The Cincinnati Reds returned home from a 2-and-4 west coast trip angry and aggressive.
And the Cleveland Indians felt the brunt and were badly bruised Friday night in Great American Ball Park, 10-3.
A third inning during which it looked as if the Reds were hitting against a batting practice machine dialed in at 75 mph produced seven runs.
The first seven batters reached base and scored, punctuated by Joey Votto’s third home run in four games.
The Tribe struck first, a second inning home run by Amed Rosario against Reds starter Jeff Hoffman for a 1-0 lead.
And it was the Indians who looked as if they might break it open in the top of third when Hoffman loaded the bases with a single and a couple of walks. But he escaped with no damage.
That’s when the Reds went bonkers in their third, an inning that began with a whimper. Kyle Farmer started it when third baseman Jose Ramirez bobbled his hard-hit grounder and Farmer hustled to beat the throw. Then Tyler Stephenson was hit by a pitch.
A wild pitch moved each runner up a base and pitcher Hoffman blooped a run-scoring single to left to tie it, 1-1.
Jesse Winker popped a run-scoring single and it was 2-1. Nick Castellanos singled and it was 3-1. Eugenio Suarez doubled in two runs and it was 5-1. Votto crushed his home run into the left-center seats and it was 7-1.
So the worksheet read: three singles, a double and a home run.
Crooked numbers, large crooked numbers, have been he modus operandi for the Reds at home, where they’ve now won seven straight.
“Clearly, we were dissatisfied with our road trip,” said Votto, who nearly homered again in the sixth but settled for a double. “We think often about being a dangerous team everywhere. Of course we want to our games at home, but we have our eyes on bigger and better things.”
Votto, with his new stand-up approach at the plate with his hands on the bottom of bat, began the season hitting the ball hard, with no results. Befoe his three-homer barrage in the last four games, he said he had to get the ball in the air more.
“I’ve hit the ball well most of the year,” he said. “As I mentioned a few days ago, I do have to put the ball in the air more. Hitting the ball hard is nice, but putting the ball in the air is better.”
And the big inning was started by Hoffman’s run-scoring single, followed by four more straight hits.
“That was huge, yeah, that was huge,” said Hoffman. “After I got my hit, there were still no outs in the inning. We were smelling blood and we got guys who smell blood, they go and get it.
“That was a huge inning for us to give me that cushion,” he added. “All I had to do was attack the zone from then on out, force contact, and get out of here with a win.”
Hoffman put two more runners on in the fourth with one out and wiggled free again. He survived six innings and scattered seven hits, with only the home run sullying his record. Hoffman left after throwing 91 pitches.
It was the first time since 2017 that Hoffman pitched six innings and that last one was a loss when he pitched for the Colorado Rockies.
The Reds added two in the fifth on a two-out full-count bases loaded single by Tyler Stephenson and tacked on a 10th run in the sixth on Nick Castellanos’ fifth home run.
Relief pitcher Cam Bedrosian gave up two runs in the ninth inning.
Mike Moustakas was scratched before the game with an illness unrelated to COVID-19. So Bell juggled the batting order, moving Suarez from fourth to third and dropping Votto from third to fourth.
Max Schrock was lifted from the alternate training site to replace Artistides Aquino, who underwent surgery to remove the hook from his left hamate bone and will miss five to six weeks. Schrock entered the game in the seventh inning and singled in his first at bat wearing a Reds uniform.
Moustakas will return to the lineup Saturday afternoon when Sonny Gray makes his first start, hoping to get the run support Hoffman got.
“We have a good lineup,” said Votto. “When I’m sitting in the dugout watching the other guys, I feel confident. I think we all do. We might be a talented lineup and I don’t think I can say much more than that. If we are going to string together the offense, it is just talented guys handed the bat off to the next guy. It’s fun being a part of this. I’m not sure I’ve a part of a lineup like this.”