Balk caps Reds' unlikely comeback over D-backs in 11 innings

August 27th, 2023

PHOENIX -- In a Saturday game vs. the D-backs at Chase Field that was wild like a goat rodeo, the Reds had numerous reasons to deserve a loss. But all that mattered in the desperate moments of the late innings was they found a way to get an important -- and improbable -- win. 

In a battle carrying postseason ramifications, Cincinnati pulled out an 8-7 victory in 11 innings because of a balk by Arizona reliever Nabil Crismatt with two strikes and two outs that allowed TJ Friedl to score from third base. It was the Reds' MLB-leading 41st comeback win.

“You can’t even remember everything that happened," Reds manager David Bell said. "All we know is it was a tough win. It was not perfect. A lot of things happened, and you just stay with it."

In the National League Wild Card standings, the Reds are a half-game behind the D-backs -- who had their six-game win streak halted -- for the third spot while the Cubs are in second a half-game up. With the win, the Reds clinched the season series and the tiebreaker advantage in the Wild Card race vs. Arizona.

With runners on the corners and two outs in the 11th inning, Crismatt had TJ Hopkins down in an 0-2 count. Holding the ball in his right hand, Crismatt lifted it, ever so slightly, before stopping again. The balk call was made by second-base umpire CB Bucknor.

“I just saw his hand come up, like he was going to reach in his glove and then he moved it back. I saw it perfectly," Friedl said. “So I kind of yelled at him, like ‘Hey, hey, hey!’ Lucky CB saw it.

“I’m thinking in my head, 'Wow.' As a grinder of a game as that was, as back and forth as that was between two Wild Card teams fighting for every inch, that moment right there, as I’m going home, I’m just saying to myself, 'That’s going to be the deciding factor.'"

The Reds trailed, 4-0, through five innings and 4-2 in the top of the ninth. They scored two in the ninth, three in the 10th and the deciding run in the 11th. 

“We always talk about, ‘We’re in every game,'" said Ben Lively, who came off the injured list and pitched 5 2/3 innings of relief with three earned runs. "There’s those moments when we get down and there’s always that one person who’s like, ‘We’re not getting down.’ Some small thing happens and bam, we’re back in it." 

Lively noticed it was veteran catcher Luke Maile yelling in the dugout to fire up the team.

"It was really cool to see everybody working together. No one wants that down mood in the dugout," Lively said.

There were plenty of reasons for the dugout's down mood. The game's first run scored on a passed ball by catcher Tyler Stephenson in the first inning with two strikes and two outs. Lively gave up Ketel Marte's three-run homer in the fifth. The team also committed three errors, including two by second baseman Matt McLain.

Against D-backs closer Paul Sewald in the ninth, Stephenson hit a one-out RBI double to right field and scored the tying run from third base on a groundout by McLain. In the 10th, Spencer Steer hit an RBI double to the wall. Nick Martini followed with an RBI double to right field and Christian Encarnacion-Strand added an RBI single to center field.

It all fell apart in the bottom of the 10th as Reds closer Alexis Díaz blew only his second save in 36 attempts this season by giving up three runs. 

McLain's second error of the game came as Tommy Pham's one-out grounder went through his legs to score a run. Christian Walker's sacrifice fly scored Corbin Carroll with the tying run. 

“Every experience we go through is a good one, especially when you can have an imperfect game, even some failure, and stay with it," Bell said. "You realize when you do that and you stay strong – individually and as a team – good things happen. I thought that was really what that game was all about.”

In the bottom of the 11th, Lucas Sims had the automatic runner reach third base on Alek Thomas' sacrifice bunt. But he struck out the next two batters for his third save.

“We’re going to fight for every inch, and we know they are, too," Friedl said. "That’s kind of the game that we’re playing right now. We’re trying to scratch runs together any way we can, and we know that they’re doing it too.

"That’s a huge, huge win for us. And we’re just going to look to build momentum off that."