By Hal McCoy
Incredible. Inconceivable. Incomprehensible. It’s all the ‘ins’ one can conjure and add about five exclamation points to each one.
If ever the scorching-hot Cincinnati Reds put their resilience and persistence on display, it was Friday night in front of a full house (43,086) in Great American Ball Park.
The Reds pounded their way to their 12th straight victory with guns blazing during an 11-10 last-gasp win over the Atlanta Braves.
Before they came to bat, they were down 5-0 when the Braves raked Reds starter Luke Weaver for five runs that included a three-run home run by Travis d’Arnaud.
Then something old and something new took over for the Reds.
It was all about 39-year-old Joey Votto, the oldest Red, and 21-year-old Elly De La Cruz, the youngest Red.
Votto cranked two home runs, one to tie the game and one to put the Reds ahead for good.
De La Cruz? De Le Dynamite. He hit for the cycle —double, home run, single, triple. It was the first cycle by a Reds play since Eric Davis accomplished it in 1989. Davis, like De La Cruz, wore uniform number 44, and De La Cruz has been compared to Davis.
Davis, still associated with the Redss as a roving instructor, has been a sounding board for De La Cruz.
“It is an honor and a privilege to wear his number,” said De La Cruz through a translator with Bally Sports Ohio. “He is a legend in this city and I talk to him often. I’m glad he has given me the honor to wear that 44.”
Each time De La Cruz walked to the batter’s box and each time he thundered around the bases, the crowd chanted, “Elly, Elly, Elly.”
“It is an honor and privilege, too, just to be on this team and in this organization,” he added. “Just to hear you guys (fans) scream for us, it is so awesome. The best fans in the world, we’ve got right here.
Of his history-making night, he said, “I’m just so excited with everything that happened tonight. I’m just here to contribute to the team and help them win, nothing more than that.”
Votto drove in three and scored two. De L a Cruz drove in four and scored three. After hitting his trtiple, he tried to put the crowd into a frenzy by attempting to steal home, but he was thrown out.
The game was an out-and-out slugfest as both teams made GABP look like Williamsport.
The Reds hit four home runs, with Jake Fraley joining Votto’s two and De La Cruz’s one. The Braves hit five, two by Matt Olson that included three solo blasts in the eighth inning against Lucas Sims that drew the Braves to within 11-10.
After the Braves, who had an eight-game winning streak stopped, scored five in the first, the Reds began their 27th comeback win, fifth in a row, in the second inning. De La Cruz line one off the top of the right field wall for a double and Fraley homered to make it 5-2.
The Reds pulled to within 5-4 in the third. TJ Friedl walked, stole second, stole third and scored on De La Cruz’s home run.
Votto’s first home run, a 415-foot rapid-fire halfway up the right field moon deck tied it 5-5, in the fourth.
The Braves, though,forced the Reds to show their stick-to-it approach by taking a 7-5 lead in the fifth on Matt Olson’s two-run homer off Daniel Duarte.
The Reds fifth begain in bizarre fashion. Braves pitcher Collin McHugh opened the inning by hitting Matt McLain and Jonathan India with his first two pitches.
De La Cruz singled home McLain, cutting the lead two 7-6. Then to add spice to his night, he stole second, his seventh steal in seven attempts.
Votto then unleashed a 413-foot rapid-fire three-run home run halfway up the right field moon deck to push the Reds in front, 9-7. It was their first lead of the night and they clutched on to it.
The Reds made it 11-7 in the sixth. Friedll walked on a full count, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Jonathan India’s single. India scored on De La Cruz’s triple to right center, a double for a mere mortal that scored India.
Then the Reds had to hang tight. Ronald Acuna Jr., Austin Riley and Olson all homered in the eighth to cut it to, 11-10.
That forced manager David Bell to bring in closer Alexis Diaz, who strolled into the game with strobe lights flashing and trumpet music, The Matador, blaring on the speakers. He walked the potential tying run with one out, then induced a game-ending double play from Orlando Arcia.
That gave Diaz his 21st save this season in 21 opportunities.