CINCINNATI -- During a surge that now seems to have some legs, the Reds lineup has been supportive of their starting pitchers through both the good games and subpar ones. Sal Romano gave Cincinnati an outing that fell in between, but he was still picked up by one big rally.Cincinnati
CINCINNATI -- During a surge that now seems to have some legs, the Reds lineup has been supportive of their starting pitchers through both the good games and subpar ones. Sal Romano gave Cincinnati an outing that fell in between, but he was still picked up by one big rally.
Cincinnati posted a six-run bottom of the fourth, including a perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt to turn a 3-0 deficit into what would be a 7-4 victory over the White Sox. It gave the Reds two of three in the series. They've also won 13 of their last 17 games and 16 of the last 22 -- while averaging a robust 6.13 runs per game since June 10.
"Our confidence level is way up there," Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton said. "It doesn't matter what team comes in, it doesn't matter who is pitching, who we're facing. We come to the park knowing we have a chance to win. Early in the season, we didn't have that confidence. Now I feel like we can compete with any team out there. It's just fun coming to the clubhouse every day, and you see guys smiling and happy every single day."
The once-struggling pitching staff is also pulling its weight, with a 3.56 ERA in the same stretch of games.
Not a coincidence, the Reds have also averaged six runs per Romano's last five starts and have notched four wins. On Wednesday he gave up four earned runs and six hits over five innings with no walks and six strikeouts.
With two outs in the third inning, Romano's 3-2 pitch was hit for a two-run homer to right-center field by Yoan Moncada. In the fourth inning, a two-out solo homer by Daniel Palka, also to right-center field, gave Chicago a 3-0 lead.
"It doesn't matter how many runs we're down, they're able to come back and swing," Romano said. "I knew what they were going to be able to do, and they did just that."
White Sox starter Dylan Covey took a perfect game into the bottom of the fourth. When the inning was over, Covey was gone with his pitching line in tatters.
The rally started with Scott Schebler's leadoff walk, and Joey Votto provided the first hit with a one-out single to left field. That started a cavalcade of baserunners. Scooter Gennett hit an RBI single that got past a diving Avisail Garcia in right field and scored Schebler. Eugenio Suarez also hit a single to load the bases for Jesse Winker, who shot a two-run single through the middle that made it a 3-3 game.
Adam Duvall appeared to foul a ball, but he was ruled to have been hit by a Covey pitch to reload the bases. Jose Peraza slashed a single to center field that scored two more runs and put Cincinnati ahead.
Romano got into the act with the suicide squeeze bunt in front of the plate that scored Duvall and marked the end of Covey's evening.
The inning ended when reliever Luis Avilan struck out the 10th batter of the rally -- Schebler. But Cincinnati already had its seventh six-run inning of the season and fourth in 14 games. The Reds also lead the Majors in at-bats, runs, hits, homers and RBIs with the bases loaded this season.
"We've got a nice offense," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "Everybody's contributing, we're just getting it from different parts of the lineup, which is huge. There was a period there where we were maybe getting it from 3, 4 and 5 [in the lineup], but a lot of guys are settling in and finding their groove a little bit, creating some problems for the opposition by putting more baserunners out there."
The Reds, who started the season with a 3-18 record, are now 35-34 under Riggleman and are also unbeaten in their last five series. Two of those series were vs. first-place clubs in the Braves and Brewers, and one was a four-game sweep of the second-place Cubs. At 38-49 overall, Cincinnati is now within 2 1/2 games of the fourth-place Pirates in the National League Central.
"Yeah, we are really good. We believe that," said reliever Jared Hughes, who picked up the five-out save. "I think that it's getting to the point now where teams, when they come to play us or when we come to play them, there's a little bit of, 'Oh shoot, we've got the Reds.' That's what we want. We want to bring the fight to the opponent, and we're doing that right now and it's a lot of fun."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Perfect bunt: Romano provided the Reds with their third successful suicide squeeze play bunt this season -- and the first of his career. He was able to square and bunt the ball toward the mound. With Duvall already safely home with a slide, Covey's only play was to first base.
"It was a 2-0 pitch. Maybe they didn't know that was coming. I knew he was probably going to throw me a fastball down the middle," Romano said. "I was able to get it down like we were taught to do. Duvy came sliding in and we got another run."
Romano got excited when the signal to bunt was given.
"I've never done it before," he said. "You get a little adrenaline rush up there. It was nice to contribute with the bat."
Peraza drew two walks in the game, giving him 20 in his 83 games this season. That equaled Peraza's total from 2017, when he played 143 games.
"He's getting better. That's part of his game. Once he starts laying off some pitches, he's going to be a good hitter," Riggleman said.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Hughes was trying to protect a 6-4 lead in the eighth inning when he walked his first batter, which put two men on with one out. With two outs, pinch-hitter Leury Garcia hit a single into center field. As Jose Abreu was being waved around third base to score, Hamilton, who entered the game as a pinch-runner in the sixth inning, charged the ball and came up throwing with a perfect strike to catcher Tucker Barnhart. Abreu was tagged by Barnhart in time for the third out. With eight assists in 2018, Hamilton is tied for the National League lead among outfielders.
"It's something I take pride in, as big as I take pride in making a diving catch or a play in the gap," Hamilton said. "I just love to make throws like that, especially when I get chances to. This is coming from a guy who didn't have the accuracy to throw guys out a few years ago to a guy who actually wants the ball hit to me nowadays."
HE SAID IT
"When he hit it, I thought, 'Yeah, it's on the ground.' Then when I turned around, it was like, 'Oh, no, it's going to be a hit.' I knew it was Abreu running. I knew that Billy has a really good arm. I was thinking, 'I better back it up because this thing is going to be close.' I was really excited when obviously it was an out. It was like the perfect situation right there, right? A hit turns into an out, that's perfect." -- Hughes, on Hamilton's throw to the plate
Following an off-day Thursday, the Reds will embark on a 10-day, nine-game road trip to end the first half of the season, starting with a three-game series vs. the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday at 2:20 p.m. ET. Tyler Mahle will make the start with the aim of keeping his strong run of games going. Mahle was 3-0 with a 2.18 ERA in six June starts and is unbeaten since May 20. Left-hander Mike Montgomery is starting for Chicago.
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 and listen to his podcast.