The Cincinnati Reds bullpen stays in the game any way it can. Sometimes the relievers feel helpless watching from behind the center-field fence, Amir Garrett said, and staying engaged became even more important this season because there are no fans cheering on the team.
The noise comes from the bullpen, the grounds crew and the few people sitting with owner Bob Castellini in the new Press Club in the second level behind home plate — plus the fake noise coming from the loudspeakers.
“You’ve got the grounds crew screaming, us screaming,” Garrett said. “Our boys are hitting, playing the field. We’ve got to be the fans for them. We’re trying to support them any way we can.”
The relievers were spotted by Fox Sports Ohio cameras doing the “spinal wave” on Monday when Eugenio Suarez hit a go-ahead, two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s a dance move of sorts in which the relievers arch their backs as if making a wave.
The bullpen deserves praise of its own for its performance in recent weeks. In the last nine games, it is 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA. That doesn’t even count the contributions Michael Lorenzen, who has made 15 relief appearances, has made in two starts.
Since allowing 10 runs on 18 hits in 8 1/3 innings on Sept. 1 in a 16-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, the bullpen has a 2.94 ERA in 18 games. Opponents have hit .185 against it in that span.
The relievers played a big part in the Reds (28-27) winning nine of 11 games, climbing back over .500 for the first time since Opening Day with a 6-3 victory Monday. In a nine-day span, the Reds increased their odds of making the playoffs from 17.1 to 77.1 percent, according to FanGraphs.com.
“I’ve always said, ‘Baseball is crazy,’” Garrett said. “You never know what can happen. You’re never out of it. You’ve just got to keep continuing to play and continue to have a positive mindset.”
Garrett took over for Luis Castillo in the seventh inning Monday with runners at second and third and two outs and the Reds leading 2-1. He got a groundout to end the inning.
Garrett lowered his ERA to 2.70. He hasn’t given up an earned run in 10 of his last 11 appearances and has allowed runs in only three of 18 appearances this season.
In part because of Garrett’s success, the Reds are a playoff contender for the first time in his four seasons. Through Monday, the Reds were tied for second in the National League Central Division with the St. Louis Cardinals (26-25) and led the wild-card race.
“It’s way different because the energy in the clubhouse is way different,” Garrett said. “When you know you have a chance to make the playoffs, it elevates everybody’s game. We have something to look forward to. It’s been amazing. I’ve never felt this energy. I’ve never been a part of a playoff-contending team. We’re there right now. We’ve just got to keep having fun, keep playing baseball.”
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