The Chicago Cubs lost for the second straight night to the New York Mets and the Reds are only three games out of first place in the National League Central.
It was 0-0 after nine innings and the Reds had only two singles and only one runner had reached second base.
The 10th started with ghost runner Nick Castellanos on second base and Brad Boxberger, originally a No. 1 draft pick by the Reds, came in to pitch.
Boxberger hit Tyler Stephenson with a pitch and walked Joey Votto on a full count to fill the bases. Then he hit Eugenio Suarez to force in the game’s first run. Kyle Farmer hit a sacrifice fly to score the second run.
The first seven innings were a duo pitching clinic by the starters, Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo, and Milwaukee’s Brett Anderson.
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Castillo held the Brewers to no runs, three hits, walked three and struck out seven. Anderson was even better. His line was no runs, one hit, one walk and nine strikeouts.
It was Castillo’s third straight above-and-beyond performance and on this night he was shooting 98 and 99 miles an hour bullets at the Brewers.
Of his battle with Anderson, Castillo said, “It’s incredible, just incredible. When two guys, two starters, are going at each other, battling it out. . .you hardly see it that much any more.”
The Brewers had their chances against Castillo while the Reds had no chance against Anderson. Milwaukee was 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners.
Castillo walked Jackie Bradley Jr. to open the sixth and Anderson bunted him to second. Castillo then struck out Luis Urias and Daniel Vogelbach, both on called third strikes.
It was more precarious in the seventh. Through six, Castillo had given up one hit and two walks. But with one out in the seventh, the Brewers collected back-to-back singles and eventually had runners on third and second with two outs.
This time he caught Bradley looking at strike three to keep it scoreless.
“All my pitches were working well, my repertoire was working as well as it couild,” he said. “I felt like I could throw all my pitches where I wanted.”
His escapes saved the game and enabled the Reds to go 8-2 in extra-inning games, the most extra-inning wins in the majors.
“As I’ve said before, I have to keep my positive mentality in those situations,” said Castillo. “You can’t have a negative mentality and that helped me. I was confident enough that I could get people out.”
Manager David Bell was unable to explain his team’s extra-inning prowess and said, “We did what it took tonight to win a game, grind out a win. It wasn’t easy.
“Luis pitched an outstanding game, an outstanding fastball, probably his best one of the year,” he added. “When he’s he’s throwing his fastball with confidence, getting outs with it. He had a lot going for him, but that fastball was special.
“That put us in position to win it and then we had great at bats in the 10th,” he said.
After Castillo left, the Reds’ bullpen once again was nearly spotless. Brad Brach pitched a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts, Lucas Sims pitched a 1-2-3 inning.
Heath Hembree struck out the first two in the ninth and had two strikes on Daniel Robertson. But he lobbed a run-scoring single to right and took second when Castellanos fumbled the ball, putting the tying run on second.
Hembree went to 3-and-2 on Luis Urias and walked him, forcing Bell to bring in Amir Garrett to face pinch-hitter Tim Lopes, called up last week from Triple-A Nashville, where he was hitting .193.
Garrett struck him out finish it off.
“That’s three days in a row for our bullpen, guys stepping up wanting to pitch,” said Bell. “We believe in those guys. There were times where there have been some struggles. To their credit, they stayed after it and continued to believe in themselves. As a group, they stayed together, and it has been fun to watch. They deserve every bit of credit they get because they stayed strong and stayed tough.”