India's 3-run homer lands on ... coffee cup!

NL ROY front-runner burnishes resumé in win over Brewers

August 27th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- Second baseman had his teammates in the Reds’ bullpen scattering for cover on Thursday afternoon. They didn't seem to mind, however.

India continued to burnish his resumé for the National League Rookie of the Year Award in a 5-1 Reds victory over the Brewers in the series finale at American Family Field. During a two-hit afternoon, his three-run homer in the fifth inning made it a 4-0 game, effectively putting it out of reach for Milwaukee. Muscling it to the opposite field, the ball landed on a cup of coffee in Cincinnati's bullpen in right field.

Relievers pointed at India in jubilation, and he pointed back at them as he rounded the bases.

"I was just pointing to say, ‘My bad.’" India said. "It almost clipped one of our guys, though. That felt good to finally get a hold of one that way. That’s where a lot of my power is actually. It’s just something in the process. Over time, it’ll get better and better."

If the Reds can land a postseason spot after the stretch drive of the regular season, India will deserve credit for his role in helping them get there.

Cincinnati (70-59), which salvaged one game out of the three-game series at American Family Field, left town trailing the first-place Brewers (78-50) by 8 1/2 games in the NL Central standings. With a 1 1/2-game lead for the second NL Wild Card spot, the win assures them another day as the front-runner as the road trip continues with three games at Miami.

Reds starting pitcher allowed just three hits and two walks over six scoreless innings, with six strikeouts. With 13 scoreless innings over his past two starts, he is 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA over his past six games.

According to Statcast, Gray had 25 of his 86 pitches called for strikes by home-plate umpire John Trumpane, including 10 curveballs. It was a special day for Gray on the anniversary of losing his father to a car accident when he was a teenager. Every year on the date, his Vanderbilt coach, Tim Corbin, texts him to let him know he's thinking about him.

"I had a big fan shining down on me today," Gray said of his late father. "It's neat to be able to pitch on this day. I think this is my third time and I want to say we've won all three of them."

During the third inning, Gray paused when he felt tightness in his right hamstring. Manager David Bell and trainer Steve Baumann checked on the right-hander, who sat in the grass and stretched before throwing some warmup pitches and continuing.

"Great job by our medical staff, too, to keep him in the game," Bell said. "He’s going to be fine. He will make his next start. It took some extra care to keep him out there.”

India opened the game against Brewers starter Brett Anderson with a leadoff single to left field. He was on third base with one out when he scored on Joey Votto's sacrifice fly to center field.

There were two men on and one out when Gray unsuccessfully tried bunting and popped out. Next was India, who slugged Hunter Strickland's 3-1 pitch to the opposite field for the homer, his 17th of the season.

"I said, 'Hey, man, pick me up here. Pick me up here, Jon. Pick me up.' Sure as [hell], three-run homer," Gray said. "He's a very good player."

"What a swing," Bell said. "I think he naturally has power that way. I think he’s been trying to put that exact swing on the ball, and he got it done today."

Over 118 games this season, India is batting .275/.388/.464 with 59 RBIs and 78 runs. He leads all NL rookies in RBIs and total bases, and he is second in batting, homers, slugging percentage, OPS and doubles. The 24-year-old could become the first Red since pitcher Scott Williamson in 1999 to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award and the first second baseman for Cincinnati since Pete Rose in '63.

India is likely competing with Marlins pitcher Trevor Rogers, Cubs infielder Patrick Wisdom and Reds teammates Tyler Stephenson and Vladimir Gutierrez for votes, but he appears to be the front-runner.

"It’s definitely in my reach, of course," India said. "I don’t think I feel personal accolades. That was definitely my goal at the beginning of the year. I did say it and I definitely wanted to win Rookie of the Year, but I just want to win. I want to win for the team. I want to get to the playoffs, and we’re going to make a run. That’s my goal. If it happens, it happens."

There was a scare on Wednesday when India opened the night getting hit on the left hand by a Brandon Woodruff fastball. India needed several moments to collect himself, get treatment and remain in the game. He leads the NL with 19 hit-by-pitches and has also banged up his left shoulder multiple times making defensive plays.

India has remained a lineup mainstay, however. Since he became the Reds' leadoff hitter on June 5, the club has gone 42-29 in his 71 starts.

"I kind of knew he was this good just from talking and hanging out with him in the beginning of the year," said Nick Castellanos, who added a homer in the sixth inning. "I would say what stands out to me the most, if I learned anything new, is just how tough he is. He doesn’t want to come out of the game for anything."