By Hal McCoy
While Ellymania is on temporary pause, two not-so-publicized rookies keep on keeping for the Cincinnati Reds.
Infielder Matt McLain and pitcher Andrew Abbott have no pause buttons and were the major components, along with TJ Friedl, of the Reds 3-1 victory Tuesday night over the Baltimore Orioles.
McLain doubled to drive in the first run and homered to drive in the second run as the Reds ended a three-game losing streak and reclaimed first place in the National League Central.
Milwaukee was blasted, 7-4. by the New York Mets and fell a half-game behind the Reds.
Abbott, making his fifth major-league start, survived a wobbly start. but quickly righted himself to hold the Orioles to one run, two hits, three walks while striking out eight over six innings.
Abbott is 4-0 with a minuscule 1.21 earned run and the Reds have won all five of his starts.
Elly De La Cruz’s bat is on hiatus — 0 for his last 14 with seven strikeouts, but McLain, nine inches shorter than the 6-foot-5 De La Cruz, is carrying a hefty bat.
He has been on base at least once in each of the last 19 games.
The Reds were facing the same difficult task the Orioles encountered in facing Abbott. They were facing 6-foot-8 six-game winner Tyler Wells.
He held the Reds to two runs, four hits, walked two and struck out seven in six innings.
The Orioles scored first when Abbott walked Aaron Hicks to open the second. He took third on a single by Jordan Westburg, playing his second major league game. Hicks scored on Ryan McKenna’s sacrifice fly.
The Reds drew even, 1-1, in the fourth, an inning that began with TJ Friedl boldly dropping a two-strike bunt that was so pefect it didn’t draw a throw. It was Friedl’s eight bunt hit.
He scored when McLain dented the center field wall with a double.
The Achilles heel for Well this season is the home run ball and McLain took advantage of it leading off the sixth, the 19th home run this years Wells has dished up.
In addition to pitching, defense played a cameo role in the Reds 13th win in 16 games.
In the bottom of the sixth, Anthony Santander led the inning with a bloop to right, a ball that seemed headed for the Bermuda Triangle between center fielder Friedl, right fielder Jake Fraley and second baseman Jonathan India.
With his back to the infield, like a wide receiver running a go route, India made an over-the-shoulder grab while falling to the grass.
Lucas Sims replaced Abbott in the seventh, after Abbott threw 106 pitches, and there was immediate trouible. Sims gave up two walks and hit a batter, but escaped unscathed.
He walked pinch-hitter Cedric Mullinss on a full count to open the inning. Knowing Mullins’ propensity for thievery, the Reds guessed right when Mullins would make his bolt for second. Mullins got a huge break, but the Reds called a pitchout and catcher Luke Maile unleashed a perfect peg to nail Mullins.
Sims then wallked Westburg. He retired pinch-hitter Ryan O’Hearn on a ground ball, but hit pinch-hitter Adam Frazier with a pitch.
That put runners on second and first with two outs, but Sims doused the mess he he put himself in by catching Austin Haya looking at strike three.
Then the rain re-appeared after rain delayed Monday’s game for an hour and 44 minutes. This time the delay wqas an hour and 43 minutes.
When play resumed, two batters into the eighth inning Friedl provided an insurance run with a home run into the right field seats to make it 3-1.
Buck Farmer gave up a two-out double to Gunnar Henderson, who had struck out his first three times, but Aaron Hicks flied to center.
That left it up to Alexis “Mr. Automatic” Diaz to clean it all up in the ninth. And dirtied things up a bit before cleaning up.
He hit Cedric Mullins with a pitch with two outs and walked Adam Frazier on a full count, bringing the winning run to the plate in the personage of Austin Hayes, the American League’s leading hitter. He flied to center to end it.
So Diaz had his 22nd consecutive save this season and the Reds drew even with the Orioles for the major-league lead in comebacks wins with 28.