McCoy: Despite victory, Reds close to being eliminated from contention

Cincinnati Reds Eugenio Suárez, center, celebrates with teammates after hitting a two run home run against Washington Nationals pitcher Andres Machado during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Cincinnati, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
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Cincinnati Reds Eugenio Suárez, center, celebrates with teammates after hitting a two run home run against Washington Nationals pitcher Andres Machado during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Cincinnati, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Credit: Paul Vernon

Credit: Paul Vernon

Reds beat Nationals in 11th after blowing late late, while Cardinals win again

Elimination Day is fast creepin up on the Cincinnati Reds.

While the Reds were scoring an 11th-inning walk-off victory, 8-7, over the Washington Nationals on Friday night in Great American Ball Park, the St. Louis Cardinals were winning a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs.

So despite the Reds victory, the Cardinals, winners of 14 straight games, extended their lead by another half-game over the Reds.

The deficit is now six games with only nine games left on the Reds schedule. And the Philadelphia Phillies have bypassed the Reds and are one game ahead of them in the pursuit of the National League’s second wild card spot, while San Diego is only a half-game behind the Reds.

The game, though, was a microcosm of the Reds’ season. They had a 7-4 lead with two outs and nobody on in the ninth inning.

Alas, Mychal Givens gave up three runs that tied, it 7-7.

The Reds left the bases loaded with one out in the 10th before winning it in the 11th. With ghost runner TJ Friedl on second, Aristides Aquino ripped one off second baseman Luis Garcia’s glove and Friedl sprinted home as the ball trickled into right field.

Aquino entered the game in the ninth when it was 7-7. When he came to the plate, he wads 4-for-46 with 21 strikeouts, but he singled with one out and stole second.

He was the potential tying run but made a base-running gaffe. He tried to take third on a grounder to short and was thrown out, and the Reds didn’t score. He made up for it with his game-winning laser off Garcia’s glove.

“That’s why you have to be ready all the time to compete in the game, no matter who the hitter,” he said, “but tonight it was me. I have to be ready, all the time.”

Of his walk-off success, he said, “Beautiful. Super special. Any time you do something to help the team win it is pretty special.

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

The night began poorly for the Reds, even before they discovered that St. Louis destroyed the Chicago Cubs, 8-5 and 12-4. They fell behind 4-0 before bringing out their thundersticks to hit four home runs and take that 7-4 lead into the ninth inning.

After Washington scored four runs in three innings against starter Sonny Gray to take a 4-0 lead, the Reds unsheathed their big bats and clubbed four home runs.

It began with a long battle between Nationals pitcher Paolo Espino and Max Schrock in the third.

On a 3-2 count, Shrock fouled off five straight pitches. On the 10th pitch of the at bat, Shrock lined a two-run homer into the right-field seats. 4-2, Nats.

With two outs in the fifth, pinch-hitter Delino DeShields drilled his first home run in two years. 4-3, Nats.

With one out in the sixth, Nick Castellanos torched his career-best 30th home run into the right field seats 4-4, tied.

Still in the sixth, Joey Votto walked on four pitches and Eugenio Suarez blasted one deep into the left-center seats, his 28th home run. 6-4, Reds.

All six runs came on home runs. The Reds finally scored a run without a home run on a two-out single by Castellanos in the seventh.

The Nationals scored runs in the first three innings off Gray, who gave up four runs, five hits, four walks and two home runs in four innings.

Gray walked Juan Soto with two outs in the first. It was the 11th straight time Soto reached base, tying a team record. He scored on Josh Bell’s triple to right field.

Keiber Ruiz led the second with a home run to make it 2-0. Alcides Escobar led the third with a home run and another run scored in the inning on a walk and a single by Ruiz to push the Nats in front, 4-0.

Then the Reds brought out the thundersticks and the bullpen shut down the Washington offense down — until the ninth inning.

Soto walked again in the third inning, setting a team record by reaching base in 12 straight plate appearances ... and 18 of his last 21. It ended in the fifth when Amir Garrett struck out him out a full count checked swing.

After Gray departed, Garrett pitched a perfect inning with two strikeouts, Tony Santillan pitched a scoreless inning with a walk, Michael Lorenzen pitched a perfect inning, Lucas Sims pitched a scoreless inning with one single.

But Mychal Givens blew the three-run lead after retiring the first two hitters in the ninth. He had two strikes on both Lane Thomas and Alicides Escobar, but gave up back-to-back doubles to make it 7-5.

That brought up Soto, the potential tying run. Givens wisely walked him on a 3-and-1 count. He went to 3-0 on Josh Bell, worked back to 3-2 ... and walked him to fill the bases.

Facing Luis Garcia, Givens once again got two strikes, but Garcia rolled a two-run single to left field to tie it, 7-7 and send it spinning into extra innings.