Reds 'take care of business' with four-game sweep

Senzel's clutch catch, homer lift Cincinnati ahead of crucial series in Milwaukee

July 6th, 2023

WASHINGTON -- The Reds had no intention of looking past the last-place Nationals this week, despite there being a series of much greater consequence against the division rival Brewers just ahead. That hasn't been their mode of operating all season.

That showed on Thursday afternoon as Cincinnati completed a four-game series sweep of Washington with a 5-4 victory in 10 innings that also featured a one-hour, 43-minute rain delay. On the heels of a game-saving catch in the bottom of the ninth, Nick Senzel slugged a two-run home run in the top of the 10th for the Reds’ fifth consecutive win -- their eighth in the past nine games and 20th of 24.

“It was important for us to focus game-to-game here, especially this last one," Senzel said. "There was a crazy delay, just a slow pace, hot, humid -- just how D.C. is. We kept fighting until the end. We knew how important it was to take care of business."

First-place Cincinnati, now 10 games over .500 at 49-39, secured its Major League-leading 32nd come-from-behind win. The club was trailing, 3-2, in the eighth inning when Will Benson led off with a double down the left-field line. Pinch-hitting with one out, Joey Votto lined a game-tying RBI single to right field.

In the bottom of the ninth with a runner on second base and one out, Senzel made an awkward leaping catch at the right-field fence to rob CJ Abrams of a likely game-winning RBI hit.

“I was set up to play a slice. I had a good bead on it," Senzel said. "I tried to make a play and was not really worried about the wall or anything.”

“For that ball to be able to stick in his glove like that, he has great hands wherever he is on the field -- but with the game on the line, that’s the game right there," Reds manager David Bell said. "It’s just wanting the ball to be hit to you and wanting to be the guy to make a play right there."

Leading off the 10th against Hunter Harvey, Senzel attacked a first-pitch fastball for a two-run homer, his seventh of the season, to left field to lift the Reds to their first four-game series sweep since August 2021.

In the fifth inning, Senzel was playing center field when he and right fielder Will Benson miscommunicated on a Riley Adams one-out fly. It dropped in and eventually led to two runs.

“I felt like I screwed up and had to make up for it. I tried to just help us win," Senzel said. "I felt terrible about the fly ball dropping and the miscommunication. Luckily, I was the guy to come through and get us a nice sweep.”

While half of the season still remains, Cincinnati has reached one of the most crucial and defining portions of its schedule. It could either legitimize the team’s status as National League Central contenders or exploit its shortcomings.

The Reds, who hold a two-game division lead, play the second-place Brewers in their next six games and nine of their next 16. That stretch begins with three games this weekend at Milwaukee and three more in Cincinnati coming out of the All-Star break. Another series at Milwaukee is ahead from July 24-26. 

After that, there will be no more chances on the schedule to face the Brewers.

"It’s not going to end there, but it could really shift or shape the rest of the way," Bell said. "The one thing that makes me feel really good is that we’re not going to change our approach."

During the teams’ first meeting from June 2-5 at Great American Ball Park, the Brewers took three of four games in the series.

It may come across as cliché, but one reason the surprising Reds have thrived this season has been their ability to not look back, look forward or make too much of the importance of any one series. It really is one game at a time. 

"We don’t think a lot about playing ahead," second baseman Jonathan India said. "I think that ruins a lot of what we’re trying to do here [with] everyone’s mindset of winning today and only today. But when it all comes down to it, it’s important. We can’t worry about that."

That mindset was on display throughout Thursday. 

“To win four games on the road against this team -- just another example," Bell said. "Today, it took everything. It really did. Guys just continued to make plays and stay with it, stay with it no matter what happened. That’s what you have to do.”