McCoy: Lorenzen saves Reds bullpen from blowing another game

Reds split two-game series with Twins

With the Cincinnati Reds, what seems like an easy victory at mid-game usually turns into a wild adventure by the bullpen.

That was the scenario Wednesday afternoon in Great American Ball Park when the Reds held on by their fingernails for a 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

Starting pitcher Luis Castillo turned a 6-1 lead over to the bullpen in the seventh inning and quicker than one can say, “Blown save,” the Twins cut the deficit to one run.

It took Michael Lorenzen’s 1 2/3 innings in the eighth and ninth to finally silence the Twins as the Reds split the two-game series.

Lorenzen said he was unaware it was a one-run game when he entered with one out and the tying run on base in the eighth.

“It is just fun competing, honestly,” he said. “Doesn’t matter the inning, doesn’t matter the situation. I don’t think I realized we were up by one until ... I don’t know when I realized it. I just want to pitch, throw every pitch with conviction and challenge myself no matter the situation.”

Lorenzen struck out pinch-hitter Josh Donaldson with a runner on first, the potential tying run, with two outs.

Max Kepler doubled to right field. Aristides Aquino and his bionic arm prevented the runner on first from scoring the tying run, forcing him to stop at third.

Lorezen was appreciative.

“I’ve told Aquino a million times that I have a better arm than him,” said Lorenzen. “But today I said, ‘I’ll give you the day,’ because he was able to get the ball in and keep the runner on third. That was huge. That saves the game right there. That’s how I was able to reset.”

Lorenzen reset by striking out Brent Rooker with the one-run lead and runners on third and second to end the inning.

Then he went back and finished the game in the ninth.

“Not too many guys can do what he did,” said manager David Bell. “He had to work hard in the eighth. It wasn’t easy. Being able to get the final five outs — and the way he did it — just says so much about who he is. His talent, the way he competes and the way he believes in himself separates him.”

Castillo was on the mark once again as he continues to turn his season from awful to awesome. From a 2-10 start he is now 6-10 and lowered his ERA from 8.04 to 4.09.

“The focus, the command, really everything I’m expecting to happen is happening right now,” said Castillo. “I just have to keep going and keeping doing everything that is going on, and I expect to do it every time I go out there now.”

Castillo held the Twins to one run, six hits, walked one and struck out seven over his six innings. He fell behind 1-0 in the first inning when Jorge Polanco homered, his second in two at bats after his three-run home run in the ninth inning Tuesday night lifted the Twins to a 7-5 win.

This time the Reds produced some two-out thunder. All six runs scored with two outs on five hits. The precocious rookies, Jonathan India and Tyler Stephenson, were in the middle of everything.

India had three hits and scored a run. Stephenson and two hits and drove in two. His home run made it 6-1 and turned into the winning run when the Twins pulled to within 6-5.

The Reds erupted for four runs in the third against rookie left-hander Charlie Barners, making his second major league start.

With two outs, the Reds spliced together four straight run-scoring hits to take a 4-1 lead: a single by India on a full count; a two-run double by Joey Votto; and a run-producing single by Stephenson.

India’s two-out single in the fourth made it 5-1. Stephenson’s home run in seventh made it 6-1.

Then the Reds bullpen took over, and the usual messiness began.

Brad Brach walked the first two Twins in the eighth and gave up a run-scoring single to Miguel Sano. Luis Cessa replaced Branch and was hit for a two-run double to Trevor Larnach.

With one out, Ryan Jeffers singled to left, scoring Larnach and it was 6-5, forcing manager David Bell to summon Lorenzen from the bullpen, whom he had hoped to save until the ninth.

After Lorenzen clened up the eighth, he returned to the mound for the ninth and struck out Polanco on a full count, but Luis Arraez singled for his third hit, putting another potential tying run on base.

But it ended when Kyle Farmer started a game-ending 6-4-3 double play on Miguel Sano.

“He (Bell) asked me how I felt after the eighth and I said, ‘I feel great,’” said Lorenzen. “And I did. I felt like I was pitch-efficient, so I told I felt great. He asked me if I was good for another (inning) and I said, ‘Absolutely,’ and that was basically it.”

It definitely was ‘it’ for the Twins.

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