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'Things are starting to click': Reds on rise

@m_sheldon
September 16, 2020

CINCINNATI -- Whatever it takes, the Reds are willing to do it if it means fighting for the postseason. For a 4-1 victory over the Pirates on Tuesday at Great American Ball Park, that meant deviating from the usual arrangement. A reliever was the starting pitcher, the regular second baseman

CINCINNATI -- Whatever it takes, the Reds are willing to do it if it means fighting for the postseason.

For a 4-1 victory over the Pirates on Tuesday at Great American Ball Park, that meant deviating from the usual arrangement. A reliever was the starting pitcher, the regular second baseman started at third base and a non-closer was needed to record the save. And for a team that relies heavily on the home run to score, it found other ways.

"Guys are stepping up and really you kind of throw a lot out the window right now as far as what we’re used to," Reds manager David Bell said. "You do whatever it takes to win games. There’s something special about being able to do that. It’s really just about winning a game.”

Box score

Already with three wins in the four-game series, the Reds have won four in a row and five of their past six to improve to 24-26. It's the first time they've been this close to a .500 record since Aug. 18.

"Things are starting to click, finally," said Amir Garrett, who notched his first career save. "I think we smell some playoff baseball right around the corner. We’ve got to lock it in and really bear down a little bit and just come together. I’m proud of this team."

In the playoff picture, the Reds inched to only a half-game out on two fronts. A Cardinals loss put them a half-game out of second place in the National League Central division, which is good for a postseason berth in 2020. Cincinnati is also just behind the Giants in the NL Wild Card race. San Francisco's game in Seattle was postponed because of poor air quality from wildfire smoke.

Filling in for the injured Sonny Gray and making his first start since 2018, Michael Lorenzen helped give the surging Reds exactly what they needed -- more momentum. He delivered five strong innings, giving up one run on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts while throwing an efficient 76 pitches.

The Reds entered Tuesday leading the Major Leagues with 61 percent of their runs coming via homers, but they gave Lorenzen a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning without hitting one over the fences. Pirates starter Joe Musgrove labored and loaded the bases with no outs.

Mike Moustakas, who moved from second base to third when Eugenio Suárez left earlier for paternity leave, was hit on the left foot by a pitch with one out to force in the first run. Brian Goodwin followed with a sacrifice fly, and Freddy Galvis hit an RBI single. The homer came when Tucker Barnhart opened the bottom of the second inning by crushing a 2-1 Musgrove pitch to right field to make it a 4-0 game.

"It’s the same approach, same everything, I’m just going to throw more pitches," Lorenzen said. "It’s kind of what I went out there and did. Our bullpen did an unbelievable job coming in and keeping our lead where it was. So kudos to our whole pitching staff and also the offense for giving me that wiggle room early. That obviously allowed me to attack the zone a lot more and just go right after them."

Save for the fourth inning, Lorenzen often breezed through the Pirates’ lineup as he retired his first six batters and 10 of the first 11. Ke'Bryan Hayes hit a one-out double and scored on Colin Moran's RBI single. After a Josh Bell infield single for the third straight hit, Lorenzen shut down Pittsburgh and retired his final five batters in a row.

With closer Raisel Iglesias and backup closer Archie Bradley both unavailable, the ball was given to Garrett in the top of the ninth. It started when Goodwin robbed Moran of a leadoff homer with a leaping catch above the center-field fence. From the mound, Garrett folded his arms in amazement and offered a bow. He walked the next two batters, then recorded a strikeout and a flyout to seal the win.

"I feel like we haven’t felt that the whole year really, but we feel like we’re picking up steam and we got some momentum on our side," Lorenzen said. "And it’s a really good feeling when we’re getting timely hits when we need timely hits, and we’re robbing home runs in center field like Goodie did tonight. … Sixty-game season, it can flip in an instant, and I feel like that’s where we’re at right now, where we feel like we’re in a good position."

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.