MILWAUKEE -- Elly De La Cruz astonished everyone but himself as he ensured that the Reds will be in first place at the All-Star break.
The Reds’ sensational rookie singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh and then stole second, third and home in the span of three pitches to fuel an 8-5 victory over the Brewers on Saturday. Cincinnati erased deficits of 1-0, 4-1, and 5-4 for its Major League-best 33rd come-from-behind win.
The win evened the series at a game apiece and moved Cincinnati two games ahead of Milwaukee in the division heading into the final game of the first half.
De La Cruz drove in TJ Friedl to tie the game with two outs, then broke for second on Elvis Peguero’s 1-0 offering to Jake Fraley and was safe on the throw from William Contreras. After stealing third on a 1-2 pitch, De La Cruz broke for home before Peguero could get set. The sequence gave him 16 steals on the season in just 29 career games since he was called up June 6.
“When I saw him walk back to the mound, he was kind of at a slow pace, and then he didn't look back over to third, so I decided there I was going to go,” De La Cruz said through interpreter Jorge Merlos.
Reds third-base coach J.R. House was as surprised as anyone at De La Cruz’s theft of home.
“Everybody is giving me credit for sending him, and I had nothing to do with it. Zero,” House said. “So he steals second and third. ... I was going to give him a high five, he stole third base, like, ‘Nice job,’ and he wanted no part of it.
“I didn’t really understand what was going on, and he just kind of kept creeping towards home plate and eyeballing the third baseman, and catcher, pitcher and then gone. Just really impressive. When he slid into the third, the play wasn’t over for him. He knew it, he was watching it, he was seeking it, he was hunting it, and I got to watch it. It was great.”
De La Cruz is the second player in the expansion era (since 1961) to steal three bases in a single plate appearance, joining Hall of Famer Rod Carew, who did it on May 18, 1969, for the Twins with Harmon Killebrew batting, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
“I think the speed is obvious,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Elite speed like we maybe have never seen, but just how heads-up it was. We actually saw in the dugout, he rounded third on a stolen base. You don’t ever really see that, so we knew something was about to happen, but we weren’t sure. The start of it was getting a big two-out hit, we should probably start with that. That was a big difference-maker in the game, and from there, it was almost like he was on a mission to score. Just incredible.”
De La Cruz’s speed also contributed to a three-run fourth in which the Reds tied the game at 4. The rookie beat out a single to short and continued to second when Willy Adames' hurried throw sailed wide of first. De La Cruz advanced on a balk, and Fraley walked. Joey Votto then jumped on Colin Rea’s first offering for his seventh homer. Half of Votto's 14 hits since coming off the injured list on June 19 have been home runs.
Votto’s homer came an inning after Will Benson’s third-inning blast extended the Reds' stretch of consecutive games with a home run to 22, surpassing the 1956 team for the longest streak in club history.
Milwaukee regained the lead in the bottom half of the fourth when Brian Anderson singled, and Brice Turang followed with a triple to the gap in right-center.
The Reds tied it again in the fifth when Matt McLain singled to open the inning and stole second. Fraley greeted reliever Bryse Wilson with a two-out RBI double.
After Luke Weaver allowed five runs in 3 2/3 innings, the Reds’ bullpen combined for 5 1/3 scoreless frames. Lucas Sims got Christian Yelich out on an inning-ending groundout with the bases loaded in the sixth, the Brewers’ best threat the rest of the way.
“Their bullpen had a great game,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Got a big out with Yelich and the bases loaded with [Sims]. So really, the story of the game was their bullpen shut us down. We couldn’t score on their bullpen.”