'That last inning was all her': Ashcraft honors grandma with gem

April 26th, 2023

CINCINNATI -- Reds starting pitcher kept his emotions and grief in check just long enough against the Rangers on Wednesday. Once done for the day after six innings, he could let the tears flow.

Ashcraft mourned the passing of his grandmother, Theresa Ann Ashcraft, who died on Monday a month shy of her 83rd birthday in Fort Worth, Texas. He was close to her, and he felt her presence on the mound in the game.

“She was such a great lady. She never missed a game," Ashcraft said while crying after the Reds' 5-3 win over Texas. "Even when I wasn’t pitching, she was keeping stats of all the other guys playing. Just to know I made her happy today … "

While throwing first-pitch strikes to only 12 of his 26 batters, Ashcraft had to battle throughout the day. He pitched six innings and allowed two earned runs, three hits and four walks while striking out three in a no-decision.

"The last couple of days, he's been really sad," catcher Curt Casali said. "I told him before the game, 'Let's go out and do a good job for her. Let it come as it may and see what we've got.'"

After a 1-2-3 top of the first inning on 12 pitches, trouble came in the second with the game still scoreless. Ashcraft gave up a single, hit a batter and walked a batter to load the bases.

Robbie Grossman popped out to second base, and Ashcraft struck out Brad Miller with three sliders. Josh H. Smith hit a chopper towards first base, where Spencer Steer had to make a tough play.

Ashcraft covered first base in time for the third out, pumped his fist and heaved the ball into the second deck at Great American Ball Park.

“I was just jacked up," Ashcraft said. "Steer made a great play. As I was running to the bag, I was yelling, ‘Flip!’ so he knew I was looking at him. He tossed it to me. It looked like I was searching for the bag, but I knew I was right there. It’s just a big situation."

Texas scored two runs in the fifth inning to make it a 2-2 game. Ashcraft was at 90 pitches but wanted another inning from manager David Bell.

"He just asked me, ‘Are you good?’ I was like, ‘I’m not coming out,’" Ashcraft said.

Bell gave him the inning.

"At that point words didn’t need to be said. I knew where he was," Bell said. "He went back out and gave a great inning."

With just 10 pitches, Ashcraft retired the side in order.

“That last inning was all her," Ashcraft said. “I knew she would want me to go back out.”

Once finished, Ashcraft was visibly crying and embracing teammates in the Reds' dugout.

"I would say he’s one of my best buddies on the team," said third baseman Nick Senzel, who hit the game-winning home run in the ninth inning. "To see him give it all he has in a situation like that, it’s pretty empowering to see him go through that and just give us another chance to win like he always does."

Ashcraft appreciated his team's support.

“It means a lot to see the amount of love that comes from this clubhouse, especially in such a short period of time," he said. "It means a lot to know that they’ve got my back in a hard time like this.”