CINCINNATI -- As Reds left fielder Jesse Winker waited on deck with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning vs. the Astros on Wednesday at Great American Ball Park, he watched an unexpected twist tie the score. Then Winker did something important as he faced closer Roberto Osuna:
CINCINNATI -- As Reds left fielder Jesse Winker waited on deck with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning vs. the Astros on Wednesday at Great American Ball Park, he watched an unexpected twist tie the score. Then Winker did something important as he faced closer Roberto Osuna: He checked himself before he wrecked himself.
“You’re excited, you just tied the game. I just try to remove myself from that emotion, which is tough because I feel like I’m an emotional player,” Winker said. "I told myself walking up to the plate, ‘Just do your job and put the ball in play hard.’ Osuna is a very good pitcher. He’s got electric stuff, and he got one up and I put a good swing on it.”
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Winker connected on a first-pitch fastball that Osuna threw at 98 mph. The sharp grounder went through the middle to score Nick Senzel for a thrilling 3-2 walk-off victory and a three-game series sweep over American League West-leading Houston.
Cincinnati (34-38) has won a season-high-tying four straight games, something it hadn’t done since April 9-13. The Astros were swept for the first time this season, and for the first time on the road since Sept. 8-10, 2017, at Oakland.
“That’s a really, really good team. Anytime you can beat a team like that, it’s great,” Winker said. “We’ve got some big series coming up ahead of us. That could kind of kick-start us right into that.”
The Reds open a four-game series vs. the National League Central rival Brewers at Miller Park on Thursday. They move to Anaheim for two games vs. the Angels before series vs. the Cubs and the Brewers at home.
After a few missteps, including 15 one-run losses, the Reds might finally have some wind in their sails. All three wins over the Astros were one-run decisions.
“It says a lot about our team,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Just the way guys are responding. Everyone in that clubhouse can sense how good we can be and how it takes everything you have. Guys are coming through. I’m just happy to see the work that everyone is putting in to pay off with a good series like that.”
Jose Peraza opened the bottom of the ninth with a ground-rule double to center field against Osuna. With two outs, Senzel ripped a single to left field to score Peraza with the tying run. He stopped at first base as left fielder Michael Brantley’s throw up the line forced catcher Garrett Stubbs onto the grass. In a desperation sweep tag attempt nowhere close to Peraza, Stubbs’ glove and the ball went flying into the air.
Osuna appeared to not pay attention to the ball, picking it up slowly to enable Senzel to advance to second base. It also covered up a mistake by the rookie center fielder.
“I pretty much messed up there. I should have taken second base right away. You get caught up in the moment there, but it’s no excuse,” Senzel explained. “Thank God their pitcher had no clue what was going on when the throw was made. I think he thought the game was over or something. … A lot of stuff was going on there. It was a bad throw, the catcher’s glove came off, Osuna -- I don’t know what he was doing.”
Winker, who saved a run in the eighth when he threw out Tony Kemp trying to score on a hit, finished the game. Senzel beat the throw from right fielder Josh Reddick with a slide into the plate. The Astros lost for the first time this season when leading after eight innings, while the Reds had a statement win -- not to other clubs, but their own.
“We don’t worry about other teams. We know when we play good baseball in all phases, that we can beat any team like we just did three games,” Senzel said. “That’s one of the best teams in baseball right there. I know they’ve got some guys out, but it doesn’t matter to us. We have to go out and play, execute at a high level. When we do that, we can beat anyone.”
Even though the Astros lead the AL West while the Reds are fourth in the NL Central, the teams are not as disparate in pitching as one might think even though the Astros had Wade Miley, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole pitch in the series. Houston's ERA is fourth in MLB (3.58), but Cincinnati’s is third (3.53).
On Wednesday, Reds starter Tyler Mahle delivered a career-high seven innings and took a one-hit shutout into the sixth. Mahle gave up Brantley’s two-out, two-run homer on an 0-2 curveball in the sixth. Matt Bowman held down Houston with two scoreless innings for the win in relief.
“Our pitching has been doing it all year,” Bell said. “Our offense, against a lot of good pitching right there, that’s what it takes to win games. It’s easy when you go out and score eight or nine runs. But when you have to fight for every run and come up with big hits like that, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what it takes to win big games against good teams.”
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.