Unfortunately, we have to talk about the Reds bullpen once again. There will be time for positivity later because any series win is a good series win, but you have to start with what the heck happened Tuesday night in Kansas City.
On Tuesday night, despite taking a 6-1 lead into the eighth inning, Cincinnati found a way to give the game away thanks to shaky relief pitching and a pair of poorly timed errors in the ninth.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Royals left fielder Andrew Benintendi sent one over the right-field wall to cut their deficit to 6-3. The warning sirens, especially for Reds fans used to bullpen collapses, started going off but they still were up three runs needing just three outs in the ninth.
After a ground ball went between Eugenio Suarez’s legs at third base with runners on first and second it then required the struggling bullpen to get an “extra” out in the inning. It of course didn’t help that Brad Brach walked the leadoff batter and then hit the next guy on a 1-2 pitch to spot the Royals a pair of free baserunners. You can’t assume a double play (baseball bookkeeping nerd alert), but if there was ever a surefire double play in the making that play to Suarez was it. Instead, a run scored and there were still runners on second and third with nobody out.
Brach would give way to Heath Hembree who struck out the first batter he faced to record the first out of the inning. However, a bloop single to left field would score a run and then the Royals would tie the game after Aristides Aquino air-mailed his throw to the plate. A walk, a hit by pitch, and two errors turned a 6-3 lead into a 6-6 tie game with just one out in the inning.
With runners at second and third base once again with just one out, David Bell turned to Amir Garrett to attempt to get out of the jam. That attempt was very short-lived, though, as Salvador Perez smacked one to the base of the left-field wall to finish off a walk-off win for Kansas City.
The devastating loss was Cincinnati’s 17th blown lead of 2021, fifth-most in the NL, but for those looking for a silver lining, the Reds lead the National League with 24 comeback victories. Regardless of how you slice it, when you are a team trying to make up ground on the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, blowing a five-run advantage with just six outs to go is not a good business practice.
Monday night was much more positive as the Redlegs extended their winning streak to five games thanks to seventh-inning home runs from MVP candidate Nick Castellanos and a three-run shot from Eugenio Suarez. It was yet another come-from-behind victory and three more solid innings of work from the bullpen. Of course, we all know how that was derailed Tuesday night.
Then, on getaway day Wednesday afternoon, the Reds picked up yet another come-from-behind victory to salvage the series.
Cincinnati was shut out through six innings before four consecutive hits to start the seventh put them on top. Trailing 2-0, Tucker Barnhart and Shogo Akiyama led the inning off with back-to-back singles before Mike Freeman drove in the Reds’ first run. Rookie Jonathan India then doubled down the left-field line to clear the bases and take a 3-2 advantage. India finished the game with three hits and reached base four times.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 7, 2021
Insurance runs, which are always welcomed in Reds country, came via a two-out double from Akiyama in the eighth inning and a final RBI single by Tyler Naquin in the ninth.
Things got a little (or a lot) hairy in the bottom of the eighth as the Royals loaded the bases and then flew out to the warning track for a loud end to the inning. Luckily, the Reds bullpen held things together just enough to escape with a 5-2 win and an overall series victory.
Now, Cincinnati turns their attention to a massive four-game series against the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers. At the time of this posting, the Reds sit 5.5 games out of first place in the division thanks to the Brew Crew dropping game one of their doubleheader with the Mets Wednesday afternoon. They will end the night either 5 or 6 games behind depending on the outcome of the nightcap. Either way, the Reds can still make up a lot of ground before the All-Star break with the four-game series in Milwaukee.
First pitch is scheduled for Thursday evening at 8:10 p.m. EST with Tyler Mahle taking the ball.