Grilli shakes off rust, but allows walk-off hit
Braves closer was unavailable for last three games due to sore back
CINCINNATI -- Recognizing that the Reds' bullpen was seemingly thin during that latter stages of Tuesday night's game at Great American Ball Park, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez felt the time was right for him to buck tradition by utilizing his closer in a tied game on the road.
Unfortunately for Gonzalez, his decision backfired when Jason Grilli allowed the Reds to claim a 4-3 walk-off win courtesy of the consecutive one-out hits produced by Brayan Pena and Devin Mesoraco.
"I thought it was a perfect time to do it," Gonzalez said. "I'm assuming they didn't pitch [left-handed reliever Tony] Cingrani earlier in the game because he wasn't available. [Closer] Aroldis Chapman was out of the game. We were going to face the bottom of their lineup with Grilli. It was going to be our bullpen against their bullpen for the 10th [inning]. Not every situation does it make sense, but I thought this one was a good one."
Influencing Gonzalez's decision was the fact that he wanted to get Grilli back on the mound. The veteran closer had been unavailable over the previous three days because of a sore back.
"I felt great, a little rusty maybe," Grilli said. "But otherwise, I felt fine."
Pitching for the first time in six days, Grilli opened his outing by striking out Kristopher Negron. Pena, who has nine hits in his past 15 at-bats, followed with a single and was replaced by pinch-runner Michael Lorenzen. Mesoraco then jumped on the first-pitch fastball that he anticipated and saw Lorenzen score in uncontested fashion after strong-armed Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons dropped Jonny Gomes' relay throw from left field.
Gomes and Gonzalez were among the Braves who felt Lorenzen would have been out had Simmons not bobbled the ball. But replays indicated that an out might not have been guaranteed, even with a perfect throw.
"I thought he would be out by a mile," Gomes said. "I was surprised he actually sent him."
While being scored upon during three of his past four appearances, Grilli has allowed five earned runs and eight hits over 3 1/3 innings. Still, with his back no longer providing him problems, he said he is ready to resume his role as the club's closer.
"I'm back in the saddle," Grilli said.