CINCINNATI -- Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen let the tears flow in the dugout Friday night after a powerfully emotional trot around the bases. How could they not? What were the odds something this amazing could happen for him under such difficult circumstances?
Back from the bereavement list following the death of his father, Clif, Lorenzen pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings and also batted for just the fourth time this season. And on the first pitch he saw from Pedro Báez in the bottom of the seventh, he slugged a three-run homer that capped the Reds' 9-2 victory over the Dodgers. It was the first home run of Lorenzen's career.
"Definitely, everything happens for a reason," Lorenzen said. "It was something that I look and just praise God for. It was something special, not only for me, but for my family. Everyone that's been supporting us, I just want to say thank you for the prayers and just the support. It's really helped out a lot, just people reaching out. It's humbled me, this whole situation. Everything that happened tonight, I don't think I will ever feel that way again."
Reds manager Bryan Price did not plan on giving Lorenzen a soft landing upon his return, since he told him he was ready to go pregame. Although Price gave him a 6-1 lead to protect with one out in the seventh, there were two men on.
Any thoughts of a late Dodgers comeback were put out when Lorenzen retired the final two batters of the seventh. Needed to pitch the next inning, he was given the chance to bat for himself in the bottom of the seventh with two men on and two out. Even getting the bat in his hands was no easy feat.
"Even after the third out of my first inning I threw, I had to go back into the bathroom because I broke down," Lorenzen said. "There were some teammates back there that were able to help me out. I was able to go out and hit."
Baez threw Lorenzen a 97 mph fastball and Lorenzen hit it to the opposite field, easily clearing the right-field wall.
"I think it was emotional for all of us, none more certainly than Michael after what he's been through here recently," Price said. "I never thought I would see something like that, this majestic and poetic and emotional as that moment. For him to first come in and put out a rally and then face Baez, who is a big, hard-throwing guy and hit a home run off a 97-98 mph fastball, it seems unlikely. It seemed like divine intervention, for sure."
When Lorenzen touched home plate, he pointed both index fingers to the sky. Upon his return to the dugout, he was received by all of his Reds teammates -- with a tight hug from backup catcher Ramón Cabrera coming last.
"We're pretty close," Cabrera said. "I saw him running the bases and I cried. I just wanted to stay back and be the last person to give him a hug. I said, 'You're OK, you're doing good.' It was very special. I know how hard it is. That kind of moment, you just give him a hug and say something. I wanted him to relax after that."
As Lorenzen and the team had their moment together, the 28,184 fans at Great American Ball Park -- seemingly aware of Lorenzen's circumstances -- got louder and asked for a curtain call. The pitcher obliged with the encouragment of teammates.
"I was humbled by everything and just so happy, my family needed that," Lorenzen said. "It was just a great feeling to be able to do that."
After all of that, Lorenzen still had to gather himself another time so he could pitch the top of the eighth inning. He allowed a pair of two-out singles, but got Chris Taylor to ground to first base and covered the bag himself for the third out.
"Somehow he collected himself to go out there," Price said. "I think it was just a continuation of a real nice memorable outing in honor of his father. I was glad to be here and be able to witness it in person."
Lorenzen took a three-day leave on Tuesday and returned to California to be with his family. When he entered the game, he changed his entrance music to "Who Are You," by The Who. It was to honor Clif, a big fan of the classic rock band.
"He took me to a concert and he says I throw so hard because I used to play the drums on the floor all the time," Lorenzen said. "That's one of his favorite stories. It was awesome to come out. I've kind of just been listening to The Who for the past two days. It's good to have that, to have good memories of when I was really young and he was around."
With Lorenzen activated, the Reds optioned outfielder Kyle Waldrop to Triple-A Louisville. Waldrop was recalled on Monday for his fourth big league stint of the season. He appeared in two games as a pinch-hitter during his latest promotion and went 0-for-2.