McCoy: Winker’s three home-run game leads Reds to sweep of Cardinals

Cincinnati Reds' Jesse Winker, right, gets a hug from teammate Jonathan India after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday, June 6, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Cincinnati Reds' Jesse Winker, right, gets a hug from teammate Jonathan India after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday, June 6, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Credit: Jeff Roberson

Credit: Jeff Roberson

Cincinnati beats St. Louis 8-7 to take four straight

Jesse Winker’s third home run of Sunday afternoon’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals was a tale of saving face for the Cincinnati Reds battered and beleaguered bullpen.

His third home run broke a tie in the top of the ninth inning and provided the Reds with an 8-7 victory.

It was a victory that came after the bullpen blew a 7-0 lead in the sixth inning by giving up seven runs.

There have been many head-shaking meltdowns this season by the Reds bullpen, but Sunday afternoon in Busch Stadium III took the cake with a bunch of exploding candles.

After Reds started Wade Miley turned in five scoreless inning, Mike Feliz, Brad Brach and TeJay Antone gave up seven runs and seven hits to turn a laugher into a grimace.

Winker, though, saved the day and should be required to wear a sticker on his forehead that reads: “Caution. This batter could be hazardous to your health.”

Winker, the Reds magnificent masher, hit home runs in the first and second innings to drive in five runs.

Cincinnati Reds' Jesse Winker, right, arrives home after hitting a solo home run as St. Louis Cardinals catcher Andrew Knizner stands at the plate during the ninth inning of a baseball game Sunday, June 6, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Cincinnati Reds' Jesse Winker, right, arrives home after hitting a solo home run as St. Louis Cardinals catcher Andrew Knizner stands at the plate during the ninth inning of a baseball game Sunday, June 6, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Credit: Jeff Roberson

Credit: Jeff Roberson

That was the impetus for the 7-0 lead that enabled the Reds to narrowly complete a nearly unprecented four-game sweep of the crippled Cardinals.

The last time the Reds swept four games in St. Louis was in 1990, the last time Cincinnati won a World Series.

And the Reds have won four straight since absorbing a 17-3 beating at home by the Philadelphia Phillies, and they’ve won five of six. The Cardinals have lost five straight and seven of their last eight.

“I will remember this day for the rest of my life,” said Winker. “I’m definitely taking the jersey and the bat home with me. It was really cool and it was an honor. I have great guys in here, I love this team, I love these guys.”

Winker became the first Reds player ever to have more than one game in a season with three homers after he hit three in a game earlier this season.

Of the game-winning home run, he said, “Oh, man, I was so happy. It got up and got out. When I saw it clear the fence I was so excited, I was really pumped.” he said.

Earlier in his career, critics were on his case because he didn’t hit for power and some said he would never hit for power.

“Yeah, I heard it,” he said. “I did my best not to play attention to it. I was learning about myself, learning about the game of baseball, always focused on trying to get better.”

The beneficiary of Winker’s early game explosion against Cardinals starter John Gant was Miley. He pitched five shutout innings and gave up four hits while striking out eight.

Jonathan India led the game with a single and Winker lost a Gant pitch deep into the right center seats for a 2-0 Reds lead.

Grant walked Tucker Barnhart to open the second and with two outs he hit India with a pitch.

On a 0-and-2 count, Winker struck again. Emphatically. He drove another home run into the right center seats, a three-run blast to give the Reds and Miley a 5-0 lead.

The two home runs were Winker’s 15th and 16th, tying his career high and it is early June. And his game-winning home run gave him a career-best 17.

Gant had given up only one home run all season in 50 1/3 innings.

The Reds tacked on two more in the third on a double by Eugenio Suarez.

St. Louis is so injury-ripped, especially with its pitching, Gant was permitted to bat in the third inning even though he had given up seven runs and seven hits in three innings.

After Miley left, the fun and games began with the Reds bullpen. Felix replaced Miley in the sixth. He faced five hitters and retired none.

Within the blink of a misplaced slider the Cardinals had two runs. Nolan Arenado singled and Tyler O’Neill lobbed a two-run home run over the center-field wall.

Felix walked Edmundo Sosa and gave up back-to-back singles to Jose Rondon and Andrew Knizner to load the bases with no outs.

Feliz was out and Brach was in. And so were two more runs. Pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter, hitting .152, drove a two-run double to left center and it was 7-4 — still no outs and two on.

Tommy Edman hit off Brach’s glove to shortstop Mike Freeman and he threw the ball over first baseman Tyler Stephenson’s head and another run scored to cut it to 7-5.

Edman stole second, putting runners on third and second, the potential tying runs with nobody out. Brach walked Dylan Carlson, filling the bases.

And Brach was gone, replaced by Antone with the bases jammed, nobody out and Paul Goldschmidt standing menacingly in the batter’s box.

Goldschmidt lined to Antone and he quickly flipped to first base for a double play. That escape act was temporary. Arenada ripped a two-out single to left, his third hit, to tie it, 7-7.

Then came Winker’s ninth-inning home run. . .but it wasn’t over with Lucas Sims on the mound.

Goldschmidt singled on the first pitch and Arenado doubled to left, his fourth hit. That put the tying run on third and the winning run on second with no outs.

Sims got O’Neill to pop to second, struck out Sosa and struck outRondon on a 3-and-2 pitch to end it with an amazing escape act.

Of the bullpen’s messy sixth, Winker said, “That’s part of the game. We had three innings to go. We take the lead and Lucas comes in and slams the door.

“That was a huge, huge series to win right there,” Winker added. “That was a lot of fun, a lot fun to be able to win that fourth game.”

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