Spencer Steer is a stand-in at first base for recuperating Joey Votto and Steer couldn’t stand any taller.
His two-run home run over the 37-foot Fenway Park Green Monster in the seventh inning Wednesday night broke a tie and was the impetus to a 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
The Reds, streaking like the Super Chief, have won five straight and have clinched the three-game series.
An omen? The last time the Reds won a series against the Red Sox was in 1975 when they won Game 7 of the World Series.
Both Milwaukee and Pittsburgh won games Wednesday, so the Reds remain three games behind the first-place Brewers and two games behind the second-place Pirates in the National League Central.
But both teams must feel the hot breath of the Reds on their necks.
After losing seven of their first eight one-run games, Wednesday’s one-run win was their 10th this season against 12 losses
The Reds trailed Boston, 3-2, entering the seventh inning. Luke Maile grounded to third and Rafael Devers threw wildly to first, the 20th throwing error by the Red Sox infield this season.
Kevin Newman, batting leadoff for only the second time this season, singled and Matt McLain singled, filling the bases with no outs.
The tying run scored when Jonathan India hit into a double play and that brought up Steer with two outs. He unloaded his eighth home run to give the Reds a 5-3 lead.
The dramatics, though, were not over.
With one out in the seventh inning, Enmanuel Valdez was awarded first base on Curt Casali’s catcher’s interference. With two outs and left-handers Alex Verdugo and Devers due up, manager David Bell brought in left-hander Alex Young.
Did he get those two lefties out? Nope. Verdugo singled and Devers walked on a full count, loading the bases. And because Young faced only two hitters and by rule had to face three, Bell was forced to keep him on the mound to face dangerous right-hander Justin Turner.
Did he get Turner? Indeed. He grounded hard to shortstop and McLain made a superb play to throw him out.
And there was more drama.
Masataka Yoshida led off the eighth with a double off Lucas Sims. With one out, Jarren Duran doubled off The Monster, scoring Yoshida. It was 5-4 with the potential tying run on second base. Sims applied the silencer on a line drive to center by pinch-hitter Raimel Tapia and he struck out Valdez.
Now Bell had another dilemma. Closer Alexis Diaz had appeared in three straight games, so Bell had to choose another pitcher to finish it.
He chose Buck Farmer and he went 1-2-3, retiring Devers to end it on a deep fly to center that Nick Senzel caught at the base of The Monster. It was Farmer’s third career save.
The Red Sox took an early 2-0 lead against Cincinnati starter Luke Weaver. Yoshida curled a 359-foot home run inside the Pesky Pole in the second inning.
The Red Sox pushed it to 2-0 in the third on Connor Wong’s single and a two-out double by Devers.
The Reds cut it to 2-1 in the fifth against Boston starter James Paxton. He had retired eight in a row, the last four via strikeouts.
He struck out Stuart Fairchild and Tyler Stephenson to open the fifth. But he walked Jose Barrero and Maile doubled high off The Monster to score Barrero.
Boston’s Valdez dropped a 350-foot home run barely over the top of The Monster in the fifth and the Red Sox were on top, 3-1.
The Reds retrieved a run in the sixth. Paxton had given up one run and only three hits in five innings, but he is coming off an injury and is building up innings, so he was replaced in the sixth.
Relief pitcher Kutter Crawford immediately walked India and Steer. But the next two Reds made outs. Senzel picked on the first pitch and singled to center, scoring India and drawing the Reds to within 3-2.
That set it up for the seventh inning and Steer’s heroics, which helped the Red Sox to their seventh loss in nine games.