McCoy: Reds’ Gutierrez bounces back from rough start, notches first MLB win

Cincinnati Reds rookie Vladimir Gutierrez was a nervous, jittery and shaky rookie in the first inning Thursday night in Busch Stadium III.

The St. Louis Cardinals had him staggering on the mound — two runs, three hits, a balk and a walk.

But a two-run home run by Jesse Winker in the top of the second gave Gutierrez a one-run lead, just the cushion he needed to lead the Reds to a 4-2 victory.

Gutierrez retired 10 straight, including a five-pitch third inning, before he issued a couple of walks in the fifth, but neither scored.

The big Cuban right-hander left after five innings after giving up two runs, three hits, three walks and he struck out three.

And he was rewarded with his first major league victory as the Reds took the first game of a four-game series.

Of his recovery after the first inning, Gutierrez said, “The first inning was a little long for me because I was taking more time between pitches.

“Right at the start of the second inning I felt more like myself, felt better about myself, got into a better routine,” he added. “The second through the fifth I made my own adjustments as the game went on.”

Manager David Bell was duly impressed by the way Gutierrez didn’t buckle under pressure.

“Really impressive, after that tough first inning,” he said. “To stay with it and show he is not really fazed by a whole lot and just keep pitching was impressive.

“Four scoreless innings where he continued to throw strikes, pound the strike zone. He loves to compete. He had a smile on his face and couldn’t wait to get back out there for the second inning,” said Bell.

The game began as if it might be a 13-12 affair, which would figure. The Reds lost their previous game, 17-3, and the Cardinals lost their previous game, 14-3, giving up 11 runs in the first inning to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Reds scored a run in the first, the Cardinals scored a run in the first and the Reds scored two in the second to take a 3-2 lead.

Winker and Nick Castellanos both singled with one out in the first. The Castellanos single extended his hitting streak to 19 games.

St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright then hit Tyler Stephenson with a pitch to fill the bases and, incredibly, he hit Tyler Naquin with a pitch to force in a run.

After the Cardinals scored two in the bottom of the first to take a 2-1 lead,

Wainwright gave up a leadoff single to Jonathan India in the top of the second.

With two outs, Winker pulled one 425 feet down the right-field line for his 14th home run and a 3-2 lead the Reds protected.

“I wanted to get a pitch up in the zone and put a good swing on the ball and hit it hard,” said Winker, which is exactly what he has done all season with his .348 batting average. “It got up and got out. He (Wainwright) is an outstanding pitcher.”

Winker had three hits and Castellanos had two to lift his league-leading average to .364.

After the early thunder, the pitchers took command. The Cardinals arrived home from Los Angeles at 5:15 a.m., while the Reds were sound asleep in their St. Louis hotel rooms.

And Gutierrez, Tejay Antone and Lucas Sims kept the Cardinals in snooze mode — one hit from the second through the eighth.

The Cardinals, though, threatened in the ninth against Sims. Matt Carpenter led off the inning with a single and Edmundo Sosa beat out a bunt.

With runners on second and first with no outs, Jose Rondon bunted. Catcher Tucker Barnhart pounced on it and threw to third for a force and third baseman Eugenio Suarez fired to first for a double play.

Sims then walked pinch-hitter Paul Goldschmidt to put the potential tying run on base. But it ended when Sims fed Tommy Edman four straight curveballs and Edman went down swinging.

In addition to starting the double play in the ninth, Barnhart ripped a run-scoring double down the right-field line in the eighth during a nine-pitch at bat, pushing the Reds from 3-2 to 4-2.

“That’s the game right there,” Winker said about Barnhart’s pounce on the bunt. The RBI was awesome and came on a beautiful swing. That play at the end, that’s why he is a two-time Gold Glover. That was clearly a game-saving play.”

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