Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez saw Alex Blandino surrounded by reporters after the game Monday in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse. They both said the same thing, loud enough for Blandino to hear: “Amazing things happen when you swing the bat.”
Blandino was 0-for-6 with three strikeouts with the bases loaded until he hit a two-out, two-run double in the eighth, driving in the go-ahead runs in a 5-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds bench has played a big part in its resurgence in the last month. Reliever Michael Lorenzen has become a pinch-hitting star. The four-man outfield rotation gives the Reds an experienced hitter coming off the bench in every game. Backup catcher Curt Casali has hit .393 in limited time.
Blandino had his moment in the opener of the three-game series. He’s adjusting to the role of being a pinch hitter in his rookie season. He has started 25 games and appeared in 36 games as a sub.
“It’s definitely something I’ve been working on — from spring training to this point,” Blandino said. “This is my first time coming off the bench pretty consistently and getting those pinch-hits. You’re facing back-end bullpen guys for the most part with good stuff, so you’re just staying on their best pitch and battling and (trying to come) through in those situations. It’s not always about getting a hit. Putting a ball in play or hitting a fly ball to push the run across is your job. It’s definitely something I’m still working on.”
The Reds (37-48) won their third game in a row and improved to 15-5 since June 10. That’s the best record in baseball in that stretch. They also won their sixth straight interleague game — the best streak in franchise history. They’re 7-1 against the American League.
Blandino put the finishing touches on a four-run rally. Entering the eighth, the Reds trailed 3-1 and hadn’t scored since Scott Schebler hit the first pitch of the first inning into the bullpen in right field.
“We had been hitting the ball hard all night,” Blandino said. “A lot of guys had good swings. (James) Shields pitched well. We were kind of just looking for some of those to fall. We got some walks and got that hit we were really looking for.”
Blandino’s hitting .225. Brandon Dixon, another one of the Reds’ go-to pinch-hitters, is hitting .226. As a whole, the team is hitting .243 in pinch-hitting situations, though Lorenzen, who has two pinch-hit home runs, including a grand slam Saturday, has helped improve the team’s numbers.
“It’s a little tough for young guys like Dixon and Blandino to be these pinch-hitter type guys,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said, “but that’s where we’re at with them. Back in the day, it was always veteran guys going up there to pinch hit, and now every club’s got some young guys going up there and it’s a very tough role.”