Suarez hits 46th, 47th HRs, chasing MLB crown

September 16th, 2019

PHOENIX -- During Spring Training in 2018, the Reds signed third baseman to a seven-year, $66 million contract extension with the hope he would be a cornerstone player for years to come. That deal already seems like a shrewd bargain. It only took until the contract’s second year for Suarez to have one of the best offensive seasons in the franchise’s long history.

With two home runs during the Reds’ 3-1 victory over the D-backs on Sunday, Suarez now has 47 homers this season, tied for the Major League lead with the Mets' Pete Alonso. But that wasn’t the feat Suarez cared as much about.

Suarez now shares the top spot for most homers in a season by a Venezuelan player with Andres Galarraga, who hit 47 for the Rockies in 1996.

“It’s a big-time feeling," Suarez said. "It feels great to tie the ‘Big Cat’ in homers for Venezuelan players. It’s amazing. I just feel amazing."

Teammates in the visiting dugout at Chase Field could be seen enjoying the moment, namely fellow Venezuelans Freddy Galvis and Jose Peraza.

“When you watched Galarraga hitting the ball, I never thought [I could] do it. And I did it today,” Suarez said. “That’s why it’s special, more than you think. For Venezuelan players, it’s a lot. For me and my family, my wife and everybody, I think they are so proud of me and just enjoy that.”

Meanwhile, some other all-time records are in peril. Suarez is one homer away from tying the single-season record for home runs hit by a National League third baseman, held by Mike Schmidt (1980 with the Phillies) and Adrian Beltre (2004 with the Dodgers).

Another key number in reach for Suarez: 52 homers. That’s Cincinnati’s 42-year-old franchise record set in 1977 by George Foster. It’s also the Major League record for homers as a third baseman in a season, set by Alex Rodriguez with the Yankees in 2007.

As the 70-80 Reds sit in fourth place in the NL Central and on the verge of postseason elimination, all of Suarez’s accomplishments seem to be flying under the national radar

“I don’t think he’s going to anymore,” said D-backs catcher Alex Avila, a former teammate of Suarez’s while with the Tigers. “He’s had some really great seasons the past few years. I remember when he was a rookie in Detroit. You always knew he could hit.”

The Reds were hitless through three innings against D-backs right-hander Zac Gallen, but that ended when Josh VanMeter led off the fourth by hitting a 0-1 pitch for a home run to right field. That brought up Suarez, who made it back-to-back homers when he hit a 3-0 fastball to straightaway center to give Cincinnati a 2-1 lead.

In the sixth, Suarez attacked a 3-2 Gallen fastball and launched it to the deepest part of the ballpark in center field.

“He’s not talked about nearly enough for the season he’s putting up and the season he put up last year, too,” Reds starter Trevor Bauer said. “The guy is one of the elite hitters in the game. He’s on fire right now. I’m hoping he gets one more.”

The homers were enough to work with for Bauer, who had his best start since joining the Reds on July 31. The right-hander went eight innings, matching the longest outing by a Cincinnati starter this season, and allowed one run on four hits and one walk with nine strikeouts. Raisel Iglesias pitched a perfect ninth for his 31st save.

Suarez, 28, is batting .271/.350/.580 and just reached 100 RBIs for the second consecutive year, the first Reds hitter to do that since Joey Votto in 2010-11. The last Cincinnati player to finish with 47 homers in a season was Ted Kluszewski in 1955. Kluszewski hit 49 homers in '54, second most in franchise history.

Last season, when Suarez set career highs in homers (34) and RBIs (104), he faded down the stretch, hitting .226 with four homers in his last 28 games.

“Now, I’ve got more experience,” Suarez said. “I know how they try to strike me out or get me out. Just be aware every time, you know? Work hard every day, be focused, don’t lose my [concentration] and stay strong at home plate and the field to help the team win.”

In Suarez's last 20 games, he is batting .370 with 13 homers and 22 RBIs.

“He sees himself as somebody on this team that he’s a big part of our success, and he’s responding to it in a lot of ways -- not just by hitting home runs,” Reds manager David Bell said. “At the point he’s at in his career and age, to be getting to that point, that’s what you need to have to be a winning team. It’s nice to see him finishing like that.”