CINCINNATI -- Recently, Reds manager David Bell was critical of himself for not finding ways to utilize reliever Michael Lorenzen more often as a hitter. Bell has continued to raise the bar all week and Lorenzen cleared it each time. On Sunday, Lorenzen found himself in a new situation -- walk-off win star.
Pinch-hitting in the bottom of the ninth, Lorenzen’s RBI double scored Jose Peraza with the winning run during a 4-3 Reds walk-off victory over the D-backs at Great American Ball Park. It helped Cincinnati salvage one game of the three-game series and deal a blow to Arizona’s postseason hopes.
“That’s special. I call him ‘Super Michael,’ because he does a lot,” said Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who contributed two home runs, including the game-tying homer in the eighth inning. “He’s a super athletic guy. He can pitch really good and he’s a good hitter. To see him, it’s fun. He battled and it’s tough coming from the bench. He won’t do it every time, [but] he did it today. It’s impressive.”
This season, Lorenzen is batting .333 (7-for-21) with one homer, two doubles and five RBIs. He was hitless in four previous pinch-hitting appearances. On the mound, he has a 3.13 ERA in 67 relief appearances.
In the ninth inning against reliever Yoan Lopez, Peraza pinch-hit and lofted a soft one-out single into center field. Phillip Ervin followed with a single to left field put the go-ahead run into scoring position. After lefty T.J. McFarland took over, Bell lifted lefty hitter Josh VanMeter for a right-handed pinch-hitter -- Lorenzen.
“Now he’s getting an opportunity to contribute as a position player, and not in just any situation, but an opportunity to win the game,” Bell said.
After Lorenzen missed on McFarland’s changeup to get down to a 2-2 count, he fouled off three two-strike pitches before slashing the game-ending hit down the left-field line and into the corner. It easily scored Peraza before teammates stormed the field to celebrate near second base. It was the first walk-off hit of Lorenzen’s career.
“First of all, I just want to hit the ball, [but] not on the ground,” Lorenzen said. “I knew he was trying to get a double-play ball out of me. I was trying to get my eyes under the baseball and try to lift it somewhere and hopefully it ends up landing. Really just seeing him deep, he had me out in front on one changeup that was really good. I was like, ‘I think he’s going to go to that more after that swing.’ That’s when I hit the foul ball on the changeup. He came back with three fastballs in a row and I was able to get the barrel to one of them.”
It’s been quite a week for Lorenzen’s hitting resume. On Wednesday in an 8-5 win over the Phillies, he blew the save, but became the only player besides the immortal Babe Ruth in 1921 to earn the win, hit a home run and play in the field in the same game when he went from the mound to center field.
On Thursday, Bell gave Lorenzen his first career start as a position player by putting him in center field. Although he went 0-for-3 at the plate, Lorenzen made a running catch to rob Jean Segura of a hit, which ended the eighth inning. During Friday’s 7-5 loss to Arizona, however, he only pitched and gave up a run with two hits over two-thirds of an inning.
“It’s been a ton of fun,” Lorenzen said of his week of hitting. “I’m super grateful for the opportunity that David Bell has given me. The coaching staff has been pulling for me, and just the help they’ve given me with the preparation and stuff. It’s just a perfect situation for me.”
For Sunday’s game, Lorenzen was not available to pitch so that he could have three days off ahead of Tuesday’s series opener at Seattle. So, he was in the Reds’ dugout for the game in the role of possible pinch-hitter.
“It can be very easy for me to kind of let my mind go elsewhere during the game, and in that situation, let my mind go and not be present,” Lorenzen said. “A lot of people wouldn’t expect for me to come up in that situation. I’m watching video and still thinking about what I might possibly do if I’m up in that situation. I’m constantly watching at-bats and telling myself, ‘Now what am I going to do?’ When [Bell] did call me, I’m like, ‘OK, I’ve already kind of played this scenario in my head multiple times.’”
As McFarland pitched, Lorenzen used his pitcher’s mentality to get an added edge.
“One thousand percent, pitching has made me a better hitter,” Lorenzen said. “There’s a lot of pitches that, in college, I used to swing at, and I don’t swing at them anymore. That was my No. 1 hole. Because I’ve been pitching and I know how I would attack myself and how I attack other hitters, that’s how I formulate my plan. When I go up for my at-bat, I’m working through it all.”