The Cincinnati Reds scored an incredible, incomprehensible, incredulous last-ditch effort victory over the New York Yankees on Tuesday night in Yankee Stadium.
After eight innings, the Reds were all but dead and buried on a dormant offensive night against Yankee ace Gerrit Cole.
They scored four runs in the top of the ninth for a 4-3 victory. And they were down to their last strike, trailing by 3-2, when Jonathan India blooped a two-out, two-strike, two-run single to center field
How tough was it to do that?
The Yankees were 49-0 this season when leading after eight innings. And the Reds had to face New York closer Clay Holmes, who was 4-0 with a 0.45 earned run average and 14 saves.
Incredibly, he faced five Reds and didn’t retire anybody. Tommy Pham walked. Joey Votto singled. Tyler Stephenson was hit by a pitch to fill the bases.
Tyler Naquin sneaked a ground-ball single to left field for a run and it was 3-1. Holmes hit Kyle Farmer with a pitch, forcing in a run and it was 3-2.
That forced Yankee manager Aaron Boone to remove Holmes for the first time this season. Former Reds pitcher Wandy Peralta was brought in with bases loaded, no outs.
Pinch-hitter Donovan Solano grounded to the mound for a force out at home. Nick Senzel grounded to third for another force at home.
Peralta slipped two quick strikes past India and he fouled two pitches before delivering the big hit for the 4-3 lead.
It wasn’t over. There was the bottom of the ninth to cover. Alexis Diaz took the mound and his first assignment was Aaron Judge, MLB’s home run leader with 30.
Judge was given the night off but was sent up as a pinch-hitter. Diaz struck him out. Diaz walked D.J. LeMahieu.
Gleyber Torres grounded up the middle to second baseman India. His toss to second forced LeMahieu. Farmer made a quick spin move to throw to first.
Torres was called safe, the Reds challenged, the call was overturned. Out. Reds win.
And for the first time this season the Reds own a five-game winning streak while the Yankees have lost three straight for only the second time this season.
Before Reds rookie starter Graham Ashcraft could shake the Gotham jitters, the Yankees had two runs and nobody out.
And the way Cole proceeded to pitch, those two runs seemed to be more than enough.
Cole’s career record against the Reds was 1-and-8, but most of those losses came when Cole wore a ‘P’ for Pittsburgh on his cap instead of his current ‘NY,’ where he is 8-2 with a 3.15 earned run average.
The Yankees seldom lose at home. They haf won 19 of their last 21 at home and for the season they were 34-9 on baseball’s hallowed grounds.
Yankee manager Boone gave the Reds a break by resting Judge until his pinch-hit strikeout in the ninth. The Yankees lead baseball with 146 home runs. They did not hit one Tuesday, never came close.
The Reds put their leadoff batter on base three times against Cole, twice with doubles, but they couldn’t find home plate.
Mike Moustakas led the third off with a double and two outs later Brandon Drury dumped a single into short left, sending Moustakas to third. Pham struck out.
India led the sixth off with a double and Drury flied to center. India stole third, but Pham struck out for the third time (a dubious called strike) and Votto fouled out.
Stephenson led the seventh off with a single and Cole promptly struck out the side — Naquin, Farmer (a dubious called strike on a full count) and Moustakas struck out.
The Moustakas strikeout was Cole’s 11th and he left after seven — no runs, four hits, one walk, 11 strikeouts.
The Yankees opened the bottom of the first with a single by LeMahieu, a double by Torres and a two-run single by Anthony Rizzo.
The Yankees were gifted a third run in the fourth, back-to-back to walks by Ashcraft to open the inning. Josh Donaldson lifted a routine fly ball to center, but just as he was about to make the catch, Senzel lost his footing and fell to the turf and a run scored.
Ashcraft left after five because he used up 106 pitches while holding the Bronx Bombers to three runs, seven hits, three walks and three strikeouts.
The suddenly strong bullpen held the Yankees scoreless the last three innings, a feat performed by Jeff Hoffman (one hit), Ian Gibaut (one hit) and Reiver Sanmartin (one walk).
And that set it up for a Reds’ finish that would be laughable if it was a movie. But this was for real.