CINCINNATI -- Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen knew he wasn't going to pitch on Saturday after he worked three innings Friday. When Lorenzen arrived at Great American Ball Park before Saturday's game against the Brewers, he did so with the mindset of a hitter and prepared like one. Instead of heading out to the bullpen during the game, he took extra swings in the batting cage.
Lorenzen was more than ready when his name was called to pinch-hit during a seventh-inning rally. His grand slam capped an eight-run inning and was the big moment in a 12-3 victory over Milwaukee. Not only was that Lorenzen's fifth career homer, it was his third in three at-bats this week and second in two days. Teammates marveled at the feat in the clubhouse after the game.
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
"I promise you, it's not that easy," catcher Tucker Barnhart said.
Unlike most relief pitchers, Lorenzen's ability to handle the bat means he needs to be engaged in every game, never knowing when or how he will be used.
"That's pretty unique, because when I am down, I know I am not really down," Lorenzen said. "I am ready to hit. I think of myself as a guy coming off the bench when I know I am not going to pitch."
Seven straight hitters reached to begin the seventh as the Reds took a 6-3 lead thanks an RBI double from Scooter Gennett and RBI singles from Jesse Winker and Adam Duvall. A Barnhart single loaded the bases for the second time in the inning. Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman sent up Lorenzen to bat in the pitcher's spot against right-hander Jacob Barnes.
"They had infield in right when I got in the box, so I was looking for something elevated," Lorenzen said. "As I got comfortable in the box, they moved back, but with the bases loaded I am still looking to at least get a sac fly and not hit the ball on the ground."
Lorenzen took a slider down in the zone and then crushed a 1-0 elevated fastball over the left-field wall. He also homered in the sixth inning of Friday's 8-2 loss to the Brewers after entering the game earlier that inning in relief of Sal Romano.
"I didn't want to walk him," Barnes said. "I left it over the plate, and he obviously was geared up for a fastball. He ended up catching it and getting it in the air, and here, that's what you've got to do. It's kind of frustrating, but it's part of the game."
Lorenzen is the second Reds pitcher in a week to hit a grand slam. Anthony DeSclafani hit one on June 23 in an 11-2 win against the Cubs. Lorenzen hit a solo homer the next day in a pinch-hit situation in an 8-6 win over Chicago. Lorenzen has reached base in five consecutive plate appearances. His success at the plate makes it easier for Riggleman to feel comfortable sending a middle reliever to the plate in crucial situations.
"I'm happy I am able to build more trust with him," Lorenzen said. "I think that is what it is about, building trust. If he is going to ask me to do something, he wants to believe I will get the job done."
Riggleman said he considered sending utility man Brandon Dixon to the plate instead, but Dixon was the last position player available and Riggleman wanted to have him as a precaution in case of an injury. It's another example of the value Lorenzen brings as a hitter and the added flexibility Riggleman has when managing the bench.
"What Lorenzen is doing is really unique," Riggleman said. "It was a 2-0 game the other day when he hit it. It was a close game today when he hit it. It's not like it was meaningless times. Those were big at-bats."
The last pitcher to hit a home run in three straight at-bats was Mike Hampton, who did it for the Rockies in June 2001. Lorenzen is also the first batter whose primary position is pitcher to hit a pinch-hit grand slam since Tommy Byrne on May 16, 1953, for the White Sox.
"The guy is incredible," said Reds starting pitcher Tyler Mahle, whose 12-strikeout game was overshadowed in a no-decision. "I was able to see him in college, so I knew he's a really good athlete. But we're in the big leagues and he's doing it even better than he was in college. I don't know what to say about that guy."
It was the eighth grand slam for the Reds this season, which leads the Major Leagues.
Lorenzen's offensive prowess has had Riggleman considering using him as an outfielder for a batter or two so he could keep him pitching in games longer and to exploit his bat. Lorenzen will take any opportunity but isn't lobbying for more.
"When you want more and more, that is when you get into trouble," he said. "I am just happy doing what I am doing. I am happy that Jim had enough faith in me to put me up there with the bases loaded and no outs in that situation."