CINCINNATI — After being plagued by COVID-19 and injuries while expanding the boundaries of their farm system and managing the roster, the Reds are finding a way to not only survive, but somehow thrive.
A 6-3 win over the Mariners in Monday’s three-game series opener at Great American Ball Park has the Reds winning three of their last four games.
“We’re just staying together. It’s a resilient group,” said Reds outfielder Lucas Sims, who struck out young star Julio Rodriguez with the bases loaded to end the top of the seventh inning. “I think the guys that came in, they understand what we’re trying to do here. “We’re just trying to come together and be together.”
Remaining matches: vs. SEA (2), vs. STL (3), at DET (3), at NYM (3), vs. MIN (3), vs. PIT (3), at CLE (2), at STL (3)
Ranking update: The Reds (72-68) moved into a tie with the D-backs (71-67) for third place in the National League Wild Card. The Reds hold the tiebreaker over the D-backs, and also hold the tiebreaker over the Cubs (74-64), who have a three-game lead for the second Wild Card.
Since the calendar flipped from August to September four days ago, the Reds have made 23 roster moves. Four pitchers — including starters Hunter Greene, Brandon Williamson and Ben Lively — were placed on the seven-day coronavirus positive list. Another rookie, Graham Ashcraft, was placed on the IL with a stress reaction in his right big toe.
The situation forced Cincinnati to scramble. Rookie Carson Spiers was called up from Double-A Chattanooga to make his major league debut in Sunday’s 15-7 loss to the Cubs. Connor Phillips was called up from Triple-A Louisville to start Tuesday and will become the 16th player to make his debut for the Reds this season.
In between was Monday. Seven Reds pitchers combined to allow three runs and nine hits with one walk and 11 strikeouts.
“We’ve asked a lot from our player development system, and they’ve stepped it up,” Reds coach David Bell said.
The crime gave the show’s staff space to work. A pair of RBI singles by Elly De La Cruz and Hunter Renfroe gave Cincinnati a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The lead extended to 5-0 in the second with more doubles, as Spencer Steer hit a three-run homer to center field off Brian Waugh.
“I would say to the parade staff, they’ve done an unbelievable job the last couple of days with the amount of people that have fallen,” Stier said. “It definitely makes it more fun knowing the hurdles we had to overcome in the field of presenting.”
Opener Tejay Antone, who returned Saturday from a two-year absence after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and lefty Sam Mole combined for three scoreless innings with five strikeouts. Seattle picked up a run when Rodriguez opened the fourth inning with a homer to right-center field against Daniel Duarte.
With one out in the fifth inning against newly called up Michael Marriott, Mike Ford hit a solo homer to right field to make it 5-2.
Marriott was working in the major leagues for the first time since 2016 with the Phillies. He did not sign with the Reds outside of independent baseball until June, when he admitted he was close to retirement.
“It’s been seven years since I’ve played in the majors. I’m just happy to be out here just competing. It feels good,” said Marriott, who played two and a half rounds.
With two runners in scoring position in the sixth inning, Marriott broke out of his two-out jam by striking out Eugenio Suarez.
“That’s all I was trying to do, take some innings and put up some zeros,” Marriott said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t all zeros. I’m glad I was able to at least take part in two rounds.”
More double-danger came in the seventh inning when Marriott gave up a walk with a single. Sims took over and hit his first batter, J.B. Crawford, with a pitch to load the bases. But he recovered to beat Rodriguez after he missed three two-pointers.
Seattle made it a three-run game on Crawford’s RBI single off Buck Farmer in the ninth inning. Bale called on Ian Gibaut to face Rodriguez, who again represented the equaliser. Gibaut got a strikeout triple with his fastball to get the save and the game.
“It felt meaningful. It felt important. They’re really, really special,” Bell said. “It seemed like a lot of players and a lot of pitchers contributed. There’s been a lot going on in the last few days, and it seems to me like an organizational win. “All hands on deck trying to help us get through this ordeal.”
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