One day and two wins. Suddenly, the narrative has changed for the Reds after what had been a tough road trip. Just when things were looking bleak ahead of Monday’s Trade Deadline, Cincinnati possibly saved its season with a seven-inning doubleheader sweep of Milwaukee on Thursday at Miller Park.
After snapping a four-game losing streak with a 6-1 victory in Game 1, the Reds notched a 6-0 win in the nightcap. The last time they had consecutive wins was Aug. 7-8, which also came against the Brewers.
“Obviously, when you get some results and win some games, confidence starts to grow,” right fielder Nick Castellanos said.
Castellanos and Jesse Winker figured prominently in both games, combining to go 9-for-14 with three homers, three doubles and seven RBIs. Entering the day, the Reds had 26 hits over their previous six games, five of which were losses. In the doubleheader, they nearly matched that total, collecting 21 hits in 14 innings, including a season-high-tying 12 in Game 1.
“Hitting is very contagious,” Castellanos said. “The more times you put good swings on the ball, the more traffic you have on the bases, the more pressure pitches the pitcher has to make.”
Throughout the lineup, it appeared that Reds hitters were looking to extend at-bats and go deep in the count. In Game 1, they saw 141 pitches, followed by another 150 in Game 2. It was the most pitches they had seen in a game since their last win heading into the day (156 last Friday at St. Louis).
“I feel like any time you do that in the game, there’s going to be positive things [that] happen, right?” Winker said. “Whenever you can make the opposing pitchers work and get in their bullpen, extend the inning, hit, walk, get on by an error, leg out a double play on the back end.”
After the Reds’ fourth consecutive loss on Tuesday, FanGraphs gave them only a 30-percent chance to reach the postseason. Frustration was brimming over as players were searching for both hits and energy.
Now, Cincinnati is 13-17 at the halfway point of the shortened regular season and has moved to within two games of second-place St. Louis in the National League Central race. In the expanded 16-team postseason format, the top two finishers in each division automatically qualify, along with two Wild Card teams from each league.
FanGraphs' updated postseason chances for the Reds is now 46.7 percent. Not bad for one day of work.
“For our team, it's big to win two games,” manager David Bell said. “Well-played games, well-pitched games, our starters were outstanding and the bullpen came in and did a good job. When you can get through a doubleheader with two wins against a good team after a tough road trip, it's really important. A lot of guys contributed.”
After Sonny Gray’s five scoreless innings in Game 1, Game 2 starter Wade Miley gave the Reds zeroes for four innings, with one hit and one walk allowed and three strikeouts. It was Miley’s call to give way to the bullpen.
“Hopefully, we learn from some of the stuff that went on,” Miley said. “We went through a little rough patch, but moving forward, just build off of this and just try to keep playing good baseball.”
In the second inning against Brewers starter Josh Lindblom, Mike Moustakas scored from second base on Kyle Farmer’s RBI single to left field. A second run came home on Tucker Barnhart’s RBI single to center.
After combining to go 6-for-6 with five RBIs in Game 1, Castellanos and Winker provided key add-on runs in the fifth inning of Game 2. Following a one-out walk by Shogo Akiyama against reliever Freddy Peralta, Castellanos lined a double to the wall in center. A perfect relay throw from Orlando Arcia beat Akiyama to the plate, and he was called out. But a replay review showed the sliding Akiyama did a nice job touching the plate with his left hand as he evaded catcher Omar Narváez’s tag.
Winker, who hit two homers in Game 1, then drove in Castellanos with a double pulled to right field to make it a four-run game. In the seventh against Justin Grimm, Eugenio Suárez drove a two-run home run to left-center field. The extra runs -- something also missing from the team lately -- were warmly welcomed.
“I just think we kept the energy up in the dugout, and it was not getting satisfied if you had one hit early,” Castellanos said. “Keep adding on. Keep the pressure on. It’s playing the game until the last out, really.”