With their backs pressed against the proverbial wall, the Cincinnati Reds came out swinging on Saturday, and did just enough to pick up a 6-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
While the losing streak only totaled three games, it felt as if it dragged on for weeks. The win on Saturday was bigger than just one extra W in the win column; it was a gasp for air after going overboard.
Snapping their 17-inning scoreless streak right away, Billy Hamilton showed why he is the most dynamic weapon the Reds have. Walking to lead off the game, Hamilton swiped second immediately, before being manufactured home without the aid of another hit.
In the bottom of the second, Cincinnati would score in back-to-back innings at home for the first time since May 24, when Todd Frazier clubbed his team-leading 12th home run of the season to dead center field.
Carrying over from his two-hit performance on Friday night, Zack Cozart drove in the Reds third run of the afternoon on an RBI double that plated Frazier, who had stolen second.
Continuing to play add-on, Billy Hamilton drove in a run via a sacrifice fly, pushing the Redlegs out ahead 4-2, chasing Phillies starter Roberto Hernandez after just four innings of work.
On the day, the Reds would walk five times while striking out seven, with four of those coming in the final three innings. For a club that has battled strikeouts and reaching base all season long, with some plate discipline, the offense got back on track.
It was a walk from Devin Mesoraco that began the bottom of the fifth. Having already driven in a run in the first, Jay Bruce then mashed his first home run since returning from the disabled list, his fourth of the season.
In the four innings the club scored on Saturday, the lead man not only reached, but also crossed the plate in that very same inning. Twice, it came via the walk. Reaching base at the start of the inning becomes imperative to the success of the Reds.
Giving the Reds another quality start, Alfredo Simon was rewarded with his team-leading eighth win of the season.
Over his six innings of work, Simon was uncharacteristically up-and-down on his performance, but did just enough to keep the Redlegs in front. With his fastball humming in upwards of 96 MPH, he limited the damage by not walking a batter over his six innings of work.
His final out came in spectacular fashion, as Billy Hamilton, Brandon Phillips and Devin Mesoraco recorded their first web gem of the night on an impressive assembly line-type play. Nailing Marlon Byrd at the plate, Devin Mesoraco took the throw on a hop and was then leveled by Byrd, but held on anyway as Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg was ejected in protest.
Finally having earned his way back into the good graces of manager Bryan Price, J.J. Hoover was brought out in the seventh to protect a three-run Reds lead. By the time he would exit, it was dwindled down to one and the go-ahead run was in the batter’s box.
Jimmy Rollins’ two-run home run off Hoover kept the Phillies alive for the time being. Although much to their dismay, they recorded the finally out of the inning at home plate for the second consecutive inning.
The play at the plate in the seventh carried much more severity to the outcome of the contest, so when Brandon Phillips’ relay throw from Billy Hamilton sailed up the line, it appeared Philadelphia had knotted the score.
On a terrific scoop-and-tag by Devin Mesoraco, the Reds would hang on to the lead. Coming up the third base line, Mesoraco snagged the ball on a hop and then dove with his arms outstretched to tag the unassuming Carlos Ruiz as he attempted to scoot by. Lead preserved.
It was as automatic as it can get over the final two innings with Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman shutting the door on a Reds victory. Bound for the All-Star Game in five weeks, the back end of the Reds bullpen bailed them out on Saturday when they so desperately needed to hang on to the lead.
Sunday afternoon will now be the rubber match as the Reds turn to Homer Bailey to get them an important series victory. The Phillies will counter with David Buchanan at 1:10 p.m. from Great American Ball Park.