The final rusty nail may have finally been driven into the Cincinnati Reds coffin by a familiar face on early Sunday afternoon. Drew Stubbs‘ walk-off three-run home run gave the Colorado Rockies a 10-9 comeback win that left the club stunned as they exited the field and heading for the locker room.
Ahead by four runs entering the bottom of the ninth with the bottom of the order up, it seemed rudimentary that Aroldis Chapman would calmly shut the door and put the seal on a victory in the day version of the day-night doubleheader. Chapman would face four men and walk four men. J.J. Hoover would stand on the mound in relief as the Rockies walked off.
Fitting the bill of an old school Coors Field shootout, the 19 combined runs came as no surprise due to the setting. What came as a surprise was the fact that the offensive explosion came with two of each team’s best pitchers on the hill.
Early on, Mat Latos would be the victim of a slew of hard hit balls off the bat of the Rockies. Both Corey Dickerson and Nolan Arenado (who would go 4-for-4 with a walk) drove in first inning runs to stake Colorado to a 2-0 lead. Before the second inning would let out, Charlie Blackmon continued his decimation of Cincinnati pitching, cranking a blast deep into the Rockies bullpen on a hanging 0-2 curveball from Latos.
From that inning on, Latos would settle down considerably. Still only making it through five innings due to a high pitch count and early rain delay that would halt his momentum coming out of the bullpen, Latos would see multiple runners reach base in each of his remaining three innings, but would not allow another run to score, exiting with a 5-3 lead.
Cruising through his front three innings was Rockies starter Jordan Lyles. His afternoon came unraveled after plunking Zack Cozart to lead off the fourth, beginning a tidal wave of Reds offense that would end with him seeing five runs come across the plate in the next two innings.
Getting the offense going was Jay Bruce, who hit a no-doubter of a blast immediately following Cozart’s hit by pitch. Jumping all over a 3-1 fastball that was down the center of the plate, Bruce deposited it to where former Rockies first baseman Todd Helton hit many of his career blasts on the day the Rocks would retire their legendary left-handers number.
Starting the fifth inning was Chris Heisey, who drew a walk to give credence to the old axioms of leadoff men reaching via the walk finding their way in to score. Cozart would lace his sixth career hit against Lyles in 11 tries to drive in both Heisey and Billy Hamilton to give the Reds a 4-3 lead. After a wild pitch later in the inning, Cozart himself would scamper around to score.
For the third straight inning, the Redlegs got their leadoff man on base. In the sixth, Kristopher Negron would not exactly reach base, as much as he would sprint around them. Bolting a solo shot to left field, Negron’s fourth blast of the season sparked even more offense from the once dormant Cincinnati bats.
While the quartet of Sam LeCure, Jumbo Diaz, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman is as formidable as any when it comes to securing a game over the final four innings, there was a caveat that went unannounced at the time–it was just the first game of the day. Although Latos was solid through five, the Reds undoubtedly needed more with another contest still on the docket.
LeCure was solid for his first inning of work in the sixth, but would fail to record an out in the seventh after a leadoff home run from Corey Dickerson and then back-to-back base hits from Michael Cuddyer and Nolan Arenado (who would make a sensational play in the top of the fifth to record an out on Devin Mesoraco–a true play of the year candidate). Jumbo Diaz would limit the damage keeping the Reds lead in tact, but only at 7-5.
The insurance runs came quickly in the ninth, looking as if they would sink the Rockies’ morale. Jay Bruce and Brayan Pena would both have RBI singles against reliever Rex Brothers, while every batter but the pitcher’s spot would make an appearance in the inning. Leading by four runs heading to the bottom of the ninth, the opening contest was seemingly in the bag.
Sunday afternoon served as a somber reminder of why baseball still remains our nation’s premier sport. The Reds could not run out the clock, or dribble it out, or play keep away. Aroldis Chapman had to come head on after the Rockies and failed miserably. Walking all four batters he would face, manager Bryan Price was put in the ultra uncomfortable situation of having to go to the mound to remove his closer from the game.
More than likely the last place J.J. Hoover believed he would find himself in that inning was on the mound. After recording a fly out and a line out, all Hoover had to do was negotiate former Red Drew Stubbs and he would have wriggled Cincinnati off the hook.
It was a hanging breaking ball in which Ike Davis hit a walk-off blast off Hoover earlier in the year and Drew Stubbs saw the same cement mixer four and a half months later. Picking up his excruciatingly atrocious ninth loss of the season, Hoover, who was put in a near impossible situation still is on the wire as being the man who served up the game-losing home run.
In what may ultimately be the seminal moment of what has been an underwhelming season, the Reds will never forget their Sunday in August in Denver.