Opening a seven-game homestand against two teams severely under .500, the Reds began a stretch of must-win games on Tuesday night. This was the beginning of the easiest part of their schedule, the greatest chance to pick up wins in bulk and gain ground on the Brewers and Padres.
If it was only that easy.
Despite the offense scoring five runs, and another Rookie of the Year showing from Jonathan India, the bullpen faltered in the ninth inning as the Reds fell 7-5-. Newcomers Luis Cessa and Mychal Givens both looked vulnerable, working around hard-hit balls and walks to narrowly keep the game tied. Heath Hembree was not as lucky, as he allowed two walks and a crushing three-run home run that put the Reds behind in the ninth inning.
Facing Kenta Maeda, who entered Tuesday with a 4.07 FIP in 86 innings, the Reds offense needed to begin their favorable homestand with some offensive fireworks.
Jesse Winker was the only Red to reach in the first, as he lined a 101.3 MPH single to right field. He was quickly erased on a double play ball from Kyle Farmer. The second inning was similarly easy for Maeda, as he retired the side in order.
Leading off the third, Eugenio Suarez tied the game with a 103.9 MPH, .860 xBA home run to right field. On the very next pitch, Tucker Barnhart launched a 103.4 MPH, 407 foot blast to right field, giving the Reds a 2-1 lead. The damage was not done.
With one out in the inning, Jonathan India looped a 75.6 MPH double over third base. Jesse Winker followed with a double of his own, splitting the left-center gap and extending the lead to 3-1. After the Reds went behind in the top half of the fourth inning, Maeda set down the side in order in the bottom half.
Trailing 4-3 after Mitch Garver’s home run, the Reds were looking for a spark in the bottom of the fifth inning. Shogo Akiyama pinch hit for Mahle with one out, promptly flipping a .950 xBA single into left-center. Following Akiyama, India continued his recent power surge, crushing a 103.5 MPH, 402 foot home run into left field, giving the Reds a 5-4 lead.
After India’s home run, only three Reds would reach base through the end of the eighth inning. Winker walked in the fifth after India, Max Schrock walked leading off the sixth, and Aristides Aquino had a pinch hit single in the seventh. All were either stranded, or in Schrock’s case, erased on a double play ball.
Leading off the ninth, Tyler Naquin pulled a 90.7 MPH single to right field. After a Suarez walk, the tying run was on base. Barnhart flied to short right for the first out, then Aquino struck out on a slider from Twins closer Alex Colome. India was the last hope for the Reds, but he grounded into a fielders choice, ending the game.
Tyler Mahle was not his sharpest on Tuesday night.
Despite working a two scoreless innings to open the game, Mahle did allow two hard-hit balls for outs and a soft single to Luis Arraez.
The third inning brought trouble, as Max Kepler and Brent Rooker had back-to-back doubles with one out to give the Twins a 1-0 lead. Mahle was able to escape only allowing one run, however, getting a fly out and strikeout to end the inning.
Pitching with a 3-1 lead, Mahle gave up a 103.5 MPH double to Arraez leading off the fourth. He once again danced out of the trouble, getting two ground outs and a strikeout to avoid giving up another run.
Mahle’s good luck ended in the fifth inning. His counterpart, Kenta Maeda, opened the inning with a 102.9 MPH single. After a strikeout, Rooker worked a walk, putting the tying run on base. Jorge Polanco flied out, which brought Mitch Garver to the plate with two outs. Garver blasted a 105.9, 401 foot home run to left field, pushing the Twins ahead, 4-3.
After getting the final out of the fifth, Mahle was removed for a pinch hitter. His final line over five innings included six hits, two walks, four earned runs, and five strikeouts. He generated 10 swings and misses, but allowed seven hard-hit balls.
Pitching with a 5-4 lead after Jonathan India’s home run, the Reds bullpen needed to get 12 outs to secure the win. Luis Cessa was first, and he needed just 11 pitches to work a scoreless sixth. Despite the zero on the board, Cessa did allow two hard-hit balls, including a line-drive from Nick Gordon that skipped off Jonathan India at 104.5 MPH. Gordon would reach second, but ultimately be stranded.
Michael Lorenzen was next out of the bullpen, needing just 15 pitches to work a scoreless seventh. He was pinch hit for by Aristides Aquino in the bottom half of the inning. Mychal Givens was given the ball for the eighth inning. Givens was not perfect, and nearly conceded the lead.
After a leadoff single from Garver, Givens gave up back-to-back one-out walks to Miguel Sano and Gordon. Josh Donaldson was called on to pinch-hit, and roped a 97.5 MPH shot that Suarez corralled and turned into a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play.
Next out of the bullpen was Heath Hembree, given an opportunity for another save. He started the inning with consecutive walks to Jake Cave and Max Kepler, quickly putting the go-ahead run at first base. Facing his required third batter, Hembree struck out Rooker for a huge first out. After a long battle with Polanco, Hembree spun a slider that was turned around. Polanco’s 107.4 MPH blast curved around the right field foul pole, pushing the Twins ahead 7-5. Hembree would get a strikeout before giving way to Justin Wilson, who secured a strikeout to end the ninth.
Most Valuable Players
- Jonathan India: .159 WPA (Win Probability Added)
- Mychal Givens: .124 WPA
- Jesse Winker: .117 WPA
- Eugenio Suarez: 105.8 mph | Double play in 6th inning
- Eugenio Suarez: 103.9 mph | Home run in 3rd inning
- Jonathan India: 103.5 mph | Home run in 5th inning
Unluckiest Out of the Day
- Jesse Winker: .710 xBA | Lineout in 7th inning
Highest Velocities By Pitcher
- Michael Lorenzen: 97.9 mph
- Michael Lorenzen: 97.4 mph
- Mychal Givens: 97.0 mph
Highest Pitch Spins
- Heath Hembree: 2,909 rpm | Slider
Most Pitch Movement
- Luis Cessa: 46 inches vertical movement | Slider
Team Expected Batting Averages (xBA)
- Twins: .241
- Reds: .254
The Reds conclude their two game set, and season series, with the Twins on Wednesday afternoon. First pitch is at 12:35 EST, as Luis Castillo faces off with Charlie Barnes.
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