Tony Gwynn: NL’s most surprising teams
CINCINNATI (AP)—Four Florida homers. Unbeaten-in-April Dontrelle Willis on the mound. A late four-run lead.
If the Marlins can’t win a game like this, they’re not going to win many at all.
Cincinnati, which leads the NL in homers, overcame an 8-4 deficit despite only one extra-base hit in the game—Encarnacion’s decisive one-out double off Todd Wellemeyer (0-1). The Reds got a lot of help.
Florida (4-10) tied its club record with four homers, but made three errors, walked six batters, hit another and let in a run with a wild pitch.
“It’s embarrassing,” said manager Joe Girardi, so upset that he called his second postgame meeting in three days. “We can’t keep making mistakes. Seventeen days in, we can’t keep making mistakes.”
The Reds took full advantage, right up to the final pitch.
Cincinnati tied it with three runs in the eighth, and Wellemeyer walked Adam Dunn to open the ninth. Scott Hatteberg singled with one out, and Encarnacion followed with a grounder down the third-base line to score Dunn without a play at the plate.
“My first base hit to win a game in the big leagues,” Encarnacion said, still smiling after he was pummeled by teammates.
In the Marlins’ opinion, it never should have come to that.
Willis was on the verge of improving to 10-0 career in April when he turned an 8-4 lead over to the bullpen after the sixth. Once again, Florida turned it into a close one and lost it.
Florida is 0-5 in one-run games, the only NL team that has yet to win one. It’s a big reason why the major leagues’ youngest and least-expensive lineup has only four wins and has yet to win a series this season.
Todd Coffey (1-0) pitched a perfect ninth to get the victory and let Cincinnati take two of three in the series.
“We’re definitely beating ourselves up,” Willis said. “It was a tough loss. I should have done better. I should have put them on their heels and I didn’t.”
This one slipped away in the eighth. Matt Herges relieved with the bases loaded and couldn’t field Felipe Lopez’s comeback grounder, which could have resulted in a home-to-first double play. Instead, the ball kicked away to second baseman Dan Uggla, who then threw it away while trying to get Lopez at first. Brandon Phillips’ run-scoring groundout tied it at 8.
Then, the Reds completed a most out-of-character performance—no homers in a high-scoring game. Cincinnati had 11 singles before Encarnacion’s game-ending double.
“It just shows we don’t have to hit home runs to win games, either,” leadoff hitter Ryan Freel said. “We’ve shown we can score five or six runs an inning. With this lineup, there’s no reason to drop your head and give up.”
By contrast, the Marlins tied their club record with four homer, including a three-run shot by Uggla. Miguel Cabrera, Miguel Olivo and Reggie Abercrombie added solo shots—Abercrombie’s first career homer landed 493 feet away in the upper deck in left, the third-longest in Great American Ball Park’s four-season history.
Willis came in 4-0 in five career starts against Cincinnati, allowing a total of four earned runs. He gave up four in a ragged fourth inning, when he walked two batters and let in a run with a wild pitch.
Still, the Marlins were in good shape when he left. Or, so they thought.
Two errors, a walk and a hit batter helped the Reds tie it with a run in the seventh and three in the eighth.
The Marlins entered the series with only 10 homers, third-fewest in the NL. They morphed into sluggers in Cincinnati, hitting seven homers in the last two games at a ballpark that gives them up pell-mell.
Their first three came off right-hander Aaron Harang, who lasted only four innings. In his last outing, Harang pitched into the eighth inning of a 1-0 win in St. Louis.
Abercrombie broke an 0-for-22 slump during the Marlins’ 12-6 win on Tuesday night, then went on a 5-for-9 tear. … Before the game, Cincinnati optioned RH reliever Mike Burns to Triple-A Louisville and called up LHP Michael Gosling. … Gosling got into the game in the fifth and hit Mike Jacobs in the helmet. Jacobs wasn’t hurt. Gosling hit Pittsburgh’s Sean Casey in the helmet during a spring training game. … After the game, the Reds optioned Gosling back to Louisville. They plan to call up left-hander Brian Shackelford on Thursday.