Jay Bruce, a guy who has more streaks than a poorly washed window, was 0-for-July. He was a career worst 0 for 26.
In his previous seven games he was 0 for 3, 0 for 4, 0 for 4, 0 for 3, 0 for 4, 0 for 3 and he was 0 for 3 Sunday afternoon when he came to bat in the eighth inning.
The score was tied and he was facing Milwaukee left hander Will Smith. There was one out and Brandon Phillips was on first base. With Bruce’s recent luck, would a double play spew off his bat?
Not this time. Bruce put a strong swing on Smith’s pitch and sent it singing and dance into the right field seats, a two-run home run that gave the Cincinnati Reds a 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in Great American Ball Park.
When Bruce arrived at the ballpark Sunday morning he knew the hits were not coming, that he hadn’t had a hit in a brief time, but he had no idea how long it had been.
Then somebody told him.
“Who? I don’t even know,” he said. “I forget. Someone said I was 0 for 23 coming into the game. I didn’t have the slightest clue. I knew I hadn’t had a hit in three or four games. But I don’t keep up with it. I hadn’t felt overly bleak, if you wlll. It happens, man. Everybody knows it hasn’t been the best of years for me, but the year is not over. And I’m determined to not give in to it.”
The Reds, definitely, are not giving in to the division-leading Brewers. The Reds are 7-3 against them this year and won two of three this weekend to creep to within six games of first place.
The Reds scored two runs off Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo in the first inning, started by one-out hits by Todd Frazier and Brandon Phillips. Bruce drove in the first run — without a hit. It was a ground ball and then Devin Mesoraco produced one of his three singles to make it 2-0.
Reds starter Mat Latos guarded it ferociously. The Brewers scored once in the sixth on Logan Schafer’s triple and a ground ball by Scott Gennett and then tied it, 2-2, in the eighth on a two-out double by Schafer and a pinch-hit single by Rickie Weeks.
Latos was done after eight, giving up two runs and four hits during a 96-pitch day. When he left with a 2-2 tie it looked as if his effort was a no-decision.
Bruce came to the rescue of Latos, the Reds and himself, “I didn’t want to play extra innings,” he said with a grin. After Phillips worked a walk from Will Smith, Bruce launched his game-winner.
“His struggles began right after a real nice hot streak where he did some damage (nine-game hitting streak and extra base hits in seven straight),” said manager Bryan Price.
“During this period where he has struggled, are certain things I noticed, that have stood out,” said Price. “It’s how hard he has run out of the box on a routine ground ball or fly ball. His defense is always outstanding, it shows up every day, but he has been in situations to make plays and has made them for us during this spell.
“That’s what you have to do during the ups and downs of a season,” Price added, “You have to find ways to help the team when you are not swinging the bat.”
Bruce did that in the first inning Sunday in the first inning when he hustled down to first base on a ground ball that could have been an inning-ending double play. But he beat the throw at first base and the game’s first run scored.
“Those are the things you want to have on display every day with every player,” said Price. “You want that effort and a palpable feeling that everybody is all-in, committed to winning, doing everything they can to win. Jay puts it on display every day, even though he doesn’t have the offensive results to support his contributions. He has done it defensively and with hustle, effort and preparation.”
After Bruce’s home run, Jonathan Broxton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save. And where was Aroldis Chapman? Not available.
“Aroldis was in the outfield before the game and had a little tweak in his hamstring and we wanted to stay away from him today,” said Price. “We hope he’ll be ready Monday.”