The Cincinnati Reds, purely by accident, have found themselves not a diamond in the rough, but a polished gem.
Only because Jeff Hoffman was injured and placed on the injured list was Vladmir Gutierrez called up from Class AAA Louisville.
And on Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park, the 25-year-old right hander pitched his third straight eye-popping game.
This one may have been the best.
He pitched seven innings and held the first-place Milwaukee Brewers to two runs and six hits to earn a 7-3 victory.
Gutierrez is 2-1 and his loss was a 1-0 decision in his debut against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field.
“All my pitches were working really well today,” he said. “I was losing a little bit of my confidence on the fastball at the start, but I was able to mix in the rest of my pitches.”
Milwaukee had won 10 of its last 11 and five straight, but the Reds stopped that with their fifth win in six games.
Rookie Gutierrez received the most offensive help from rookie battery mate, catcher Tyler Stephenson. Batting clean-up, Stephenson drove in three runs.
The Reds supported Gutierrez with five runs in the first two innings with some good fortune and some timely hits.
The Brewers took a 1-0 lead in the first when Gutierrez hit Luis Urias with the first pitch of the game and he came around to score when Gutierrez balked him home.
When the inning ended, a frustrated Gutierrez flung his glove hard into the dugout. Teammate Nick Castellanos grabbed him by the arm.
“Look, man, I want you to throw the best that you can,” said Castellanos. “I want you to go seven innings.”
Guiterrez said, “All right, all right.”
But an insistent Castellanos said, “No, no, no, no. I want you to tell me that you are going to throw seven innings.”
So Gutierrez said, “Yeah, I’m going to throw seven innings.” And that’s what he did and after the seventh Castellanos said, “See what I told you? Seven innings. You sure you don’t want to throw another one?”
With 102 pitches, though, Gutierrez said he had enough.
“He gave me the confidence right there to get me through the game,” said Gutierrez.
That balked in run was the last time Gutierrez bobbled in any way.
“He was fun to watch and came up big for us,” said manager David Bell. “He helped us win the game and helped out our bullpen, gave them some rest.
“He was pitching like a mature pitcher and he is so much fun to watch compete,” said Bell. “He is in the moment and not fazed at what comes at him. We’ve seen him pitch into situations, then pitch out of it. It says a lot about a young pitcher.”
Cincinnati scored two in the bottom of the first after the Brewers misplayed two straight plays at first base. Stephenson doubled home the tying run and the go-ahead run scored on Joey Votto’s infield out.
In that first inning, while No. 3 Castellanos batted, Votto, thinking he was batting fourth was in the on-deck circle when Stephenson should have been there.
The confused Stephenson didn’t know what to do and said to Bell, “Aren’t I batting fourth?” Bell said yes and Stephenson finally yelled to Votto, “Joey, I’m batting fourth.” Said Stephenson, “He laughed and said, ‘Oh, yeah,’ and I’m sure he was embarrassed because he’d never done that before.”
Stephenson took his rightful place in the on deck circle, then lined the double to right to tie the game.
Milwaukee starter Brett Anderson issued a four-pitch walk to Scott Heineman to begin the second and it led to three runs and a 5-1 lead. After missing two bunt attempts, Gutierrez beat an infield hit to shortstop.
Jonathan India pulled one toward third baseman Travis Shaw. He dove toward the bag and the ball deflected off his glove and Heineman scored. Shaw stayed down and left the game with a dislocated shoulder.
With two outs and a 3-and-2 count, Castellanos pulled a two-run double into the left field corner for a 5-1 lead.
The Reds added two more runs on one hit. Relief pitcher Eric Lauer walked when he had two outs and nobody on. Stephenson pulled a two-run double to left, pushing the Reds’ advantage to 7-1.