By Hal McCoy
The Cincinnati Reds have searched and searched and searched for a way to beat the Milwaukee Brewers.
And they found a way Tuesday night in American Family Field and it earned them a breath-holding 4-3 victory, only their third win in 12 games against the Brewers.
But as has been the custom in nearly every Reds-Brewers game, it hung in the balance until the last at bat.
When Will Benson crushed a two-run home run in the top of the ninth, the Reds breathed easier because it gave them a comfortable 4-0 lead. . .they thought it was comfortable.
Benson’s home run turned out to be a game-winner because Christian Yeliich hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth. And the Brewers had the tying and winning runs on base.
Asked to protect that 4-0 lead, recently recalled relief pitcher Daniel Duarte retired the first two, one out away from a shutout victory.
Then he walked number eight hitter Sal Frelick. Number nine hitter Blake Perkins nubbed an infield hit up the third-base line.
Yelich unloaded his three-run home run, his third hit, over the left field wall and it was 4-3. Yelich nearly missed a game-tying two-run homer in the seventh, but left fielder Spencer Steer chased it down on the warning track.
Yelich’s home run forced manager David Bell to go to closer Alexis Diaz. It looked as if the game was over when William Contreras grounded to third and Elly De La Cruz and umpire Adrian Johnson called Contreras out.
Game over? Nope. Replay/Review ruled him safe. Game resumes.
Pinch-runner Tyrone Taylor stole second, putting the tying run on second. Diaz then hit Willy Adames in the head with a 3-and-2 pitch. Adames had struck out five times in his first six at bats of the series.
It ended. . .for sure, when Diaz coaxed a shallow fly ball to center from Andruw Monasterio, Diaz’s 30th save, albeit a shaky one.
For eight innings, it appeared the Reds would tag a shutout on the Brewers, something Milwaukee has done to them three times this season.
Andew Abbott, Ian Gibaut and Lucas Sims combined to help the Reds end a five-game losing streak to the Brewers and scramble to within a half-game of first place Milwaukee.
Abbott was sensational, and he had to be. He pitched six scoreless innings, extending his scoreless streak to 16 straight innings. He gave up no runs on seven hits, walked one and struck out nine.
He has faced the Brewers four times in his first 10 major league starts and is 2-2. He is 4-0 with a 1.14 earned run average in his other six starts.
The rookie left-hander kept the Brewers guessing by mixing up his full repertoire, keeping them off balance with early in the count breaking pitches and finishing them with high fastballs.
It was a difficult task for the Reds. They were facing Corbin Burnes, who brought a personal four straight wins into the game, including a game on July 15 when he pitched a six scoreless, two-hit, 13 strikeout game in a 1-0 win over the Reds.
The Reds took advantage of one Burnes lapse. Entering the fourth inning of a 0-0 game, the Reds had one base-runner, an infield hit by Matt McLain with two outs in the first.
But Burnes opened the fourth by hitting TJ Friedl with a pitch and he issued his only walk of the game, a free pass to McLain. Both scored.
Jonathan India pulled an infield hit that ricocheted into foul territory off third baseman Andruw Monasterio’s glove and Friedl scored from second.
Joey Votto, 0 for 19 and 2 for 37, blooped a single to center and McLain scored for a 2-0 lead.
Burnes pitched six innings and gave up two runs on three dubious hits, two of the infield variety and Votto’s blooper that parachuted into center field.
Benson’s big blast, the decisive blow, came off Milwaukee relief pitcher Bryce Wilson.
The Brewers were 2 for 16 with runners in scoring postion during their 3-2 win Monday night. And on Tuesday, they stranded runners in all nine innings.
The one-run decision was the fifth in the 12 games and the Brewers had won the first four, 5-4, 1-0, 1-0 and 3-2.
The Reds and Brewers conclude the series Wednesday afternoon, the last game of the season between the two National League Central contenders.