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Suarez's clutch jack in 9th caps Reds' comeback

@m_sheldon
May 24, 2019

CHICAGO -- As Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez watched the ball leave his bat in the top of the ninth inning and clear the fence in left-center field, giving his team a big 6-5 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday, Jesse Winker was on-deck watching Suarez and

CHICAGO -- As Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez watched the ball leave his bat in the top of the ninth inning and clear the fence in left-center field, giving his team a big 6-5 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday, Jesse Winker was on-deck watching Suarez and enjoying every moment.

“It was probably the coolest swing of the year, so far. It was awesome. I’m so happy,” Winker said. “He carries our offense. He’s our best hitter. I get to watch him from the on-deck circle. I feel like I have the best seat in the house when he’s up. I’m really happy for him. He’s the best.”

Box score

A two-out pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning by Willson Contreras put Cincinnati down, 5-4. The Reds and starter Anthony DeSclafani initially trailed, 4-0, in the fourth inning, but they responded with four runs -- including a homer and three RBIs from Yasiel Puig and Winker’s game-tying RBI double -- over the next four innings until Chicago answered back. Then the Reds did likewise.

In the top of the ninth, Cubs closer Steve Cishek walked first batter Joey Votto. Next was Suarez, who slugged his two-run homer on a first-pitch sinker. Once the ball was in the seats, he screamed excitedly toward the Reds’ dugout and thumped his chest as he jogged to first base.

“I’ve got to enjoy that one,” said Suarez, who leads the club with 14 homers this season after he hit 34 during an All-Star 2018 season. “Everybody knows that Cishek is a really tough pitcher with that move and sidearm. He’s got a really good sinker. That time, he missed that ball right there in my strike zone. I’m always ready to hit a fastball. I hit that one and to get the ‘W’ for us was really nice.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon noted Cishek wasn’t well-rested.

“He probably didn't have a full tank, probably three-quarters maybe,” Maddon said. “So, the stuff wasn't as clean or crisp. And Suarez is just a pain in the butt, man.”

According to Statcast, Suarez's homer left the bat at 104.9 mph and traveled a projected 445 feet. It was the third career go-ahead homer in the ninth inning or later for Suarez and his first with his team trailing at the time.

It was the second time in 10 days that Suarez delivered a big homer against a beleaguered Cubs bullpen. On May 15 in the eighth inning, he hit a game-tying two-run homer against Carl Edwards Jr. before the Reds won the game in 10 innings.

“I love those moments,” Suarez said. “We always battle to be better every time. For me personally, to hit those big homers like that to give the lead to our team, it’s awesome. It’s nice.”

Said manager David Bell: “That’s really the key -- anticipating and wanting to be up in that situation or wanting the ball hit to you. It’s fun seeing him come through like that. That’s what it’s all about.”

The Reds have fallen in one-run games 13 times this season, but Friday marked their eighth one-run win and it was maybe the biggest of 2019. Although they are at the bottom of the National League Central with a 23-27 record, the Reds trail the first-place Cubs by 6 1/2 games and have won three of the four contests played between the two teams.

“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Bell said. “A lot of things had to go right. Guys came through all day long. It’s right up there in the top couple for sure.”

Among the things that went right leading up to Suarez’s big homer were:

• After DeSclafani lasted only 3 2/3 innings and left with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth, lefty reliever Wandy Peralta got a ground ball to third base from Kyle Schwarber to end the inning.

“That was the game right there,” Bell said.

• In the sixth inning, Puig clobbered a 2-0 pitch from Hendricks for a two-run homer to left-center field. According to Statcast, the drive had a 107.5 mph exit velocity and traveled a projected 431 feet, pulling Cincinnati within a run.

• A two-out rally in the seventh culminated with Winker hitting an RBI double to right-center field that scored Votto to make it a 4-4 game. Votto reached base three times and scored two runs.

“We hit well, we pitched well. It’s a tough team, a tough place to play,” Winker said. “That’s a big win for us."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.