The offensive onslaught continued on Wednesday night with an 8-3 victory for the Cincinnati Reds to ensure at least a split of the Ohio Cup.
If scoring runs was not unlikely enough for what has been an anemic Reds offense, where it came from was even more stunning. The seventh and eighth place hitters, Kristopher Negron and Zack Cozart, drove in six of the eight runs that would cross the plate.
As steady as the sun rising, another Reds starter produced an exceptional outing that nearly guaranteed the club victory. Mat Latos would be nearly untouchable through the front seven innings, yielding just three hits and a walk.
The scoring got underway in the bottom of the second when Zack Cozart connected with his third home run of the season. A hanging slider from Indians starter Danny Salazar was deposited deep down the left field line before eventually making contact with the foul pole, resulting in a three-run blast for the light-hitting Reds shortstop.
Without question, Salazar brought his good fastball to the mound on Wednesday. Twice blowing away Todd Frazier with a 98 MPH heater, he would fan five in his unsatisfactory four innings of work.
Integral to chasing Salazar, Kristopher Negron continued his torrid pace of hitting the ball hard—this time into the Reds bullpen. Already his third home run in extremely limited playing time, Negron has not only been rock solid with the glove at multiple positions around the infield, but a valuable part of a lineup that has so desperately needed a spark. His first two career home runs were of the opposite field variety, but off Salazar, Negron would go to the deepest part of the ballpark in left centerfield.
The antithesis of the Reds season was summed up adequately with five hits and six RBI coming off the bat of Negron and Cozart. Cozart would drive in his double play partner in the seventh to put the Reds ahead 6-0. It was not only with the bat that he would change the game, as Cozart reminded fans and managers alike just who the premier defensive shortstop is in all of baseball. Leading off the second inning with an acrobatic stab, a surefire “Web Gem” serves as a reminder of his true value.
Driving in the only two runs from guys in white jerseys not named Negron or Cozart was Todd Frazier. An opposite field bloop double off old enemy Mark Rzepczynski put Cincinnati ahead comfortably, 8-0.
Latos would slightly falter in the eighth inning, giving up a gargantuan blast off the bat of catcher Yan Gomes. Hit far enough (and low enough) to clear the seats and land in the walkway beyond the left field scoreboard, although the score was 8-1, Gomes got his money’s worth.
The final pitch thrown from Latos would be a two-run, pinch-hit double from Ryan Raburn, who would cut the deficit to five. Whether fatigue was the deciding factor in the extra runs allowed, the important part was the victory for not only Latos personally, but the Redlegs in general.
Curiously, on a night where Billy Hamilton, Jay Bruce and Devin Mesoraco combined to go 0-for-12, the Reds would still crank out 10 base hits and eight runs en route to their third victory in their last four games. Multi-hit games from Todd Frazier, Brayan Pena, Kris Negron and Zack Cozart led the unexpected offensive charge.
Going for the series victory on Thursday night, Homer Bailey gets the ball for the Reds at 7:10 p.m. against T.J. House of the Tribe. Still within striking distance of a playoff berth, winning series becomes the path to success for the Redlegs.