Aquino rips walk-off to seal wild Reds victory

September 25th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- In a game the Reds badly needed to win, the hit for a victory came from a player badly in need of some success.

It’s been a challenging season for outfielder Aristides Aquino, but he picked up his team with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 11th inning for an 8-7 win over the Nationals on Friday at Great American Ball Park.

“He continues to work and work and work and not get any results,” Reds manager David Bell said. “So to come through, not only get a hit, but to get a game-winner -- those don’t come around very often for any player.”

In an 0-1 count against reliever Mason Thompson, Aquino scorched a liner off the glove of second baseman Luis García to score automatic runner TJ Friedl from second base. Aquino had entered the game as a pinch-runner in the seventh inning and remained as the left fielder for the late innings.

“First of all, thank God. That's why we have to be ready to compete,” Aquino said. “No matter what, we want to be the big hitter. And tonight, it was me, but I had to be ready.”

Aquino got extra playing time when Jesse Winker went on the injured list in mid-August, but he has seen his playing time diminish as he has struggled offensively. He was batting .178 with nine homers in 77 games entering the night.

“When I got to the plate, what was on my mind was to put the ball in play, try to move the runner,” Aquino said.

Even with the victory, the chances for the Reds to make the postseason remain fleeting. Winners of 14 in a row after sweeping a doubleheader from the Cubs, the Cardinals stretched their lead to six games ahead of Cincinnati for the second National League Wild Card spot with eight games remaining.

This was a messy game for Cincinnati but one where the team picked each other up throughout the evening.

The Reds battled back after being in a 4-0 deficit early with seven runs, which included four home runs -- one each from Max Schrock, pinch-hitter Delino DeShields, Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suárez.

The comeback catalyst was Schrock in the bottom of the third inning. He fouled off five consecutive pitches before capping his 10-pitch at-bat with a two-run homer to right field against Nationals starter Paolo Espino.

“It did change the momentum. It gave us a chance to get back into the game,” Bell said. “As those at-bats go, everyone in the dugout starts getting more and more into the at-bat. You know you’re watching a great battle. To actually come through and win that battle and do it with a home run, then get us back in the game, definitely it got the dugout going.”

Four relievers picked up Gray with four scoreless innings, but Mychal Givens couldn’t close it out with a three-run lead in the ninth. Four times, Givens had the Nationals down to their final strike and he couldn’t finish the game off. It started with Lane Thomas hitting a two-out double on a full count and scoring when Alcides Escobar hit a 1-2 pitch for an RBI double.

Givens pitched around Juan Soto, baseball's hottest hitter. But then he also walked Josh Bell after a full count. In a 1-2 count, García hit a game-tying two-run single to left field to make it a blown save for Givens.

Cincinnati left the bases loaded in the 10th inning but got a much-needed scoreless top of the 11th from reliever Art Warren. In five appearances since returning from the IL, Warren has delivered 4 1/3 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts.

Warren issued a two-out intentional walk to Soto and walked the next batter. But he got García to ground to the right side where Joey Votto fielded the ball and outran the runner to the bag by an inch to notch the third out.

“Votto made an unbelievable play over there. I was late getting to the bag,” Warren said. “I was pretty upset about that.”

None of that mattered by the next half-inning when Aquino ended the topsy-turvy game.

“It’s definitely a rush,” Warren said. “Obviously, when we pull ahead and take the lead at the end of the game, it’s outstanding. The back-and-forth games, I feel like we’ve had several of those lately and this one went our way, so that was exciting.”