When it comes to facing adversity, the Cincinnati Reds appear to be at their best.
The Reds adversity meter was at its highest Sunday afternoon in Citizens Bank Ball Park in Philadelphia.
And they survived nicely for a 7-4 victory to take two of three from the Philadelphia Phillies to remain eight games behind Milwaukee in the National League Central.
—Just three batters into the game, Nick Castellanos questioned umpire Sean Barber’s strike-three call and was quickly ejected. Manager David Bell just as quickly was excused for the afternoon.
—Left fielder Jesse Winker missed the previous two games with a lower back strain and tried to play Sunday. He left the game in the third inning.
—Second baseman Jonathan India jammed his shoulder in the fifth inning diving back to first base on a pickoff throw. He remained in the game but was flexing his arm constantly.
—The Reds faced strikeout machine Aaron Nola, one of baseball’s best pitchers. That, though, was no problem. The Reds knocked him out after 4 1/3 innings with four runs, six hits and three walks.
“This is what it is going to take the rest of the way and we are going to be challenged more,” said manager David Bell. “We’ve been challenged a lot to this point and I can’t say it enough, it is really something the way our team respond to the challenge when it gets tough.”
Reds starter Sonny Gray held the Phillies at bay while his teammates constructed a lead, then the bullpen delivered 4 1/3 one-run innings.
And Gray put this one in perspective.
“This day clearly wasn’t about me, it was about timely hitting, about the bullpen coming in and shutting the door for 4 1/3 quality innings,” said Gray. “Everybody picked each other up and it was a complete team win.
“If you draw it up, this one had team win written all over it,” he added. “This took everyone on the roster, the whole traveling party.”
It started with Shogo Akiyama, who entered the game in the first inning after
Castellanos was ejected and contributed two hits, including a two-run double that gave the Reds an early 3-0 lead.
On a 0-and-2 count leading off the game, India deposited the next pitch into the left field seats, breaking a 0 for 10 skid and giving Gray a 1-0 lead.
The Reds pushed their advantage to 3-0 in the third with two runs, the two-run double by Akiyama that followed singles by Gray and India.
“A lot of guys stepped up, Shogo stepped up huge,” said India. “That was awesome to see. Just a great team win. The home run? That’s the best feeling. You put the team on the board early and gives your team some momentum and it is tough for teams to come back from that.”
The Phillies scored a run in the fourth on a triple by J.T. Realmuto and a sacrifice fly by Bryce Harper.
Cincinnati was given two opportunities to break the game open in the fourth and fifth, leaving the bases loaded.
With the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth, Tucker Barnhart popped to shallow right and Gray rolled into a double play.
With the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, Mike Moustakas struck out, Tyler Naquin walked to force in a run and Kyle Farmer flied to center, leaving it at 4-1.
The Phillies scored two in the fifth and chased Gray, pulling to within 4-3.
Philadelphia loaded the bases with one out on a single, hit by pitch and walk. Gray walked Harper on a full count, forcing in a run. A second run scored on a sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius.
Lucas Sims replaced Gray and ended the inning with two runners on base by catching Andrew McCutchen looking at a called strike three.
Michael Lorenzen tempted danger in the seventh by walking two, then wiggled free by inducing a soft fly ball out of Gregorius to end the inning.
The Reds added three runs in the eighth amid more controversy involving home plate umpire Barber. Connor Brogdon retired the first two Reds before Kyle Farmer beat an infield hit.
With two strikes, Brogdon appeared to strike out Tucker Barnhart, but Barber called it a ball. Barnhart ripped the next pitch for a run-scoring double.
Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi brought in relief pitcher Hector Neris. Acting manager Freddie Benavides countered with pinch-hitter Tyler Stephenson and he blasted a two-run home run, lifting the Reds to a 7-3 lead.
The rookies? Still rocking. India had three hits and scored three runs and Stephenson matched India’s home run.
“It’s amazing and me and him have been talking about it all year,” said India. “We’re producing for our team like this. We’re doing really, really well.
“I’m so happy for Tyler because he doesn’t play every day and for him to step up like that. . .it’s hard to pinch-hit and he does a lot in big situations. It has been amazing.”
Luis Cessa retired the first two in the eighth, then gave up singles and a run-scoring double by Alex Bohm to whittle the scored to 7-4.
Benavides went to the bullpen again and brought in Mychal Givens to face Jean Segura and he flied to right.
The Reds return home after a 3-and-4 trip through Cleveland, Atlanta and Philadelphia. They open a three-game series Monday night against the Chicago Cubs, a team lugging an 11-game losing streak during which they’ve been outscored, 87-41.
Cubs at Reds, 7:10 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410
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