Andy Green’s unusual mid-count pitching change almost paid off.
Scooter Gennett made sure it backfired.
Green, the San Diego Padres manager, brought in left-hander Brad Hand, who hadn’t given up a run in 24 innings over 23 outings since June 10, to face left-handed hitting Joey Votto with a 2-2 count, two runners on base and one out in the seventh. Hand ended up completing the walk, but bounced back to get what looked like a clutch strikeout of right-hander Adam Duvall, setting up a matchup with the left-handed Gennett.
The percentages favored Hand, but Gennett – who memorably hit four home runs against St. Louis on June 6 – gave him no time to play them, launching the first pitch into the right center-field seats for his 19th homer of the season and third career grand-slam.
Just like that, a 3-2 deficit was a 6-3 lead, a turnaround engineered by a guy who went into the at bat hitting .203 with 20 strikeouts and one home run against left-handers.
“For the most part, I’m trying to hit the ball up the middle against a lefty,” said Gennett, who boosted his career-high homer count to 19. “That’s my mindset. I saw it pretty early. It was just a slider he’s trying to throw for a strike to get ahead.”
“They had the matchup they wanted – lefty on lefty – and Scooter didn’t miss the first-pitch slider,” manager Bryan Price said. “Then we got the add-on runs. We always talk about the separation.”
Eugenio Suarez followed two pitches later with a massive shot over the Reds bullpen in left-center field, Zack Cozart added a two-run shot in the eighth, and Votto made it two sets of back-to-back homers with a solo shot to complete a come-from-behind 10-3 win.
The Reds won three of the four games against the Padres and four of seven on the home stand.
Green’s strategy didn’t surprise Price, who’s done the same thing.
“As much as it’s outside the box, you can’t really blame him for it,” Price said. “He got the matchup he wanted. (Scooter) didn’t miss the one pitch he might’ve gotten (to hit).”
Votto has homered in four of his last six games while extending his team-high hitting streak to 15 games (22-for-46, .478).
Cincinnati starting right-hander Luis Castillo allowed just two hits and one run, Wil Myers’ opposite-field blast into the right-field seats in the fourth, over the first four innings before the Padres strung together four hits in a two-run fifth to take a 3-2 lead.
“He was phenomenal,” Price said about Castillo. “I like the way he competes. He gets after it. He got us there. Every guy came in and did a job.”
The Reds took a 2-0 lead with one out in the second when Suarez was hit by a pitch and went to second on a wild pitch. Misreading the ball, he stayed there on Patrick Kivlehan’s line-drive single to right, but hot-hitting Tucker Barnhart made sure the baserunning gaffe didn’t haunt the Reds. Barnhart, hitting .348 with eight runs batted in over his previous eight starts, lined a two-run double into the right-field corner. Kivlehan scored from first standing up.
After Votto walked to lead off the sixth, University of Dayton product Craig Stammen made his first appearance of the series. He coaxed Adam Duvall into a double-play ball, but loaded the bases with a single, walk and hit batsman before getting Barnhart to ground out.