The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
Tucker Barnhart had the single biggest hit in Wednesday's rubber match with the Chicago Cubs, and it was enough to turn the tide both for the game and for the series. The Cincinnati Reds catcher belted a 3-run homer in the Top of the 7th to put the Reds on top for good, and the newfangled bullpen did its job well enough to make it hold up.
Barnhart's having a damn fine season, all told, and his OBP now sits at a classy .330. Certainly we wish Devin Mesoraco was back and healthy and mauling faces in the middle of the Cincinnati lineup, but Tucker has yet again shown he can be a capable - if not more - backstop at the big league level, and has been immeasurably valuable to the club in yet another injury plagued season.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Anthony DeSclafani, who didn't get a ton of help from his defense but still allowed just 3 ER in 6 IP, striking out 6 with nary a walk in another damn solid start; Zack Cozart, who homered again and stole a bag as part of a 2 for 4 day; Brandon Phillips, who went 3 for 4 with a steal; Jose Peraza, who chipped in with a 2 for 4 day with a pair of stolen bases; and Michael Lorenzen, who threw a pair of scoreless, hitless innings from the bullpen.
- Cozart put the Reds ahead immediately with a solo homer to lead off the Top of the 1st, a 431 foot blast that came after he originally fell behind in the count 0-2. Reds led, 1-0.
- Chicago scored twice in the Bottom of the 2nd, and Phillips played a part in both runs. Tommy La Stella led off by lifting a looping fly ball into RF that appeared catchable for Adam Duvall, but Phillips never peeled off and attempted to make an over the shoulder catch, and the ball fell in for a "single" when the Reds' 2B couldn't make the play. That burned two batters later when Addison Russell doubled to the corner in LF, as La Stella motored all the way in to score. Russell then scored when Miguel Montero "singled" off Phillips' glove on a grounder that's an out nine out of ten times. Reds trailed, 2-1.
- Ben Zobrist tacked on another run for the Cubs in the Bottom of the 5th with a 1-out solo dinger that just cleared the wall in RF. Reds trailed, 3-1.
- Barnhart struck out with a pair of runners on-base in the Top of the 2nd, but he made up for that in a big way with two more on in the Top of the 7th. Phillips and Jose Peraza had singled in front of him, and Tucker then mauled a Trevor Cahill meatball for a 3-run homer that landed in the basket above the ivy on the wall in left-center. Reds led, 4-3.
- Carl Edwards, Jr. took the mound for Chicago in the Top of the 8th and proceeded to throw 98 mph fastballs all over the Midwest. He walked Adam Duvall with 1-out, and Doovy then motored to 3B on a single two batters later by Phillips. Edwards, Jr. then threw behind Jose Peraza (unintentionally, as it appeared he slipped), allowing Duvall to score on the wild pitch. Reds led, 5-3.
- After that, Lorenzen and Tony Cingrani combined to keep the Cubs shut down, and the Reds had themselves a series victory with a 5-3 win!
- Tony Cingrani's beard is fantastic.
- Both teams wore throwback uniforms in this one to celebrate 100 years of Wrigley Field, or something similarly convoluted. Way back in 1916, the stadium itself had already been open for a year (and wasn't yet called Wrigley Field), and the Cubs weren't the stadium's first occupants, according to Cubs HQ. The Reds and Cubs did tangle on April 20th, 2016 there, however, and that's technically the genesis of Wednesday's celebration.
- Tony Cingrani's beard in an old-timey throwback uniform was fantastically freakin' fantastic.
- Beating this particular Cubs team in a series would be something to celebrate even if the Reds were 10 games over .500. Given that they're, uh, not, this is certainly one of the bigger HOORAYs of the 2016 season.
- The Reds will head next to Miami for their final series before the All Star break, and they'll do so with the benefit of a day off on Thursday. Dan Straily will get the start in Friday's contest opposite the electric Jose Fernandez, with first pitch set for 7:10 PM ET.