Rookie power! Young Reds key walk-off win in extras

July 1st, 2023

CINCINNATI -- As he waited on deck in the bottom of the 11th for the outcome of a pivotal review to decide whether was out at the plate or if he scored the winning run, Reds rookie  wasn't worried.

"If this call gets overturned, it will probably be the weirdest walk-off I’ve ever been a part of," Steer thought. "If it doesn’t, so what? Let’s go try to get another run.”

De La Cruz was out upon review, but the sting of the setback didn't linger. Steer tattooed a drive to left field for a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning for a 7-5 victory over the Padres on Friday at Great American Ball Park.

It extended the 44-38 Reds’ winning streak to three games, and it was their 30th come-from-behind victory of the season, the most in the Majors.

Three rookies carried the club offensively in the late innings for the win:

  • hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the 10th inning.
  • De La Cruz tied the game a second time in the 11th with an RBI double.
  • Steer won it after De La Cruz was out at the plate.

According to STATS, the Reds are the first team in MLB history to have one rookie hit a game-tying homer and another rookie hit a walk-off homer in extra innings in the same game.

"I think it says a lot about our character and how we go about our business," McLain said. "We're just trying to help the team win, like all of us. Nothing more than that, nothing less than that. Each and every day, every at-bat, every pitch, if we can help the team a little bit that day, that's a win for us."

Cincinnati was trailing, 5-4, in the bottom of the 11th inning against reliever Drew Carlton when De La Cruz scorched an RBI double to right field at 115.4 mph that scored Jonathan India as the tying run. Kevin Newman's sacrifice bunt moved De La Cruz to third base.

De La Cruz bolted for home on Nick Senzel's fielder's choice grounder to Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. The rookie made a headfirst slide, but he couldn’t wrap around catcher Gary Sánchez's leg to touch the plate. The Reds challenged, thinking Sánchez illegally blocked the plate, but the out call was confirmed.

"That can really take the wind out of your sails typically. It just doesn’t," Reds manager David Bell said. "You can’t teach that. It’s just who our players are and who they’ve become as a team."

Up next was Steer, who pointed to the Reds' dugout after he slugged Carlton's 2-2 pitch to left field, causing bedlam among the 31,772 fans in attendance. It was his first walk-off home run in the big leagues.

“That was just kind of a blackout moment for me, honestly," said Steer, who leads the club with 13 homers. "When I hit it, I knew it was gone. Everything else, whatever happened after that, I have no idea. It’s one of those moments you dream of and have always wanted to do."

The Reds had a 2-1 lead before closer Alexis Díaz blew his first save of the season in the top of the ninth inning, ending baseball’s longest streak at 27 straight saves dating back to last season. Díaz gave up two hits to open the rally, including making a bad throw to first base on a bunt single. 

Matt Carpenter's sacrifice fly to right field scored Bogaerts for the tying run.

"This team is playing just unbelievable, undeniable baseball that you just know that they're going to come back and win the game," Díaz said via translator Jorge Merlos. "So I'm just happy with how the things turned out."

San Diego took a 4-2 lead in the 10th inning when Ian Gibaut gave up Fernando Tatis Jr.'s RBI single and Juan Soto's RBI double. Cincinnati was down to its last out when McLain delivered a game-tying, two-run homer to center field against reliever Ray Kerr to extend the game.

Graham Ashcraft, who was done after a well-pitched 6 2/3 innings with one run allowed, enjoyed the show. 

"If it tells you how entertaining it is, I didn't leave the dugout until the ninth inning because I was like, 'OK, it's time to go do arm care now,'" Ashcraft said. "I love getting to play with these guys every five days. I love getting to watch these guys the four days that I'm on the bench and pull for them. It's some of the most fun I've had playing this game."