McCoy: Reds score back-to-back wins for first time in 27 games

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

For the first time in 27 games, the Cincinnati Reds won back-to-back games.

And for the first time this season, the multi-talented Los Angeles Dodgers have lost four games in a row.

It came about Saturday night in Great American Ball Park when the Reds played the way the Dodgers usually play and the Dodgers played the way the Reds usually play.

The Reds, buoyed by escape-act pitching by Hunter Greene, were nearly flawless in a 3-1 victory.

It was Baseball Night in America on Fox TV, but it was Cincinnati Reds Night in Great American Ball Park.

By winning the first two games, the Reds clinched the series, their first series win after nine straight futile attempts.

For the second straight night, Spencer Steer hit a first-inning home run, Will Benson hit a second-inning home run, and Elly De La Cruz lined a run-scoring single in the sixth for Cincinnati’s three runs.

It all came down to what Greene did in the second inning on a night he didn’t have pin-perfect command, but displayed maximum intestinal fortitude.

After Steer’s first-inning home run off LA starter Walker Buehler, the Dodgers loaded the bases with no outs in the second.

Will Smith singled, Teoscar Hernandez beat an infield single, and Gavin Lux walked on a full count to fill ‘em up.

Greene went to 3-and-2 on Jason Heyward, then coaxed a 4-6-3 double play as Smith scored. Greene went to 3-and-2 on Kike Hernandez, but ended the inning with a ground ball out.

One run. And that was it.

The Dodgers forced Greene to toil hard, six full counts, and 107 pitches after six innings. In those six innings, Greene gave up one run, five hits, walked only one despite the six full counts, and struck out five.

It was a pitching duel between pitchers both wearing uniform No. 21 and pitchers facing teams they grew up following. Buehler is from Lexington, Ky., and was a Reds fan in his youth, while Greene grew up in LA dreaming of some day pitching for the Dodgers, not against them.

Greene gave up a leadoff double to Freddie Freeman in the fourth, but retired the next three without the ball leaving the infield.

Shohei Ohtani was 3 for 21 in the first six games against the Reds this year, and Greene struck him out the first two times Saturday.

But Ohtani pulled a one-out triple in the fifth when the Reds led, 2-1. He never budged. Greene induced a shallow fly to left from Freeman and a pop-up to second from Smith.

With those two outs, the Dodgers were 0 for their last 18 with runners in scoring position.

After the Dodgers tied it, 1-1, Benson unloaded an opposite-field home run into the left-field seats in the second to make it 2-1.

The Reds appear to have found a legitimate leadoff hitter in Jacob Hurtubise. He did it all Saturday.

He opened the first with a single, but was erased when De La Cruz hit into a double play. He put down a perfect sacrifice bunt in the eighth.

But his big contribution came in the sixth when he led the inning with a double. That brought up De La Cruz.

Since going 4 for 4 with four stolen bases in the first game of a four-game series in Los Angeles, De La Cruz was 0 for 18 with 10 strikeouts and no stolen bases over the next five games against the Dodgers, located where Elly playfully calls, “My city.”

This time he followed Hurtubise’s double with a first-pitch ripped single up the middle for an insurance run against left-handed LA reliever Ryan Yarbrough.

Fernando Cruz pitched the seventh and issued a two-out walk but retired the other three, two on strikeouts.

Sam Moll handled the eighth and went 1-2-3, striking out Mookie Betts to end the inning.

Then it was in the hands of an unsteady Alexis Diaz and his mission was not to do what his brother is doing. Edwin Diaz, the New York Mets closer, has blown three straight save opportunities, including Saturday afternoon. Asked to protect a 2-1 lead in the ninth, Edwin gave up a run and the Mets lost to the San Francisco Giants in 10 innings, 7-2.

Brother Alexis was having none of that. He retired Freeman, Smith, and T. Hernandez on seven pitches for his ninth save.

The last time the Reds won a series was when they swept the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers three straight April 21-23.

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