The Cincinnati Reds suddenly have discovered the path to crooked numbers. It is called “stringing hits together” and it is something they haven’t done too often this season.
But on Sunday in Milwaukee the Reds put four hits together in the second inning to construct a five-run inning en route to a 9-1 victory.
On Monday against the Arizona Diamondbacks the Reds put together four straight hits to start the fourth inning and constructed a three-run lead en route to a 5-3 victory.
“If you get can consecutive hits…well, that’s what’s missing around baseball these days,” said manager Dusty Baker. “If you can get consecutive hits you keep the pitcher in the stretch and the other side can’t get anybody loose quickly enough to stop it.”
The Reds scored a run in the first on a triple by Brandon Phillips — one of his three hits on this night — and a sacrifice fly by Zack Cozart.
The three-run inning came in the fourth and it went Joey Votto single, Brandon Phillips single, Jay Bruce single for a run, Ryan Ludwick double for a run and Cozart’s ground ball for a run.
Ludwick’s double was his second hit since coming off the disabled list a week ago and his first extra base hit and first RBI.
“He is still not satisfied but, hey, you have to take baby steps before you start rolling,” said Baker. “I told him, ‘You got the big hit tonight.’ That was a huge double that he got.”
The victory put some breathing room behind the Reds because the Diamondbacks are their only real challenger for the No. 2 wild card spot and the Reds now lead the D-Backs by six games.
“We have two teams ahead of us (Pittsburgh, St. Louis) and that might be a tough challenge and the Diamondbacks are the team behind us that we have to hold off,” said pitcher Bronson Arroyo. “So this series (three more games to go) might be bigger than any games we have left with the Pirates and Cardinals.”
Arroyo was not at his stylish best on a humid night and went only six innings, giving up three runs and seven hits, walking none and striking out six on his way to pushing his record to 12-9.
He gave up a home run to Aaron Hill in the fourth and staggered through the sixth when he gave up two runs, three hits and hit a batter.
“Bronson was struggling a little bit, even though he was getting them out,” said Baker. “We got him out right on time and our bullpen was strong, so we turned it over to them.”
Manny Parra, protecting a 5-3 lead, gave up a leadoff infield single to Didi Gregorius in the seventh but put a cap on the rest of the inning.
J.J. Hoover, Mr. Dead, Solid, Perfect pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts. He has thrown 26 1/3 straight scoreless innings, longest active streak in the majors. He has struck out 32 in that stretch.
“It was a battle physically tonight because I was tired a little earlier than I have the last few starts,” said Arroyo. “It was a war for me. You take the good with the bad and the bad with the good, so it was great for us to win without me having my best stuff.”
Of Hoover, Arroyo said, “I turned over the ball earlier than I wanted and Manny got into a little bit of trouble and got right out of it. Then J.J. continues to quietly put up some of the best numbers in baseball.”
That left it up to closer Aroldis Chapman and it wasn’t easy, although it was made easier because of a fabulous double play turned by shortstop Zack Cozart and second baseman Brandon Phillips.
Jason Kubel led the ninth with a solid single to right. Will Nieves chopped one at a charging Cozart. He snagged the ball and had to throw across his body and behind him to Phillips. After taking the throw, Phillips leaped over sliding Kubel and doubled up Nieves.
It wasn’t over yet. Pinch-hitter Cliff Pennington punched a two-out single and the tying run was at the plate in the personage of pinch-hitter A.J. Pollock. He flied meekly to center to end it, Chapman’s 31st save.
The Reds are back to a season-high 17 games over .500 and have won eight of their last 11 games.