By the end of the game, after a rain delay of two hours and 42 minutes as maybe 150 fans and a couple of dogs — sticking around on a long Bark in the Park night — witnessed Thursday turn into Friday, the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves could hear every person in the stands who wanted to be heard.
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One fan started yelling detailed batting instructions from behind the Reds dugout. The players heard him. The whole stadium heard him.
Maybe it worked because the Reds did add an insurance run in the eighth, and that helped everyone in the Reds dugout breathe easier in the bottom of the ninth as Raisel Iglesias stranded a runner at second and the Reds held on for a 4-2 victory in the series finale. The game ended at 12:19 a.m.
While Luis Castillo earned the victory with six scoreless innings and Eugenio Suarez was the batting star with three RBIs, the most valuable performance was turned in by reliever David Hernandez, who struck out Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies in the seventh after the Braves loaded the bases with no outs with three straight singles against Castillo.
“There’s definitely no room for error,” Hernandez said. “I just came into the game thinking, ‘Just don’t walk anybody.’ Nobody likes walking in a run. So I wanted to attack the zone, pound the zone and expand, get ahead and expand. I was able to throw some elevated fastballs that they had to offer at.”
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Hernandez helped Castillo improve his record to 3-1 in six starts and lower his ERA from 1.47 to 1.23, the best in baseball. He's tied for fifth with 43 strikeouts.
"There's definitely nothing better than coming in and helping out a fellow teammate and preserving his start," Hernandez said. "He threw well all night. He got into a jam in the seventh, and I just tried to make pitches. He definitely thanked me. He's one of the most appreciative guys in those situations. It definitely means a lot when you see the happiness of your fellow teammate, thanking you for saving runs."
Hernandez lowered his ERA from 2.79 to 2.53. He has not allowed a run in his last seven appearances.
“That’s what we pride ourselves on, coming in and stranding runners,” Hernandez said. “Bases loaded and no outs, obviously nobody wants to be in that situation. You’ve just got to make pitches. Credit to (catcher) Tucker (Barnhart). I’ve had so much trust in him since I stepped into the clubhouse two years ago in spring training. Him and Curt (Casali) have made it so much easier on me.”
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The Reds have won two series in a row and five of their last seven games. The close games that went against them during a 1-8 start have started going the other way. The combined margin of victory in their last five wins is nine runs.
Manager David Bell credited Hernandez for being aggressive.
“He did his job, but he did it in a way that was really the key to the game,” Bell said. “That was big. Luis pitched such a good game. His pitch count got up too high, and we handed it off to the bullpen, and for David to step up like that and get three big outs like that, it was fun to watch.”
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