By Hal McCoy
When Hunter Greene pitches for the Cincinnati Reds, the offense goes into deep hibernation and Greene has to be thinking, “I wonder where the offense went?”
He was victimized again Sunday morning/afternoon and has grounds for a non-support charge.
The New York Yankees beat him, 4-1, Greene’s 10th start this season and the seventh time the Reds have scored one run or less when he was on the mound. That’s the least run support for any starting pitcher in the National League.
Greene’s one flaw, though, is the home run ball and he gave up two Sunday that paved the way to his fourth defeat without a victory.
For once, Yankees superstars Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo contributed nothing to the outcome of a game against the Reds.
It didn’t matter. The Yankees completed a three-game sweep with their sixth win in seven games.
New York manager Aaron Boone did the Reds a gigantic favor by giving Judge the day off, even though he went 4-for-4 with three RBI Saturday and hit a home runs Friday.
And Rizzo, who hit two-run home runs Friday and Saturday, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Home runs, though, are the Yankees modus operandi and the two Sunday played big as the Reds lost for the sixth time in seven games and droppped back into last place in the National League Central.
Harrison Bader turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead with a two-run home run in the fifth and Gleybar Torres homered in the sixth, the sixth and seventh home runs off Greene in his last four starts.
On the Yankees side, Luis Severino came off the injured list and made his first 2023 start. He held the Reds to one run, three hits, walked one and struck out five in 4 2/3 innings.
He struck out the first two in the fifth inning, then gave up a single to Luke Maile. That put him at his 75-pitch limit, leaving him one out short of qualifying for the win.
He began his coming-back party by walking the first batter he faced, Jonathan India, on four pitches. Then came controversy.
With two outs, Spencer Steer lobbed one down the right field line. Outfielder Jack Bauers tried to make a sliding catch, but the ball popped out of his glove near the line. Umpire Nestor Ceja ruled it a foul ball.
The Reds challenged and the ball was ruled fair. India kept running on the play and crossed the plate. It was ruled a double for Steer and the Reds were awarded India’s run.
New York manager Aaron Boone reacted vehemently, believing India should have only been awarded third base. It earned Boone an ejection.
Greene guarded that 1-0 lead through four innings, giving up one hit and a walk with five strikeouts.
But he walked Willie Calhoun on a full count to open the fifth and Harrison Bader drove a 2-and-2 change-up over the left field wall for a 2-1 New York lead.
Gleybar Torres made it 3-1 in the sixth with a first-pitch home run to right field. Home runs have been the one flaw in Greene’s repertoire — seven in his last four starts.
The Yankees added their fouurth run in the seventh when Greene walked Bauers. Greg Allen pinch-ran for Bauers and stole second, then scored on Anthony Volpe’s double.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s bats were deathly silent. After Maile’s single that ended Severino’s day, the New York bullpen retired 20 straight Reds.
That streak ended when the Reds threatened to rescue a win in the ninth inning against closer Clay Holmes, who blew a three-run ninth-inning Yankees lead against the Reds last season in Yankee Stadium.
This time he retired Matt McLain, then gave up back-to-back singles tp Jake Fraley and Spencer Steer. That put the potential tying run at home plate for two batters.
Nick Senzel struck out but Stuart Fairchild walked on four pitches, filling the bases. That brought up Will Benson, just called up from Class AAA Louisville to replacede injured Henry Ramos.
Could he hit a walk-off grand slam or a game-tying base clearing double? He could. But he didn’t. He grounded weakly back to the mound to end it.
Reds manager David Bell joined Boone on the ejected list, thrown out by plate umpire Emil Jimenez, Bell’s second ejection during the series. He thought New York pitcher Wandy Peralta quick-pitched Luke Maile in the eighth. His protestation gave him a quick thumb from Jimenez.
Bader, whose home run was the game-winner, was impressed with Greene.
“He is a guy with such good stuff, you have to respect his fastball,” Bader said during a post-game interview on Peacock-TV. “He has really electric stuff to a point where you take a funky swing, which I did multiple times, you have to shrug it off and reselt. Take a short swing.”
Bader’s reset button dialed up a home run.
Bader also said the Yankees had added incentive to play well for their manager. Boone played for the Reds and was in tears when the Reds traded him to the Yankees.
“When something like this gets entertwined, it put a little more juice and pep in our step,” said Bader. “We saw a highlight of Boonie before the series and that pumped us up. I forgot how good Boonie could swing it. That made this really special for us.”