McCoy: Candelario steals the show on Elly De La Cruz Bobblehead Night

Reds top Guardians to split two-game series

It was Elly Da La Cruz Bobblehead Night in Great American Ball Park on Wednesday, but it was Jeimer Candelario Night for the Cincinnati Reds.

While De La Cruz suffered an 0-for-4 night with three strikeouts, Candelario hit two home runs and drove in all four runs in a 4-2 win over the Cleveland Guardians.

A Wednesday record crowd of 42,427 showed up, many lined up at the gates at 3 o’clock to collect their dolls.

Candelario, though, collected the accolades, a guy who struggled in April and May but said, “Hitters are gonna hit,” and “Don’t let the Reds get hot.”

The Reds are hot, winners in eight of their last 10, and Candelario is scorching.

He homered in the first to give the Reds a 1-0 lead, struck out in the fourth, then with the Reds down, 2-1, in the sixth, he golfed an 83 mph change-up over the right-field fence in the corner, a three-run home run that won the game.

“I say it all the time, I just try to contribute to the team,” said Candelario during a post-game interview with Bally Sports Ohio. “I always say I want quality ABs and those quality ABs will take care of themselves.”

And take care of the Reds.

Candelario’s homer in the first inning came on the first pitch from Cleveland starter Tanner Bibee. The Guardians had won seven of his nine starts.

After that, Bibee was unhittable. Candelario’s homer was the only Cincinnati hit through five innings and only one other runner reached base, a full-count walk to Tyler Stephenson with one out in the second.

In the third inning, Candelario battled Bibee for 10 pitches, fouling off four before he struck out.

So after five, Bibee had held the Reds to one run, one hit, one walk and a career-high 11 strikeouts.

Then came the sixth. Will Benson led off the inning and with two strikes he pulled a single to right. T.J. Friedl also had two strikes when he punched a single to left.

De La Cruz struck out and another Bibee-Candelario battle/war commenced. This time the argument lasted nine pitches and four fouls.

On the ninth pitch, a full count and Bibee’s 102nd and last pitch of the game, Candelario drilled the three-run game-deciding home run.

“What I did there, well, he is a helluva pitcher and was making his pitches,” Candelario said about Bibee. “l was able to put the barrel on the ball and it went out.

“I keep getting my reps (in batting practice) and I’m a switch-hitter so it takes a lot of time and a lot of work. I’m in love with switch-hitting and now I’m having fun and contributing to the team.”

While Bibee was breezing, until the sixth, Reds starter Nick Lodolo was aiming a fire hose at fire after fire.

He went 1-2-3 in the first, but after that the Guardians put runners on base in every inning against him.

They stranded two in the second, three in the third, two in the fourth and one each in the fifth, sixth and seventh.

They had two on in the second with two outs, but Lodolo coaxed a ground ball from Bryan Rocchio.

They had three on in the third and scored a run when Lodolo walked David Fry on a full count, forcing in a run to tie it, 1-1.

They had two on with one out in the fourth when Steve Kwan singled and Rocchio tried to score from second. Left fielder Jacob Hurtubise unleashed a 93 mph throw home to wipe him out.

Cleveland took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on back-to-back singles to open the inning by Jose Ramirez and Josh Naylor. Candelario saved two runs by making a diving backhanded catch on Fry’s line drive.

The run scored on a ground out to Jonathan India.

But thanks to Candelario’s timely home run, Lodolo annexed the win to go 7-2 and the Reds have won eight of his 10 starts, the last four in a row.

“Lodolo takes the ball every five days and gives us a chance to win the ball game,” said Candelario. “I hope he can stay healthy and have fun with us.”

Lodolo went six innings, 102 pitches, and gave up one run, seven hits, walked three and struck out six.

The Cleveland bullpen is MLB’s best, by numbers, but on this night it was the Cincinnati bullpen putting muzzles on Cleveland’s bats.

Lucas Sims pitched a scoreless seventh with a walk. Sam Moll pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with a strikeout. And the Guardians went quietly in the ninth against closer Alexis Diaz, 1-2-3 for his 14th save.

The Guardians, first place in the American League Central, had won 19 of their last 25 games.

The victory gained the Reds a split of the two-game series and a chance to recapture the Ohio Cup, which Cleveland has hidden away in a trophy case since 2015.

The Reds must win two games in Cleveland later this season to get it back. If they split, Cleveland keeps it.

Since they began play for the Ohio Cup, which is a deathly quiet competition that is seldom mentioned or written about, the Guardians are 74-59 against the Reds.

About the Author