CINCINNATI (AP)—With two late-game rallies, the Cincinnati Reds learned what it’s like to be on the other side of those bullpen meltdowns.
Rich Aurilia’s pinch-hit, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the eighth inning rallied the Reds to a 6-4 victory Sunday and a four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies, who let the last two slip away.
Just like that, things are looking up for the Reds, who improved their bullpen with two trades in the last 10 days. The series sweep significantly upgraded their mood.
“The attitude is we’re in a situation where it’s going to be a lot of fun over the next couple of weeks, and the more wins we have, the more fun it is,” said Ken Griffey Jr., who singled during the go-ahead rally. “If we continue to do the little things, big things will come.”
Aurilia’s two-run single off Jose Mesa (0-3) sparked the Reds’ second dramatic comeback against a bullpen that has been the Rockies’ main problem lately.
Colorado has lost a season-high seven straight, its deepest slump since it dropped 10 in a row last season. The Rockies were a half-game out in the NL West before the skid, which has dumped them into last place.
“I don’t think by any means that we’re out of it,” said Josh Fogg, who turned a 3-1 lead over to the bullpen after the seventh. “This is just a rough spot. We have a good enough team to go out and put together five, six, seven wins in a row and gain some ground. No matter who you play for, you go through these kinds of slumps.”
Colorado hadn’t been swept in a four-game series in Cincinnati since 1993. The Rockies are 2-11 in four seasons at Great American Ball Park, where they’ve lost nine in a row.
The Rockies also matched their season low point at three games under .500 (44-47), a bad sign for a team with playoff aspirations.
Fogg limited the Reds to five hits and one run in seven innings on a 91-degree afternoon, only to see another solid start ruined by a bullpen that has been highly undependable for the last month.
The Reds know all about that. Before the All-Star break, they lost eight of nine primarily because of their bullpen. Now, they’re looking more like a contender.
“I think the team knows that the front office is doing what they can to help us win,” manager Jerry Narron said. “I think those trades kind of rejuvenated the team a little bit.”
Adam Dunn started the comeback by hitting left-hander Tom Martin’s first pitch for his 30th homer in the eighth inning, cutting it to 3-2. Aurilia’s two-out single off Mesa gave the Reds their first lead, and Royce Clayton followed with a two-run double for a 6-3 lead.
“If we’re within a touchdown, we feel we’re in it,” said Dunn, who played quarterback at Texas. “You never know whose night it’s going to be. That’s why it’s fun.”
Todd Coffey (4-4) pitched the eighth to get the win. New closer Eddie Guardado gave up Clint Barmes’ solo homer in the ninth while getting his third save in the series. The Reds got Guardado from Seattle 10 days ago, starting the bullpen overhaul.
They also obtained a pair of relievers as part of an eight-player deal with Washington before the series opener.
The Reds inducted pitchers Tom Seaver and Tom Browning and first baseman Lee May into their Hall of Fame, honoring them on the field before the game. Seaver threw a ceremonial first pitch to Johnny Bench, who was his catcher in Cincinnati.
Then, the 27,043 fans settled in to watch a couple of up-and-down teams scuffling to stay in playoff contention at midseason.
Unlike the Reds, who have made high-profile moves to bolster their main weakness, the Rockies have stayed the course. The starting pitching has been exemplary, but the offense and the bullpen have been undependable, setting up a lot of close losses.
What do the Rockies do now?
“Just to make a move to make a move doesn’t make much sense,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “But (general manager Dan O’Dowd) is here. We’re talking. We’re watching.”
SS Omar Quintanilla was out of the Rockies lineup with a bruised right shin, sustained when he fouled a pitch on Saturday night. He’s day-to-day. … The Reds placed C David Ross on the 15-day DL before the game to open a spot for Cincinnati starter Elizardo Ramirez, who returned from a one-start stint in the minors. Ross hasn’t played since he strained abdominal muscles on July 7. … LHP Mike Venafro requested and got his release from the Reds’ Triple-A team. Venafro was released by the Mets on March 30 and signed a minor league deal. He had a 2.45 ERA in 36 relief appearances for Louisville.