[This Reds Memory was submitted by Benjamin Clarke, a friend of the site who goes by Gingersaurus Rex online. He’s a great Twitter follow @HeyGingersaurus.]
For those who followed the Reds closely during the 2016 season, there’s many things you’d probably like to forget about that year, such as the team’s 11 game losing streak in May or the pitching staff that ranked near the bottom of the league in most every meaningful category. All in all, the 2016 campaign proved to be a challenging year for Reds fans who had grown accustom to the club contending just a few seasons earlier. While the season was arduous for Reds fans, it paled in comparison to what Michael Lorenzen went through in 2016.
When pitchers and catchers reported to Goodyear, Arizona in February of 2016, Reds right handed pitcher Michael Lorenzen seemed primed to take one of the open spots in the starting rotation. Unfortunately for Lorenzen and the Reds, things didn’t go that way. After tossing two perfect innings against San Francisco in early March, Lorenzen came down with right elbow tenderness. An MRI shortly thereafter revealed that the California native had a sprained UCL in his right elbow. Luckily for Lorenzen, the injury did not require Tommy John surgery, which usually sidelines pitchers for a minimum of a year.
In an interview with the Dayton Daily News, Lorenzen said, “I knew God was in control of the situation. It is good news because I get to help out the Reds this year.” Lorenzen’s 2016 debut was delayed further after the righty came down with mononucleosis in early April and lost about 20 pounds. The bout of sickness also wiped out Lorenzen’s rehab progress, forcing him to restart his throwing program from scratch.
By mid-June, Lorenzen was on a rehab assignment with Louisville and nearing his return to the big leagues when he received a phone call informing him that his father was in poor health, but should be fine with medication. When Lorenzen made his season debut with the Reds on June 24, the team was in last place in the NL Central and 20 games out of first place. Lorenzen, who had intentions of being a starter at the beginning of the year, was now thrust into a multi-inning relief role in an effort to keep the bullpen afloat for the remainder of the season. After allowing three runs over his first two appearances, Lorenzen surrendered just four more runs over his next 17 appearances which spanned 25 2/3 innings.
As the season grew on, Lorenzen’s father’s health continued to decline. On August 16, the Reds placed Lorenzen on the bereavement list so that he could be with his father before his passing. Lorenzen’s father died on August 17 in a Reno hospital after a prolonged illness brought on by his alcohol abuse.
Just two days after his father’s death, Lorenzen returned to Cincinnati as the Reds welcomed the Dodgers to town. Reds right handed pitcher Tim Adleman started the game for Cincinnati and tossed five scoreless innings while first baseman Joey Votto provided the offense early with a 3-run, 1st-inning home run. After Ross Ohlendorf got into a jam in the seventh, Michael Lorenzen entered with two on, and one out. Lorenzen quickly induced a one pitch line out to right field and a three-pitch groundout to first base effectively ending the threat.
In the bottom of the inning, Reds manager Bryan Price elected to leave Lorenzen in the game to bat, making what happened next one of the greatest moments in recent Reds history. With two men aboard and two men out, Lorenzen stepped to the plate against Dodgers’ pitcher Pedro Baez, who entered the night with a 3.02 ERA. As Baez came set to deliver the pitch, Dodgers’ catcher Yasmani Grandal set up for a low and away fastball. Baez, who generally has good command, missed his spot badly and left a 97 MPH fastball up that Lorenzen got around on and drove the other way for a 3-run homer.
It was Lorenzen’s first career homer, a storybook moment that most of the 28, 184 fans in attendance hadn’t fully grasped at the time.
“His father was with him the whole time he was out there. He felt it. I felt it with him.”, said Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips after the game. Lorenzen went on to work a scoreless eighth inning before being replaced by Keyvius Sampson in the ninth. After the game, Lorenzen described his night, “It’s humbled me, this whole situation, everything that happened tonight, I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way again.”
Perhaps Reds manager Bryan Price encapsulated the moment best, “If you’re around baseball and you’ve been here long enough, you’ll see all sorts of things that you think you’ll never see again or you never thought you would see, this falls under that heading. I never thought I would see something like that, as majestic and poetic and emotional as that moment.”
[Featured image: https://twitter.com/Reds/status/766968543321595904/photo/1]