McCoy: A ‘Nick’ In Time For Reds In 2-1 Win

By Hal McCoy

When it comes to being a stopper, Cincinnati Reds left-hander Nick Lodolo is as reliable as a plug in a bathroom sink.

With the Reds reeling under a three-game losing streak, Lodolo screwed a tight muzzle on the Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday night in PNC Park, pitching the Reds to a tight-squeeze 2-1 win.

Lodolo was the master with seven innings of one-run four-hit pitching. That not only ended Cincinnati’s losing streak, it lifted Lodolo’s record to 8-2 with a 2.76 earned run average as he scribbles his name on an application to make the National League All-Star team.

It was his fourth win in his last four starts — 25 innings, six runs, 25 hits.

And it enabled the Reds to move back into a third-place tie with the Pirates, both at 35-38, with the final game of the series Wednesday afternoon.

Utility player Santiago Espinal, seldom a starter, cracked a two-run home run in the fifth inning, all the run support Lodolo needed.

The last time the Reds saw Pittsburgh lefty Bailey Falter they scored eight runs and hit four home runs in two innings. . .and lost, 13-12.

This time they got only two runs and seven hits against him over seven innings. . .and won, 2-1.

Lodolo received glossy defensive help to win this one. Jake Fraley made two outstanding plays in right field, Jonathan India made three above-and-beyond plays at second base. Stuart Fairchild made a run-saving catch in center field.

And Spencer Steer, a first baseman in recent games, was in left field on this night and went above the wall to snare a home run away from Michael A. Taylor in the fifth inning.

Espinal, making a rare start at third base, was as smooth as a fine Bordeaux defensively, with the big home run as a bonus.

It was 0-0 in the fifth when India doubled off the center field wall with one out. Espinal then reversed a Falter fastball that narrowly cleared the wall for a 2-0 lead.

When Espinal hit the ball, he dropped his head as he left the batter’s box, perhaps believing he didn’t put enough wood on it.

“When I started running, I saw the ball and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s gotta go,’” he said during a post-game interview with Bally Sports Ohio.

“I was trying to be aggressive in the count when we had a runner on second base,” he said. “He’s a pitcher who throws a lot of fastballs and I was just trying to be aggressive.”

It isn’t easy for a utility player, a spot starter, to keep an edge with the bat and Espinal acknowledged that.

“The first thing I do is I try to be mentally ready, that’s the most important thing,” he said. “I know I have to do my job, come in every day ready to compete and that’s what I’m doing.”

It didn’t start well for the Reds. They hit into 5-4-3 double plays in the first three innings.

Elly De La Cruz walked with one out in the first. Then it was Jeimer Candelario. 5-4-3 double play.

Steer opened the second with a walk. Then it was Tyler Stephenson. 5-4-3 double play.

Fraley led the third with a single and was caught stealing. Luke Maile singled. Then it was Fairchild. 5-4-3 double play.

Lodolo, though, kept the Pirates silent and was in dire straits just once. With two outs in the third, he gave up a single to Andrew McCutchen and a double to Bryan Reynolds, owner of a 16-game hitting streak.

No problem, no sweat. Lodolo struck out Connor Joe en route to a no-walk, eight-strikeout night.

He retired 11 in a row before Ke’Bryan Hayes homered with one out in the seventh on Lodolo’s 83rd pitch. Then he hit Edward Oliveros with a pitch, Lodolo’s 10th hit batsmen this season.

But he retired the next two flawlessly to end his night with a 2-1 lead.

Fernando Cruz took over for the eighth and issued a one-out walk to McCutchen. Reynolds blasted one to deep center and McCutchen, knowing he was the tying run, zipped around second and was nearly to third when center fielder Fairchild ran it down.

That enabled the Reds to easily double McCutchen off first base.

All that was left was for closer Alexis Diaz to pitch a 1-2-3 ninth for his 16th save in 18 opportunities.

“Stuart is amzing, man, especially defensively he is doing a good job,” said Espinal, who knows sensational defense when he sees it.

And the pitching?

“Lodolo was amazing and Cruz and Diaz helped us get the ‘w’ and we just gotta keep going tomorrow. Lodolo works very fast and is aggressive. I feel like every time he goes out he is going to throw seven or eight innings,” said Espinal

Espinal’s motto is, “Have glove, will play defense.”

“I always have confidence in my glove,” he said. “I feel that’s my priority right now, you know. Every time I take a ground ball (in practice), I take it seriously. That’s what I do, man, that’s what I do. And I work very hard on it. That’s why I’m here.”

And he’s there to hit two-run game-winning home runs once in a while, too.

 

 

 

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