Something had to break one way or the other on Labor Day in Great American Ball Park for the Cincinnati Reds.
The Seattle Mariners are an ogre for the Reds — they had won 15 of 18 games they had played against the Reds, including eight of nine in GABP.
But those were against previous Reds’ teams. The 2023 Reds were 11-1 this season against the American League West.
And it was the Mariners who broke, and in fact, the Reds broke them in half, 6-3.
The Mariners arrived as the AL West’s first-place team, a team that was 10 1/2 game out of first place after 10-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins in early July. They went 30-11 after that to grab first place.
With no starting pitchers available, it was a Bullpen Day for the Reds and TeJay Antone led the parade from the bullpen.
He was making only his second appearance in more than two years after two Tommy John surgeries, during which he considered finding another vocation.
He solidified that pitching is his calling with two perfect innings with three strikeouts.
And when he left after two innings, the Reds led, 5-0, due to some wild and hairy pitching by Seattle starter Bryan Woo.
In the first two innings, he hit three batters, two in the first inning. He hit TJ Friedl and he came around to score on a single by De La Cruz.
With two outs, he hit Nick Martini to extend the inning long enough for Hunter Renfroe’s run-scoring single, his first hit in a Reds uniform after going 0 for 9.
The Reds scored three in the second when Woo started the inning by hitting Noelvi Marte. Woo walked Jake Fraley and with two outs rookie Spencer Steer crashed a three-run home run over the center field wall for a 5-0 lead.
Then it was hold on tight for the Reds.
Steer’s home run was his 20th. He leads the Reds in homers, hits, doubles, RBI and walks. But his name never pops up in discussions about Rookie of the Year.
“That’s a pretty cool individual accomplishment there,” Steer said about his 20th home run to Bally Sports Ohio after the game. “I was just happy to just get us a good lead. That’s a good team over there. To jump on them early like that was great.”
Daniel Duarte gave up a home run to Julio Rodriguez in the fourth and it was 5-1.
Michael Mariot, 34, owns a suitcase with more stickers on it than a traveling salesman for all the baseball stops he has made. He made his debut with the Reds on this day, the 38th different pitcher to toe the rubber for the Reds.
And Mariot served up a room service home run to Michael Ford in the fifth and it was 5-2.
Then came the real drama.
The Mariners put runners on third and second with two outs in the sixth. That brought up former Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who spent batting practice applying bear hugs to his former Cincinnati teammates.
“I feel like Cincinnati is my home, i built my career here,” Suarez said during a pre-game media interview. “I’m sure the fans will do something special for me to touch my heart.”
Mariot showed no hospitality and the crowd of 20,994 roared when Suarez, the potential tying run, took a called third strike, his MLB-leading 181st strikeout.
Mariot encountered difficulty again in the seventh after getting the first two outs. He gave up a walk and a single.
Lucas Sims replaced him and he hit J.P. Crawford with a pitch, the fourth batter of the game to get hit by a pitch, to fill the bases.
That brought up Seattle’s best hitter, Rodriguez, and Sims struck him out to preserve the 5-2 lead.
The Reds tacked on an extra run in the seventh on a Renfroe single and a double by Tyler Stephenson.
Buck Farmer gave up two hits in 1 2/3 innings but yielded to Ian Gibaut with two outs and two on in the ninth.
Gibaut gave up a run-scoring single to Crawford to cut it to 6-3 and bring up Rodriguez, another chance for him to tie the game.
And Rodriguez took a 2-and-2 pitch at the kneecaps for a called strike three to end it.
“Our pitching has been beat up with Covid (Hunter Greene, Ben Lively, Brandon Williamson, Fernando Cruz) and injuries, so we’ve had a lot of guys step up for us,” said Steer.
“Everyone coming in has done the job. They look the part, they’ve attacked the hitters, haven’t been afraid to go after those guys.”
Rookie Connor Phillips makes his major league debut for the Reds on Tuesday night, the eighth rookie to start a game this season for the Reds and the 39th different pitcher.
Mariners at Reds, 6:40 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410