Second baseman Scooter Gennett picked the perfect time to locate his power stroke.
Gennett’s second home run of the game – and the season – helped the Reds overcome a bullpen meltdown and pull out a 9-7, 12-inning win over the Atlanta Braves before a crowd of 14,139 pizza-appreciating fans at Great American Ball Park.
The recently reliable Reds bullpen faltered mightily in Tuesday’s game against the Braves, but Joey Votto walked to lead off the 12th andset up Gennett’s first career walkoff home run, adding to a night of firsts for him. Earlier, he contributed what he said was his first major league suicide squeeze.
“Not many guys have a game where they have a suicide squeeze and two home runs,” interim manager Jim Riggleman observed.
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Left-hander Amir Garrett and right-hander Raisel Iglesias teamed up to blow a ninth-inning, four-run lead, but Jared Hughes (1-2) pitched 2 2-3 innings of scoreless relief to get his first win as a Red.
The Braves’ rally started with first baseman Freddie Freeman’s second homer of the game. Center fielder Ender Inciarte capped the comeback with a two-run infield single on a blistering one-hopper that Gennett couldn’t shorthop, handing Iglesias his first blown save in four opportunities this season.
“It’s the least I could do after messing that one play up,” Gennett said. “That’s a situation where I’m trying to get one up and out over the plate. For a second, I thought it wasn’t going to go out. I thought (right fielder Nick) Markakis was going to climb the wall.”
The game was the fifth of the young season in which Atlanta overcame a deficit in the eighth inning or later.
“You had a bad feeling once Atlanta came back,” Riggleman said. “I give our guys tremendous credit. This is a game of heartbreak sometimes, and it looked like it was going to be one of those nights for us.”
The bullpen had compiled a combined 2.81 earned-run average over the previous 10 games before Tuesday’s collapse.
The Braves comeback cost Tyler Mahle his second win of the season. Mahle, in his fifth start of the season and ninth of his career, turned in six no-hit innings against the team that went into the game leading the National League in scoring.
Mahle, who’s pitched two minor league no-hitters, was pretty sure he wasn’t going add one in the majors on Tuesday.
“It felt about the same, but I had more pitches,” he said. “I could’ve gone seven, but I don’t think I could’ve gone nine.”
That doesn’t mean wasn’t thinking about it.
“It’s always in the back of your mind a little bit,” he said.
The 23-year-old, whose previous single-game career high in strikeouts was seven, had 11 through six innings before Freeman launched a no-doubt home run deep into the right-field seats on Mahle’s 90thpitch to lead off the seventh inning. Markakis doubled and catcher Kurt Suzuki homered into the left field seats to knock Mahle out of the game.
Eleven strikeouts gets ticket holders free pizzas at local LaRosa’s.
Coupled with their 10-4 win on Monday, the Reds have back-to-back victories for the first time since beating Pittsburgh last Sept. 16-17, a span of 34 games, and allowed them to avoid posting the single-worst 23-game start in franchise history. They are 5-18, matching the 1931 and 1934 teams’ records through 23 games.
Tuesday’s followup was better for the Reds than the last time they logged a 10-4 win. That was on April 16 – also a Monday – in Milwaukee, which they followed with two 2-0 losses. Mahle started the second shutout loss.
Catcher Devin Mesoraco was scratched from manager Jim Riggleman’s original starting lineup after developing a stiff neck. Tucker Barnhart stepped in and delivered an RBI single in the seventh.
Mahle helped get Cincinnati’s scoring started in the three-run second inning. He came up with the bases loaded and one out and hit a chopper up the first base line that Freeman fielded cleanly, but Suzuki had to jump to catch Freeman’s thrown and he came down with his feet off the plate for a throwing error.
After a lengthy delay, Atlanta manager Brian Snitker put his hands to his ears, indicating he wanted a replay review, but crew chief Fieldin Culbreth denied the request, most likely because Snitker took too much time.
Billy Hamilton followed with one-hopper back to pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who dropped the ball and threw too late to get Hamilton at first while Barnhart crossed the plate. Jesse Winker’s sacrifice fly gave the Reds a 3-0 lead.
Votto and Gennett teamed up for their first home runs of the season with two outs in the fifth inning. Votto’s reached the first row of seats in left-center field, while Gennett’s line-hugger caromed off the right-field foul pole.
Gennett, who had five hits in his last 31 at bats, and rookie third baseman Alex Blandino each finished with two hits, and Gennett drove in Philip Ervin with a deft suicide squeeze in the seventh.