CLEVELAND -- The Reds had spent most of June in a profound offensive rut and their hitters knew it was time to find a way out. Manager David Bell didn’t view it as a slump, but as a challenge to get better and avoided any knee-jerk reactions to spark the
CLEVELAND -- The Reds had spent most of June in a profound offensive rut and their hitters knew it was time to find a way out. Manager David Bell didn’t view it as a slump, but as a challenge to get better and avoided any knee-jerk reactions to spark the lineup.
Instead, the hitters accepted the challenge -- really quickly -- as Cincinnati accomplished something Wednesday it hadn’t done in nearly two decades: hitting back-to-back home runs to begin a game. Nick Senzel and Joey Votto each went deep to open the game while the Reds notched four homers overall in a 7-2 victory over Cleveland that split their two-game series at Progressive Field.
• Box score
“We need to do better on our side,” said Votto, who left the game in the fifth inning with mid-back stiffness. “We just need to put together better at-bats, be more productive collectively. I do think there’s a lot left in the tank with this offense. The pitching has done fantastic this year. I feel like we’ve been pretty steady defensively. But offensively, we haven’t done our part. Fortunately, we have a good bit of season to go. We have high expectations.”
Entering the day, the Reds had only three home runs in June and were batting .203 as a team for the month with a .569 OPS. Those numbers were even lower than where the club sat in April, after it entered May hitting .212 on the year.
Following a 9-3 win over the Nationals on May 31, when it appeared that the offense was finally in a groove and the team seemed poised to make a surge, the Reds averaged two runs per game over the following eight contests and scored just one run in four of those games.
“You have to make adjustments in this game,” Senzel said. “Everyone thinks hitting is so easy and the game is so easy. It’s definitely not, especially at this level. You have to go out and make adjustments and take good at-bats, get on base and score runs.”
Against Cleveland rookie Zach Plesac, Senzel hit a 1-2 pitch to left field for his fifth homer of the season -- and his second leading off a game. Next was Votto, who launched a 3-2 pitch over the fence in right field for a quick 2-0 lead.
It was the first time that the Reds opened a game with consecutive homers since Alex Ochoa and Barry Larkin did it on June 26, 2001, at St. Louis vs. Cardinals starter Andy Benes. Another notable moment from that game -- a rookie right fielder named Albert Pujols also homered for the Cardinals.
“It’s good. I imagine everybody feels quite a bit more maybe loose or confident,” Votto said of the early jump. “Nick hitting that leadoff home run kind of made me feel good. Clearly, we roll into one another. That’s what we have to do for the rest of the season.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time that Cleveland gave up homers to the first two batters in a home game in franchise history. The last time they did it on the road was June 12, 2018, exactly one year ago from Wednesday.
In his deepest hitting funk of the season -- a 3-for-30 stretch entering the sixth inning -- Eugenio Suarez hit a 1-1 pitch from Plesac for a homer to left field. It was Suarez’s 15th homer of the season, but his first since May 24.
“Big home run. For a guy like him, that's been playing for a while now and had a lot of success, you still have stages like that and have stretches,” Bell said. “I think the level of experience he has right now, he's able to make adjustments faster and shorten those [bad streaks]. No matter how good of a hitter you are, he's going to go through a stretch like that.”
Suarez had to make a decision: Did he want to be patient and continue with what he was doing, or to make a few changes with his approach? He opted to change.
“They started throwing me a lot of breaking balls,” Suarez said of the pitchers that he’s faced recently. “That’s my adjustment, try to be on top of that ball and try to put it in play, hit the ball up the middle or opposite field. That’s what I tried to do. They start throwing me a lot of breaking balls, so I have to be ready for that pitch.”
Against Nick Goody in the seventh, Curt Casali led off with a homer to center field. Jose Iglesias, who doubled and scored in the fifth inning, added a two-run double in the eighth.
“We really came out with a good plan and guys swung the bat from the beginning,” Bell said. “Really, what's most important is to keep adding runs, which we were able to do today. It seems like when you don't do that, Major League teams will come back and get you. I think that's such a key, to keep adding on.”
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.