Jake Fraley, wearing a Viking helmet and fur cape and holding a baseball bat turned into a Viking weapon of some sort, posed for a photo with Elly De La Cruz, wearing more modern jewelry in the form of gold necklaces, at the end of the Cincinnati Reds dugout in the eighth inning.
Fraley had just hit a go-ahead two-run home run with De La Cruz on base. It proved to be the game-winning hit when Buck Farmer closed the door on a 5-3 victory in the ninth Wednesday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
A 2023 season with a growing list of memorable moments hit another peak. The Reds (40-35) won their 11th straight game, extending their lead over the Milwaukee Brewers (38-36), who lost 5-1 to the Arizona Diamondbacks, to 1½ games.
This is the second-longest winning streak in the modern era for the Reds and the longest since a 12-game winning streak in 1957.
Fraley’s home run against Rockies reliever Daniel Bard followed a one-out double to left field by De La Cruz. It was Fraley’s fourth home run in his last six starts. He leads the Reds with 44 RBIs.
“I had a feeling that he was going to start me off with an off-speed pitch,” Fraley said. “The whole series they weren’t really attacking me with fastballs. I was still sitting fastball. I never come off it. But I kind of switched my external focus to a little bit off center to try and keep me on if he did throw the slider, and he did. Having that approach allows you to stay on that slider if it’s in the proper location, and I pulled it down the right-field line.”
The Reds completed their 26th come-from-behind victory. They lead the National League in that category. They trailed 3-0 through four innings because Andrew Abbott, making his fourth career start, gave up solo home runs in the first, third and fourth.
Abbott did not allow a run in the first 17 2/3 innings of his career. That was a new club record. He was also the first pitcher since 1893 to begin his career with three consecutive scoreless starts of at least five innings.
Rockies leadoff hitter Brenton Doyle ended those streaks with a home run on Abbott’s second pitch. After giving up two more home runs, Abbott retired the last eight batters he faced. He struck out 10 in six innings.
“Just battling for the team really,” Abbott said. “They hit some good pitches. The team’s playing well. We have momentum. It’s my job to go out and give them the best I can and compete for the team.”
The Reds tied the game with a three-run fifth inning. Luke Maile drove in two runs with a single. TJ Friedl followed with a RBI single. The Reds still had runners at first and third with no outs but failed to score again until the eighth.
Lucas Sims, Ian Gibaut and Farmer kept the Rockies off the board in the final three innings.
The Reds will try to match the 1957 team and 1939 teams, which both won 12 games in a row, when they open a series Friday at home against the Atlanta Braves.
The pressure of the winning streak hasn’t gotten to the Reds yet.
“I don’t think there really is a challenge,” Fraley said. “I think it becomes a challenge if the right mindset isn’t in place for us as a team. Because then you start naturally having the pressure that comes with a win streak, the pressure of how long can we keep this up. But that’s not the case with all those guys in there. That’s something that for us has been just very simple. Who are we facing next, and what do we need to do to put ourselves in the best position to win? We’ve done a phenomenal job of that. We’re reaping the rewards.”
No Reds team in the modern era has won more than 12 games in a row. The Reds won 14 games in a row in 1899 and 13 in a row in 1890.
Bell experienced a 15-game winning streak as a player with the Seattle Mariners in 2001 during a 116-win season, but this is a whole different feeling.
“That was a really special team,” Bell said. “I had incredible teammates. And this is a unique group and a really special group. So I don’t think anything compares to the way we’re feeling about this team right now.”
Bell also has a connection to the 1957 Reds. His grandfather, Gus Bell, was the starting center fielder for that team.
“It’s impressive,” Bell said. “It’s kind a reminder this kind of streak isn’t easy. Every single day it’s a huge challenge. It takes everything we have to be able to string it together like that. We really appreciate the opportunity to be able to do this. Mentioning a team like (the 1957 team) is obviously very meaningful to me. I’ve heard so much about those teams, so to even be mentioned and compared to them in a small way, it’s pretty neat.”
Braves at Reds, 6:40 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410