On a night in which he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart found a way to impact the game with two standout defensive plays Monday at Great American Ball Park.
The 2017 Gold Glove winner threw out Francisco Lindor stealing second in the sixth inning, doing so after fielding a pitch in the dirt.
Then in the eighth inning, the Cleveland Indians had runners at first and second with one out when Barnhart blocked a pitch in the dirt. The ball bounced and hit Barnhart in the shoulder. He jumped from behind the plate, grabbed the ball fast and threw out Cesar Hernandez, who tried to steal second, as Greg Allen moved from second to third.
“That’s two huge plays,” Reds starter Sonny Gray said. “Massive plays. Those are winning plays. They were two turning points in the game for sure.”
The Reds beat the Indians 3-2 to improve to 5-5. It’s the first time they’ve been .500 or better through 10 games since 2017 when they were 7-3. They followed a 1-4 start with four victories in five games.
Barnhart missed the first five games of the 60-game season because he was on paternity leave. He has started four games since returning to the roster and is hitting .333. He made his name earlier in his career on the defensive side with that Gold Glove award and showed again Monday why he’s so valuable in that area.
On the bouncing ball in the eighth, Barnhart said his only goal at first was to keep the ball in front of him. He said 99 times out of a 100 he’d be happy doing just that and not worrying about the runners.
“It all happened so fast,” Barnhart said. “I had no chance with Allen at third, and the runner at first broke a little late. I could see (shortstop) Freddy (Galvis) motion for the ball and took a chance. As long as I’m accurate, I like my chances that the guy at third won’t score. It’s a big play. A guy at third with less than two outs is rough.”
Instead, the Indians had Allen at third with two outs. Nate Jones then got out of the inning but striking out Lindor.
Reds manager David Bell said the two throws by Barnhart changed the complexion of the game. The plays meant more because Barnhart let a wild pitch by Gray get by him in the second, allowing Oscar Mercado to score from third with two outs and giving the Indians a 2-0 lead.
“He might be the best we’ve ever seen at blocking balls,” Bell said. “He’s human, and that happens. What’s most impressive is how he responded. That’s why he’s here. To then lock in and have two opportunities to make a difference in the game, it’s pretty special for a catcher to be able to do that.”
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