McCoy: Bullpen, De La Cruz lift Reds past Angels

Oh what a relief it was for the Cincinnati Reds to break their three-game losing streak Friday night in Great American Ball Park.


Even though the Reds romped over the Los Angeles Angels, 7-1, it was relief pitching by Fernando Cruz and Lucas Sims that saved this one.

A 433-foot upper deck two-out home run by catcher Tyler Stephenson gave the Reds a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning.

But the Angels put runners on third and second with one out in the seventh against Reds starter Nick Lodolo.

Needing strikeouts, Reds manager David Bell brought in split-fingered specialist Fernando Cruz. And that’s exactly what Cruz gave him. He struck out Jo Adell and Zach Neto.

Bell then showed some intestinal fortitude when he brought in Lucas Sims to protect the one-run lead in the eighth.

When last seen in Seattle, Sims gave up a home run on his first pitch and walked four batters in one inning.

On this night, he threw two quick strikes to Anthony Rendon … then walked him and it looked as if it was a case of here he goes again.

Instead, he retired the filet mignon of the Angels batting order — Mike Trout on a line drive to center, Taylor Ward on a fly to right and Miguel Sano on a liner to right, keeping it at 2-1.

While the Reds bullpen gave them relief, the Angels bullpen gave themselves grief.

Los Angeles starter Tyler Andrews held the Reds to two runs, one unearned, and three hits over seven innings.

The Angels brought in Adam Cimber and it was mayhem. The Reds scored five runs on two hits.

Cimber hit Nick Martini with a pitch, forcing in a run, then threw a wid pitch to let in another run.

Jose Cisneros replaced Cimber and Elly De La Cruz welcomed him with a three-run opposite field home run into the left field seats.

It was an all-around electric night for Elly — speed, defense, power.

He singled with two outs in the second inning. Two pitches later he was crossing home plate without Jake Fraley swinging at a pitch.

De La Cruz stole second. On the next pitch he stole third and trotted home when LA catcher Logan O’Hoppe hurriedly threw the ball into left field.

The only run off Lodolo, now 2-0 after two starts, came in the fifth after he had two outs and nobody on. Luis Rengifo singled, stole second and scored on Adell’s single to center.

For his 6 1/3 innings, Lodolo gave up the one run, seven hits, walked none and struck out six.

“I’m just glad to see him pitching again,” said Stephenson during a post-game interview with Bally Sports Ohio. He was referring to Lodolo missing nearly a year before taking the mound for the first time in 325 days five days ago.

“We all are because it has been a long time and after what he did in his first start to back it up again tonight. He looked sharp and he has been working hard.”

In his 2024 debut last week in Chicago, he held the White Sox to no runs and one hit over 5 2/3 innings.

Stephenson, batting .195, was at clean-up for the first time this season. He has hit the ball hard consistently most of the season with not much to remember about it. But his Kentucky-bound home run was the longest of his career and the hardest hit ball of his career at 111 miles an hour.

“That might be the best one I ever felt,” he said. “I’ve been putting really good swings on the ball the last week or so. Hitting some balls right at guys and kind of been unlucky.”

In addition to stealing a run and homering for three runs, De La Cruz stole another base, three for the game, and made a couple of defensive dandies.

With the Reds leading, 1-0, the Angels’ Ward doubled with one out in the fourth. Sano smashed one that De La Cruz speared and flipped to second to double off Ward.

“He has been a blast to watch,” said Stephenson. “Ever since the start of the season he has found ways to get on. Honestly, his speed is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen.

“Just what he can do … he changes the game by stealing bases, some of the plays he makes in the field. I’m proud of him because he has been working very hard.”

With Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Jeimer Candelario still out with illness, Bell was forced to use three left-handed hitters against the left-handed Anderson, who started the game 2-1 with a 1.47 earned run average.

The lefties were Nick Martini, Jake Fraley and Will Benson and they were a combined 0 for 9, although Fraley coaxed a walk.

So despite scoring seven runs, the Reds had only five hits. One came from leadoff hitter Jonathan India, a single in the third inning to end a 0 for 24 slide.

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