The Cincinnati Reds faced the danger of falling into third place Friday night if they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in Great American Ball Park.
And it didn’t look promising when they trailed by two runs entering the bottom of the seventh.
But they rallied for two runs in the seventh to tie it and scored a run in the eighth to grab a 6-5 victory.
Instead of falling a half-game behind the Cardinals, the Reds stepped ahead by 1 1/2 games and stayed 6 1/2 behind first-place Milwaukee.
Nick Castellanos, around whom much of the offense has revolved this season, was placed on the injured list with a hairline fracture on his hand. That means the rest have to step it up.
They did just that Friday with a 14-hit barrage. Kyle Farmer and Joey Votto each had three hits, while Jonathan India and Tyler Stephenson each had two.
“Guys have to pick up the slack, pick up where he was,” said Farmer, referring to Castellanos. “Our lineup is great, too. We definitely do miss Nick, but we have some good guys in the lineup, too.”
This one belonged to the much-troubled Reds bullpen. After a hiccup from Edgar Garcia, the rest were unblemished — Tony Santillan, Brad Brach and Heath Hembree.
Hembree pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out the side for his eighth save in nine opportunities. The final out game against Adam Wainwright, a pitcher pinch-hitting because the Cardinals were out of position players. Wainwright was 1 for 32 this season.
The Reds scored what proved to be the winning run in the eighth. Farmer strarted it with a single, his third hit. Pinch-hitter Tucker Barnhart reached when pitcher Giovanny Gallegos threw wildly to second on a double play ball.
Jesse Winker walked to fill the bases and Tyler Stephenson quietly hit a sacrifice fly to right, one of his many clutch at bats this season.
“Whenever Stephenson gets up in a crucial situation, there is no stress on him,” said Farmer. “He is very chill, very relaxed. I have all the confidence in the world with him up to bat in those situations. Having early success has helped his confidence.”
Manager David Bell isn’t surprised at all by his rookie catcher’s contributions, that included an important single in the middle of the two-run game-tying seventh and the game-winning sacrifice fly.
“He wants to be up in those situations, and it looks like he has been doing it for years,” he said. “There is no panic. He’s comfortable in the box in any situation. He is a young player playing beyond his years.”
Starting pitcher Tyler Mahle wrestled with his control, but turned a 3-2 lead over to the bullpen in the sixth.
He gave up a 448-foot upper deck home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the first, but Votto’s two-run double in the bottom of the first pushed the Reds ahead, 2-1.
Harrison Bader tied in the second with a home run, then the Reds took a 3-2 lead in the fourth with a home run.
Mahle walked three straight Cardinals with one out in the fifth but roared back to escape damage by striking out Tyler O’Neill and Paul DeJong.
“We’ve seen Mahle do that a lot,” said Bell. He is so tough, such a good pitcher. With his fastball, we’ve seen him go right at hitters. They know what’s coming, but he still has that good fastball to get outs, often with strikeouts. That was really a big spot to get out of that inning.”
Garcia replaced Mahle in the sixth and quickly blew the lead by giving up four straight hits, including a two-run double by Andrew Knizner. The three-run inning gave the Cardinals a 5-3 lead.
R.J. Alaniz started the seventh and hit a batter and walked one. When he went to 2-and-0 on Bader, he got a mound visit and left with a calf injury.
Tony Santillan inherited the two on and nobody out dilemma and promptly struck out Bader, struck out Tommy Edman and retired Knizner on a low line drive to right fielder Aristides Aquino, leaving the deficit at 5-3.
The Reds tied it, 5-5, in the seventh on a single by Stephenson, a single by Votto and an RBI ground ball double over the third base bag by Eugenio Suarez. Votto scored on a wild pitch to tie it.
“Really a great job by our bullpen, they picked each other up,” said Bell.
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