The Reds needed a victory on Monday at Dodger Stadium, desperately. Their hottest hitter delivered one.
After beleaguered Reds reliever Amir Garrett blew a two-run lead in the seventh inning, Jesse Winker picked him up in the top of the 10th with a leadoff home run to left field -- a two-run drive under the extra-inning rules -- for a 5-3 win over the Dodgers. Cincinnati’s season-high seven-game losing streak ended against the team that entered the day with baseball’s best record.
“What a game,” Reds manager David Bell said. “You just got to keep going, do everything you can to win the game. When it turns out that you get a win and you’re rewarded, so many great performances tonight, so many great things that happened. And a lot of little things, so just a great team win.”
Enjoying an 11-game hitting streak, Winker lifted an 0-1 two-seam fastball that rode up from Kenley Jansen for the game-winner. The left fielder has four homers during his hitting streak, including one in each of the last two games.
“We just got to keep fighting, keep going, and I was just happy to help get a win,” Winker said. “That was a good game right there. It was a dogfight. I was just happy that ball got up and got out. Any time you can help a team win, that’s what this is about.”
Winker now leads the National League with a .382 batting average.
“He believes in himself. He knows how to hit,” Bell said. “He’s not afraid of any situation. He wants to be at the plate at any time, especially when the game is on the line. It goes a long way when you believe in yourself, and you’re going up against the best. He came through.”
Earlier in the evening, Tyler Mahle pitched five solid innings and departed with a 3-1 lead.
Replacing Mahle, Lucas Sims was brilliant as he struck out the first four batters he faced. After a one-out walk to pinch-hitter Austin Barnes, Sims got a Mookie Betts lineout to shortstop. With a lefty hitter due up in Corey Seager, Bell turned to his struggling left-hander, Garrett.
On his second pitch, a 1-0 slider, Garrett surrendered the game-tying two-run homer to center field by Seager. Lefty hitters are batting .455 (5-for-11) this season against Garrett, who dominated them last season. In eight appearances and 6 1/3 innings, he has a 14.21 ERA with 10 hits allowed -- including four homers.
“I know Amir is struggling right now, and we have to continue to go with our best guys, and Amir is not only one of our best guys, he’s an important player, teammate on this team and a big part of our bullpen,” Bell said. “He’s going to continue to get opportunities. He’s going to work through this.”
Tejay Antone pitched the final three scoreless innings to get the win in relief. Antone has a 0.66 ERA in seven appearances.
“I went in expecting one inning, threw a second, and then threw a third,” Antone said.
Antone batted for himself in the top of the 10th with two outs to get the chance to work a third inning. Bell had lefty Sean Doolittle warm up in case the situation called for a pinch-hitter.
“First, it’s cool, that was amazing. I got insanely fired up,” Antone said of Winker’s homer. “Then I got in the box and actually saw what he had to hit against. That blew my mind, the fact that [Winker] hit that guy.”
Back for the bottom of the 10th, Antone issued a two-out walk but locked down the game by striking out Luke Raley.
Losing streak over. For the first time since April 17 vs. Cleveland, Reds players could form the handshake line after a victory.
“You’re going to go through streaks on both sides and you just want to come back and chip away at it,” Winker said. “It was a very nice win. We’re going to come back tomorrow, hopefully win a series tomorrow, and then just kind of keep this thing rolling.”