The Reds haven’t done it enough to make it a track record, but it’s becoming a trend.
On Wednesday, they spent five innings being stymied by Detroit right-hander Michael Fulmer before erupting for three runs in the sixth on the way to a 5-3 win.
Against National League Central Division co-leading Chicago on Thursday, right-hander Kyle Hendricks turned in five shutout innings before Cincinnati exploded for six sixth-inning runs – four on Jesse Winker’s first career grand slam, off left-hander Randy Rosario – on the way to a 6-2 win in the first game of a four-game series.
Winker, wearing a pair of white batting gloves given to him by Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez, took a slider for a ball before hitting a fastball 417 feet to right-center field for the Reds sixth grand slam of 2018, tying Boston for the major league lead and delighting part of the crowd of 19,581 that was heavily infiltrated with Cubs’ fans.
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“Guys put together great at bats in front of me,” Winker said. “Obviously, you can’t hit a grand slam unless guys get on base. I just wanted to put a good swing on a hittable pitch. I was trying to hit a fastball. The first pitch was a slider. I tried to lay off that. I wanted to be quick to the fastball and put a short swing on it.”
The Reds sent 11 batters to the plate while matching their season high for runs in an inning on the way to their fourth straight win and seventh in their last nine games.
“There were so many good at bats going into it,” interim manager Jim Riggleman pointed out. “We drew some walks. Billy (Hamilton) got a walk. (Eugenio) Suarez was 0-2 and got a walk. That was huge.”
They did all of their scoring in the inning with two outs. The left-handed Winker’s fourth homer of the season was his second this season off a left-hander to give Cincinnati a lead. He hit a 13th-inning walkoff against Colorado’s Chris Rusin for a 7-5 win on June 7.
“It’s becoming more and more evident around the league that the sixth inning is a heck of a time,” Riggleman said. “It’s getting tougher and tougher to get through. Pitchers become more vulnerable.”
Matt Harvey picked up his second win in his eighth start since being acquired by the Reds for catcher Devin Mesoraco from the Mets on May 8. Harvey allowed two runs in six innings, lowering his earned-run average with Cincinnati from 5.09 to 4.79.
“He was really good,” Riggleman said. “Their only runs were on a hit batter that we were close to challenging and a great play by Suarez that (first baseman Joey) Votto had to come off the bag to catch the ball. If he stays on the bag, he doesn’t catch the ball. Other than that, Matt shut them down. He’s getting better and better.”
The Cubs loaded the bases against Michael Lorenzen with two outs in the seventh, but left-hander Amir Garrett came in and struck out left-handed-hitting Anthony Rizzo looking with a 97-mile-per-hour fastball that looked as if it went over the plate below the television strike zone box.
Garrett, whose roar after striking out Javier Baez in a crucial seventh-inning situation on May 19 sparked a bench-clearing incident, yelled something while walking off the mound and slapped his red glove several times on the way to the dugout, but Rizzo remained crouched in disappointment at the plate.
Jared Hughes struck out pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr. with runners on first and second to end the eighth and pitched a perfect ninth against the top of the Cubs’ lineup for his fifth save in six opportunities and third multi-inning save of the season.
Suarez led off the second with a single to center field, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games.
Jose Peraza, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the first inning that extended his streak of getting on base at least once in a game to 21, singled to left with two outs in the third, but he was stranded at second after a stolen base when Tucker Barnhart struck out. Peraza originally was called out on the steal, but a 2-minute, 27-second video replay led to a reversal.
The Cubs put at least one runner on base against Harvey in all but two of his six innings, but they could cash in just once. Harvey hit Kris Bryant with a pitch with one out in the third inning. Jason Heyward followed with a single to Suarez to third and Baez drove in both runners with a double into the right field corner.
The Cubs got runners to first and second with one out in the fifth, but Harvey coaxed Baez into an infield fly-rule popup to second baseman Scooter Gennett and Anthony Rizzo into an inning-ending groundout to Gennett, who was stationed in short right field.