CINCINNATI -- Sal Romano pounded his glove and let out a yell as he walked towards the dugout after making a great defensive play to put out pinch-hitter Tommy Pham and strand the tying run at third base to end the sixth inning.On a day in which the young righty
CINCINNATI -- Sal Romano pounded his glove and let out a yell as he walked towards the dugout after making a great defensive play to put out pinch-hitter Tommy Pham and strand the tying run at third base to end the sixth inning.
On a day in which the young righty had to navigate around some poor luck and some defensive lapses behind him, Romano made a nifty grab to help his own cause and earn a win in the Reds' 7-3 victory over the Cardinals to take the series at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday afternoon.
Yairo Munoz hit a one-out RBI double to trim the Reds' lead to 3-2, and he advanced to third on an errant throw to the plate. Munoz represented the tying run and ended up being the fifth runner in scoring position that Romano stranded on the day. The righty struck out Harrison Bader and then made a barehanded snag on Pham's ball to escape his sixth and final inning.
"I think if that gets by me, it is probably a hit with the way Pham runs," Romano said. "I was glad I was able to make that play to end the inning."
Romano found himself in tight situations from the start. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning after Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina reached on a pair of bloop singles and Jose Martinez singled two batters later. Martinez bounced a ball past Romano up the middle as Scooter Gennett and Jose Peraza both went to field the ball and collided with each other. The ball squirted away and all three runners advanced safely. Romano got William Fowler to hit a dribbler to Eugenio Suarez to leave the bases loaded.
"We really played poorly in the first," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "A lot of fluky things happened. He was pitching around some crazy stuff. Tough sky on the first ball of the game. We don't pick that one up, and then the ground ball gets hit in an area where two guys are converging, and we get no outs. He somehow comes out of that with [no runs] which was a real credit to how much he competed."
Suarez gave Romano an early cushion when he blasted a two-run home run to right field in the bottom of the first off St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty. It was his third consecutive game with a home run and his 22nd of the season. The Reds have gotten off to a slow start at the plate since the All-Star break, but Suarez has been the one constant.
Romano escaped another jam in the fourth inning after a Peraza error on a Munoz groundball placed runners at second and third with one out. Munoz advanced to second and eliminated a double play opportunity when Adam Duvall elected to throw home instead of second base. Romano struck out Bader and Flaherty to strand the runners.
The win marked back to back strong starts for Romano, who brushed aside a sluggish first two innings in his last start at Cleveland. He gave up two runs in the first and second innings, but he rebounded with five scoreless frames and exited with one out in the eighth. In each start, he battled some poor fortune and bounced back to give the club a lengthy outing.
"I thought Sal pitched really well," Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart said. "It shows the kind of stuff that he does have, not pitching in 10 days and then coming in and throwing like he did."
Riggleman attributed Romano's resilience to his consistent desire to compete. Romano thinks he is maturing as a pitcher.
"That was definitely the biggest thing I did wrong in the Minor Leagues," Romano said. "Collapsing when things didn't go my way and leaving pitches up. Now it is more, 'Let's go, let's make a pitch here.' I've got Tucker to get on me to make sure I make a quality pitch. My stuff is good enough to get those guys out in the big situation."
Riggleman has noticed that Romano gets better as the game goes along and settles in to make better pitches.
"It is a beautiful thing, because the longer he stays in there, the more the ball gets on the ground," Riggleman said. "He gets those sinkers working and we can make some plays for him."
The offense awoke in the form of three home runs and 10 hits for Cincinnati in this game. Duvall hit a solo home run in the fourth inning for his 15th of the year and Barnhart belted a two-run homer to right in the sixth inning. It was the first time the Reds scored more than two runs since the All-Star break, and just the second game they recorded more than six hits. Gennett got three hits. Phillip Ervin went 2-for-4 with a two-run double.
The series win marked the first time the Reds have beaten the Cardinals in back to back series since 2011.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hughes escapes bases loaded jam: The Reds led 5-3 in the eighth when Jared Hughes walked a red hot Carpenter to load the bases with two outs. Hughes had nowhere to put Molina, who has 18 RBIs against the Reds this season. Hughes offered a 1-0 sinker that Molina got under and lifted a lazy fly ball to right field to end the threat. Molina slammed his bat down in frustration.
"That was huge," Riggleman said. "As much as Carpenter can hurt you, Molina -- that was a situation he is famous for right there. He has made his bones on those situations. Jared got him, but we would like to avoid that situation as much as possible because Molina has been a real Reds killer."
Reds nearly escape first on pickoff play: The Reds nearly escaped the first inning without having to pitch to Fowler with the bases loaded. Molina was caught off of second base with two outs, starting a rundown between second and third. Cincinnati took its attention off Molina to try and catch Carpenter attempting to score from third, but Carpenter made it back, and the other runners retreated back safely as well. Fowler grounded out on the next pitch.
Peraza struck out in the eighth inning and snapped a streak of 45 plate appearances without a strikeout, the longest active streak in the Major Leagues. It was Peraza's third streak this season of at least 40 plate appearances without a strikeout.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
After a pair of bloop singles to begin the game, Ervin made a diving catch in right field to rob Paul DeJong of a hit and save at least one run. The ball had a 24 percent catch probability, and Ervin covered 39 feet in three seconds, according to Statcast™.
The Reds wrap up a 10-game homestand with a four-game series with the Phillies. Tyler Mahle will be on the mound for Cincinnati in the opener Thursday. A four-run sixth inning, fueled by a pair of home runs, doomed the right-hander in his last outing against the Pirates. Mahle piched 5 2/3 innings and was charged with six runs on eight hits, with three walks and three strikeouts. Mahle is 7-8 on the year, with a 4.32 ERA. Ranger Suarez will make his debut for Philadelphia, with first pitch set for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Brian Rippee is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati.