Stephenson caps 5-HR rout in homecoming

Reds catcher's cheering section goes wild; Winker's slam highlights 14-hit barrage

August 13th, 2021

As Tyler Stephenson rounded second base following his ninth-inning solo home run in the Reds’ 12-3 win over the Braves on Thursday, a huge smile broke out across his face.

The hometown kid, finishing the first series of his big league career in front of his friends and family in Atlanta, had just gotten likely the loudest reaction for a Cincinnati hit from the crowd at Truist Park. As the ball left the yard in center, Stephenson could hear his cheering section right behind the Reds’ dugout going nuts, and when he finally got back to the dugout, his teammates tried talking him into going out for one more round of applause.

“They were trying to get me a curtain call -- as an away team,” Stephenson said. “They loved it. They loved the entertainment and the cheering section. It was about mid-game today that I had to tell them to relax because it was just kind of getting to me a little bit, but it was funny.”

It was a special moment for Cincinnati’s rookie catcher, and it was the perfect way to cap the Reds’ blowout of the Braves.

In their three-game losing streak coming into Thursday, the Reds were held to 11 runs, over half coming in the extra-innings loss to the Braves on Wednesday night. For a majority of those 29 innings, Cincinnati didn’t look all that much like the team that entered the week with the most runs scored after the All-Star break.

On Thursday, though, the Reds wasted little time to show that the three-game stretch was the exception rather than the norm. Cincinnati scored nine runs in the first three innings as it quickly chased Atlanta starter Kyle Muller, then tacked on three more while totaling five home runs in the rout.

“As good as our offense has been, we haven't had too many games like this, so it's nice,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Guys [are] working so hard to get some results, to get some hits, the home runs. Big days by several of our position players, so that always helps. It's kind of rewarding, to get the home runs and the hits and all the runs. It makes for a little bit different kind of game.”

There was Jesse Winker, who started the scoring with a grand slam in the second inning en route to a 3-for-4 day that left him a triple short of the cycle. There was Tyler Naquin, who kept that top of the second alive with a single off the right-field wall (a ball that would’ve been gone in 17 Major League parks) and followed it up in the third with a three-run shot over the wall.

Even on a day when Joey Votto finished with one hit and no RBIs -- and no home runs, for that matter -- pretty much every hitter helped Cincinnati put runs on the board.

“That is always nice to get contributions from everyone, so that at the end of the game, everyone can feel good,” Bell said. “They do [feel good] when we win, but personally, you feel like you are in a good spot, you contributed, and you can a lot of times take that into tomorrow a lot easier.”

And then there was Vladimir Gutierrez, who tossed six innings of one-run ball before handing it to the bullpen in the seventh. The Reds’ rookie starter allowed just one baserunner from the second through the fourth inning, recording his fourth consecutive quality start and sixth in his past seven outings.

“I just went out there and gave 100 percent of my ability to get an opportunity for this team to win,” Gutierrez said through interpreter Jorge Merlos. “It was all about me doing my job and giving the opportunity for this team to win, so I think it was more about that instead of telling myself, ‘OK, we gotta win this game.’”

Heck, just to show off how well the day was going for the Reds, even Bell appeared to be on top of his game, snagging a foul ball that Kyle Farmer shot into the dugout in the sixth.

Every game matters for the Reds, who came into Thursday 4 1/2 games back in the National League Wild Card race, and a blowout of the NL East-contending Braves put the club back on the right track.