth. Either Bell or Benavides decided to take down Fraley, the team’s best clutch hitter. Left-handed batters are 0-for-24 against Peralta this year.
It didn’t matter. Pinch-hitter Stuart Fairchild struck out. Steer also struck out and Stephenson grounded out.
Any chance for a Reds comeback from the 3-2 deficit disappeared in the top of the ninth when the Yankees scored three runs.
Reliable relief pitcher Derek Law went on the injured list prior to the game with an elbow strain, leaving the bullpen short of able arms.
Silvino Bracho started the ninth and walked Gleybar Torre. With two outs, he walked Oswaldo Cabrera. That brought up Kyle Higashioka, a .190 hitter who had struck out three times.
He doubled over left fielder Fairchild’s head for two runs. Alan Busenitz replaced Bracho and Harrison Bader singled home a run to make it 6-2.
Lively pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up two runs, two hits, walked one and struck out eight. And all he got for his extraordinary effort was a loss.
The Yankees have won 12 of their last seventeen while the Reds have lost three straight and fallen back into fourth place, a game behind the Cubs, who mangled the Phillies Friday night, 10-1.