When Trader Jack McKeon managed the Cincinnati Reds, one of his favorite sayings was, “When Mr. Opportunity knocks, you open the door and say, ‘Come on in.’”
And the current Reds put that saying to good use Tuesday night in Fenway Park against the during a heart-thumping 9-8 win over the Boston Red Sox.
Heart-thumping? The Reds owned an 8-0 lead in the seventh inning, but the Red Sox scored three in the seventh and five in the ninth. And they had the tying run on third when closer Alexis Diaz struck out Triston Casas to end it.
With Milwaukee’s loss to Toronto, the Reds moved to within three games of the division-leading Brewers. And they are one game behind second-place Pittsburgh.
Incredibly, entering the seventh inning, the Reds were 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position and had stranded 10 runners.
Yet, taking advantage of other non-RISP opportunities, the Reds led, 3-0.
Jose Barrero took care of the RISP problem in the seventh inning with a grand slam that clanked off a light tower above the Green Monster in left field.
The Reds received production from unexpected parts of their roster.
Barrero entered the game in the sixth, replacing TJ Friedl when he left the game with tightness in his left hamstring. Barrero drew a walk his first time before his grand slam. He also played a ball off the wall in the fifth with the Reds ahead, 3-0. He made a perfect relay peg to shortstop Matt McLain and McLain’s on target throw home wiped out Kike Hernandez at home.
Seldom-used Will Benson was 2 for 27 when the night began but chipped in with three hits, including a triple, and scored three runs.
And starting pitcher Ben Lively, a stand-in due to an injury to Nick Lodolo, pitched his third straight strong game — 5 2/3 innings, no runs, four hits, two walks and six strikeouts for his third win. And he lowered his earned run average to 1.99.
Boston starter Brayan Bello was all over the place with his pitches and the Reds forced him to make 97 pitches and chased him off the mound in four innings.
But because the Reds kept leaving the bases strewn with runners, they only led, 1-0 after five innings. That run came in the second inning on Benson’s single, a single by Stuart Fairchild, and a fielder’s choice by Friedl when the Red Sox failed to run an inning-ending double play.
They made it 2-0 in the fifth when Jonathan India singled and scored from first on Jake Fraley’s double. They added a run in the sixth on Benson’s single, a wild pitch, a walk, and a throwing error by shortstop Hernandez, permitting Benson to score.
Then came the game-clinching five-run seventh, five runs on two hits. Boston pitcher Joely Rodriguez gave up a single to Spencer Steer and loaded the bases. First, he walked Fairchild and to force in a run.
And Barrero unloaded his first career grand slam.
As it turned out, Barrero’s home run made it 8-0 and it was needed. In fact, a sacrifice fly by Steer after Stephenson’s triple in the eighth produced the ninth run, the margin of victory.
The Red Sox scored three in the seventh off Fernando Cruz and three with one out in the ninth against Eduardo Salazar. That forced manager David Bell to rush in closer Diaz, who had minimal time to warm-up, to face Masataka Yoshida, the potential tying run.
Yoshida doubled home a run and Jarren Duran grounded out as a run scored to make it 9-8 with the potential tying run on third. Diaz struck out Casas to end it.
The Reds finished 1 for 15 (Barrero’s grand slam) with runners in scoring position and stranded 11.
Barrero has kept his constant smile and his positive attitude despite losing the shortstop job to McLain. He has started a few games in center field and replaced the injured Friedl mid-game.
“Center field was my first position anyway,” Barrero told Bally Sports Ohio during a post-game interview. “I’ll play anywhere the team needs me to play and I’m always here for them. Wherever I play I’ll give it 100 percent of my ability to help the team get a win.
“It was my first time in Boston in Fenway, my first career grand slam, so what can I say ...it was amazing,” he said. “The team is playing really well (five wins in their last six, four in a row scoring eight or more runs) and the vibe is really good in the clubhouse. The most important thing was that we were winning at the end of the game.”