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Castellanos slams Cubs as Reds' bats reunite

@m_sheldon
July 30, 2020

CINCINNATI -- Ahead of Wednesday’s game vs. the Cubs, the Reds were able to get the band back together. Mike Moustakas, Nick Senzel and Tucker Barnhart were back, and the team had the lineup it envisioned before the season. Their mission? Help Cincinnati up off the mat after four straight

CINCINNATI -- Ahead of Wednesday’s game vs. the Cubs, the Reds were able to get the band back together. Mike Moustakas, Nick Senzel and Tucker Barnhart were back, and the team had the lineup it envisioned before the season.

Their mission? Help Cincinnati up off the mat after four straight losses. Moustakas and Senzel each slugged home runs, but Nick Castellanos delivered the put-away blow with a grand slam for a 12-7 victory over Chicago at Great American Ball Park.

Box score

“Hey, it’s a relief that everyone is healthy, so it just felt right tonight,” Reds manager David Bell said. “If this team hadn’t come together and become this close together as we have, maybe it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But that’s not the case. It was a big deal.”

Moustakas and Senzel had been out since Sunday, when they both reported not feeling well and entered the COVID-19 protocol. Moustakas went on the injured list, but Senzel did not. Both players tested negative for the coronavirus but were not cleared to play until a few hours before the game.

Several Reds acknowledged that they missed Moustakas’ leadership, which he's provided immediately in his first season with the club.

“He plays hard. He plays to win. It starts there, and he’s a good player,” Bell said. “When you put those three things together and you have teammates that respect you and listen to you and watch you really close because they have that respect ... and then you add in the fact that he has a great personality -- he’s outgoing, he’s not afraid to speak up -- it’s just a great combination.”

As Sonny Gray dominated on the mound for the Reds and took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, Cubs ace Kyle Hendricks kept the game a scoreless deadlock also. That changed in the fourth inning, when Moustakas connected for his second homer for Cincinnati, a two-run drive to right field.

“It felt great to be back around the boys, back playing baseball and with the lineup the way it is -- it's a really good lineup, a deep lineup, and that's a great pitcher over there,” Moustakas said. “He's been a phenomenal pitcher for a long time now, but we were able to score some runs early. That's a great team, and to get some runs on the board early and let Sonny have that lead and let him pitch, that was a great game for us.”

Hendricks labored into the fifth inning and had the bases loaded with one out when Eugenio Suárez picked up his first RBIs of 2020 with a two-run single. Lefty reliever Rex Brothers took over and walked his first batter, Moustakas, to load the bases again. Here, the new three-batter minimum burned the Cubs because Brothers had to face a righty in Castellanos, a .306 career hitter vs. lefties entering the night. Castellanos clobbered a 96 mph, 1-1 fastball for a no-doubt grand slam to left field and an 8-0 Reds lead.

“From the time you’re making up your lineup, we’re thinking of different scenarios that could come up,” Bell said of the rule. “That worked out in our favor today, and Nick did everything he could with that opportunity.”

Two batters later, Senzel lifted a 2-1 pitch from Brothers to left field for his first hit of the season -- a homer.

“We were just happy to get the team going and get a win after watching the last two games,” Senzel said. “We were just trying to spark some energy and get our guys going. What a perfect way to do that, with Sonny Gray on the mound as well. He pitched phenomenal.”

Perhaps Gray set the tone Cincinnati needed in the first inning. He grazed the leg of Cubs hitter Anthony Rizzo with a pitch and didn’t like how Rizzo didn’t try to avoid being hit.

After the third out, Gray was chirping at Rizzo as he walked off the field.

“I think that was just some competitors competing, but yes, I definitely wanted to try to ignite something,” Gray said. “I definitely wanted everyone to know that we’re here to play tonight. We’re not just going to sit back and just get our butts kicked."

Gray struck out 11 batters over 6 2/3 innings while allowing two unearned runs and just one hit, on Ian Happ’s two-out double to left-center field in the fifth. He took a shutout into the seventh inning, but following a leadoff walk, a one-out throwing error by Suárez opened the door to trouble. Gray struck out his last batter, Albert Almora Jr. Left-hander Brooks Raley took over and couldn’t retire any of his five batters as Chicago rallied to make the game close.

The Reds kept the pressure on and added three runs in the bottom of the seventh -- with Senzel hitting an RBI double. But the rally was halted on a Shogo Akiyama line-drive triple play to third base. Kris Bryant appeared to trap the ball before touching third base and throwing to first, but the play was not reviewable.

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.