CINCINNATI (AP)—Jogging to the mound in the second inning of a game that already seemed lost, left-hander Randy Keisler had one fear.
“I was really worried that I could be wild after not pitching for so long,” said Keisler, who hadn’t pitched in eight days. “I said to myself, ‘Oh please, don’t be wild.”’
With that in mind, Keisler went out and had the wildest night of his career. He homered and doubled Tuesday, leading the Cincinnati Reds’ comeback from a five-run deficit to a 9-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Keisler (2-0) took over in the second inning for Ramon Ortiz, who got only five outs while falling behind 6-1. The left-hander struck out a career-high eight in 6 1-3 innings—the longest outing by a Reds reliever in 15 years— and got Cincinnati’s biggest hits as well.
Keisler had his first major league homer and a double in his first two at-bats, jump-starting the offense with his smooth left-handed swing.
“I tell these guys that these pitchers can hit,” Devil Rays catcher Toby Hall said. “That guy had a Griffey swing.”
The Reds had lost five in a row and sensed enormous pressure to win. Two days earlier, the club’s chief executive flew to Colorado for the final game of a road trip to deliver a message: Win now, or changes are coming.
Embattled manager Dave Miley held special meetings with the hitters and pitchers before Tuesday’s game, emphasizing the dire situation. By the top of the second inning, Miley had his head down again.
Carl Crawford’s three-run homer highlighted a six-run rally off Ortiz. Fans vented while Miley trudged to the mound to remove Ortiz during the 11-batter inning.
On came Keisler to change the course of the game.
“It was just good to have Randy come in and shut them down,” Randa said. “That’s more important than the homer.”
His leadoff homer sparked a five-run rally that tied it at 6 in the third inning. Randa also had a two-run homer as the Reds batted around against left-hander Mark Hendrickson, who hasn’t won on the road since July 6.
“That’s what you try to stay away from, the big inning,” Hendrickson said. “And that kind of gave them the momentum after we’d gotten it. It’s tough to come back from that.”
The hits weren’t a novelty for Keisler, who had a game-ending single in the 14th inning of his Reds debut, a 4-3 win over Washington on May 24. Keisler, who used teammate Paul Wilson’s bat, improved to 3-for-5 at the plate this season.
Rounding the bases was fun. Running the bases after his double wasn’t.
“I didn’t realize how stressful it was to get on base,” Keisler said. “I didn’t know where I was going out there.”
The Reds got the better of a matchup of last-place teams—Tampa Bay is in the basement of the AL East, Cincinnati in the NL Central. The Devil Rays have lost eight of nine, falling to 4-24 on the road this season.
Both teams have the same big problem. The Reds are second-to-last in pitching in the NL, the Devils Rays second-to-last in the AL.
“We squandered a 6-1 lead quickly,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “Our pitching’s got to get better. We scored enough runs. We just can’t make them hold.”
Piniella heard supportive cheers of “Lou! Lou!” when he came onto the field to question a call early in the game. Piniella led the Reds to a World Series championship in 1990, and remains a fan favorite.
It was Piniella’s second return to Cincinnati since he left after the 1992 season. His Seattle Mariners swept a three-game series at Cinergy Field in 2002.
The Devil Rays and Reds are the only teams in the majors without a complete game this season. … Devil Rays reliever Lance Carter started serving his three-game suspension for his role in a bench-clearing brawl on April 24 against Boston. … Harper was the 323rd pitcher Griffey has homered off. … Harper tied the club record by striking out five in a row. He has been scored upon in each of his last five outings—11 earned runs in 7 2-3 innings. … Heading into this season, Keisler was 0-for-2 career at the plate in three seasons with the Yankees and Padres.