By Hal McCoy
For the Cincinnati Reds, it was, “Have a night, TJ Friedl” Wednesday night in Great American Ball Park.
Friedl brought his glove, his bat and his all-out aggressiveness and used them all majestically to spark the Reds to a 7-2 win over the Cleveland Guardians.
Friedl made two highlight-reel catches in center field, collected three hits, including his 12th bunt single, scored three runs and stole his team-leading 23rd stolen base.
And the Reds scored four runs in the fourth inning on a pair of two-run home runs by Stuart Fairchild and Matt McLain.
The Reds won for only the fourth time in 14 games, but it was a profitable win. Both the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins lost, enabling the Reds to claim possession of the third wild card spot in the standings.
It was 1-1 in the third inning and the Guardians had a runner on first with two outs. Ramon Laureano rippe one deep to center. Friedl raced to the wall, high-jumped above the top of the fence and snagged it, pilfering Laureano of a two-run homer and a 3-1 lead for the Guardians.
Then the next hitter, Oscar Gonzalez, led the fourth with a long line drive to center. Friedl crashed against the padded wall and gloved it, robbing Gonzalez of a double.
Andrew Abbott (8-3) pitched five strong innings, giving up two runs on six hits with no walks and two strikeouts.
When he struck out Jose Ramirez with a 3-and-2 change-up, Ramirez nodded at Abbott in a show of respect for a daring pitch.
Cleveland started Noah Syndergaard, the one-time flame-thrower who routinely threw 100 miles an hour fastballs when he pitched for the New York Mets.
They called him Thor when he pitched for the Mets, but when he pitches against the Reds he is a thorn in his team’s side.
On June 7, when he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he gave up six runs and seven hits, including two home runs. One was hit by Elly De La Cruz that nearly left the stadium, crash-landing in the last row of the right field seats.
At the trade deadline, the Guardians traded their best pitcher, Adam Civale (5-2, 2.34 ERA) to the Tampa Bay Rays. Then, for some reason, they acquired the fading Syndergaard from the Dodgers.
That 100 miles an hour fastball is now 90 and the Reds whacked it all over GABP.
This time he lasted 4 1/3 innings and the results were the same — six runs, eight hits and two home runs.
The Reds struck early with a run in the first on Friedl’s leadoff single and McLain’s double up the left field off a fastball.
Cleveland tied it, 1-1, in the third on a single by Myles Straw, who tagged and took second on a fly ball, and scored on a single by Ramirez.
Cincinnati put it away in the fourth. Christian Encarnacion-Strand led with a single and Fairchild lifted a 427-footer into the left field seats, a two-run homer that gave the Reds a 3-1 lead.
With two outs, Friedl singled and stole second. McLain hit the next pitch over the left field wall, a two-run homer that provided Abbott with a 5-1 lead.
Both home runs came on Syndergaard fastballs.
Gabriel Arias led the Cleveland fifth with a home run to make it 5-2, but it was the Guardians’ last hurrah.
Joey Votto poked a one-out single in the fifth and came around to score when catcher Bo Naylor dropped a throw, one of four Cleveland errors.
Friedl’s one-out bunt single in he sixth led to a run when the Guadians made two more errors in the inning.
After Abbott left, the Reds bullpen put a muzzle on the Guardians over the last four innings. Fernando Cruz, Sam Moll, Derek Law and just-recalled Alan Busenitz held the Guardians to no runs, three hits, no walks and four strikeouts.
The Reds buried the Guardians under an 11-hit attack. Friedl and McClain, one-two in the Reds order, combined for six hits,four runs and three RBI. McLain had three hits, drove in three and scored a run.
After a day off Thursday, the Reds open a three-game series Friday night in GABP against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hunter Greene is expected to come off the injured list and start Sunday afternoon’s game. He pitched 5 2/3 innings (83) pitches Tuesday on rehab for the Class AAA Louisville Bats and held the league-leading Iowa Cubs to one run and one hit while walking three and striking out nine.
The news was not so positive for pitcher Ben Lively, also on rehab at Louisville. In his last start this week he survived only two-thirds of an inning and gave up six runs and six hits that included a home run.
To make room for relief pitcher Alan Busenitz, the Reds optioned pitcher Luke Weaver to Louisville.