Thirteen minutes before midnight, an unlikely hero lifted the Reds to an improbable victory. Hail Cesar — Izturis, that is.
Backup infielder Cesar Izturis singled with two outs in the bottom of the 13th inning, and Jay Bruce scored from third as the Reds overcame a two-run deficit twice to beat the Cubs 5-4 on Monday in the first game of a three-game series.
It was the second 13-inning game in three days and the fourth game of at least 11 innings in Cincinnati this month.
“It was a long game,” said Izturis, the only non-roster invitee to make the team out of spring training. “It was good we got a ‘W.’ We never give up.”
The Cubs took a 4-2 lead 31 minutes before midnight on a two-run, no-doubt home run by Luis Valbuena into the mostly empty seats — by that point in the evening at least — in right field. The lead lasted until the bottom of the inning.
“We almost had our hearts tore out there in the top of the 13th,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We’ll take it. That’s just a team that keeps fighting back and fighting back. I kept telling them after the home run, ‘We haven’t lost the game yet.’ Both sides were about to run out of players. I had Homer (Bailey) with his cleats on because we didn’t want to use Corky Miller.”
The Reds won despite committing three errors, two in the 10th and one in the 13th. They came into the game with the best fielding percentage in baseball and recently went 10 games without an error.
Joey Votto and Zack Cozart made back-to-back errors with two outs in the 10th. Todd Frazier then made an error in the 13th with no outs, and one batter later Valbuena hit his home run.
“We didn’t play a very pretty game,” Baker said. “It was kind of an ugly game, really. I was just saying to myself, ‘I hope Brandon doesn’t make an error,’ because it was kind of tough in the infield.”
In the bottom of the 13th, a single by Xavier Paul and a bloop double by Brandon Phillips gave the Reds runners at second and third with one out. Bruce then lined a double to center to tie the game at 4-4. After a groundout by Frazier, Izturis singled on an outside fastball.
The Reds improved to 12-8 with the victory. They are 7-1 on the 10-game home stand.
“It was big. It was huge,” Bruce said. “These things never get old, the walk-offs. They always are a ton of fun. To come back like that, I don’t even know what inning it was. That home run was hit, and the wind goes out of your sails a little bit. To never give up, that says a lot about our team.”
The Cubs once led 2-0, but they hadn’t scored since the third when the 13th began. Six Reds pitchers had struck out 15 batters by that point. They ended up with 16 strikeouts after striking out 14 on Sunday. That’s the first time since 1995 the Reds have struck out at least 14 batters in two straight games.
Jonathan Broxton, Logan Ondrusek, Aroldis Chapman, LeCure and J.J. Hoover combined to hold the Cubs scoreless from the eighth through the 12th innings.
Chapman struck out the side in the ninth. LeCure fanned the last batter in the 10th after two straight errors by Votto and Cozart. That gave the Reds 10 strikeouts, and it marked the first time since 1900 the team had recorded at least 10 strikeouts five games in a row.
LeCure loaded the bases with a single and two walks in the 11th, but Hoover entered the game and got a line-out to right on a 3-2 pitch.
The Reds threatened in the 10th. They had Derrick Robinson on third and Shin-Soo Choo on second with two outs, but Joey Votto struck out to end the inning.
Cubs starter and former Red Travis Wood shut the Reds down for the first six innings, but Bruce put the Reds on the board in the seventh with a solo home run, his first of the season.
Later in the seventh, a two-out triple to right by Jack Hannahan scored Chris Heisey to tie the game.
Reds starter Mike Leake kept the Reds in the game, giving up two runs in seven innings. He settled down after giving up a home run to the first batter of the game, David DeJesus.
“Leake pitched his butt off,” Baker siad. “They say usually that’s bad luck for the other team if they hit the leadoff homer. That’s what I was thinking. You try to think as positive as you can.”
Leake surrendered one more run in the third. Darwin Barney scored on a single by Starlin Castro.
The Reds defense helped keep the Cubs off the board, turning double plays in the fourth and the fifth.
Broxton took over for Leake in the eighth and got the first two outs. Then a hard line drive by Nate Schierholtz back to the mound hit Broxton in the right hand.
By the time Broxton figured out where the ball was, Schierholtz was on first. Broxton had to leave the game after being checked by the trainers, and X-rays later were negative.
Staff Writer Dave Jablonski will help keep you informed about the Reds’ drive to another NL Central Division title this season.
Cubs at Reds, 7:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410