Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco holds up the ball after tagging out Philadelphia Phillies' Marlon Byrd (3) at home in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Cincinnati. Byrd was trying to score on a double by Domonic Brown. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
CINCINNATI — Reds manager Bryan Price was lamenting a lack of fight from his club prior to Saturday’s game against Philadelphia.
Maybe they heard him.
The Reds broke a three-game losing streak that included 17 straight scoreless innings with a 6-5 win over the Phillies at Great American Ball Park. They fought back against their own offensive struggles the past few days, they fought back from a 2-1 deficit and they fought to hold off a Phillies comeback with not one but two defensive relay throws and putouts at the plate to end Phillies rallies in the sixth and seventh innings.
Center fielder Billy Hamilton started both plays by quickly getting to balls hit to the wall in right-center field. Second baseman Brandon Phillips was the middle man, taking Hamilton’s throws from the outfield and turning to send the ball to catcher Devin Mesoraco, who finished off the plays, including absorbing a clean, crushing blow from Marlon Byrd to end the sixth inning.
"As a team we’ve been talking about doing the small things and what are going to lead to the larger things and the larger accomplishments and today was a great example of that," said right fielder Jay Bruce, who hit his 100th career home run at GABP and drove in half of the Reds’ runs. "It was getting guys in, hitting the cut-off man, making good throws, cutoffs and relays. It was a good complete win all-around for us."
The managed just six hits Saturday — one more than they did in losing 8-0 on Friday night — but also took advantage of five walks by Philadelphia pitching, stole three bases, had two sacrifice bunts and two sacrifice flies to score runs.
Before Saturday’s game, Price said there was a shared frustration throughout the clubhouse.
"The thing that gets so frustrating is to play so well, to win five out of six and four in a row and then come back and look almost lifeless. That’s frustrating," said Price. "It’s certainly not because the guys don’t care. Everybody here wants to win and play better but I would say everybody’s goal in baseball going into the season is we want to win.
"In baseball, you have to take what you want."
The Reds finally did some taking after three days worth of giving. They had managed just three runs in a pair of losses to San Francisco and then the series opener against Philadelphia.
They scored their first run of the game without a hit; Billy Hamilton walked, stole second base and went to third on a groundout to shortstop by Skip Schumaker. Bruce brought him home with a sacrifice fly to left field.
After the Phillies took a 2-1 lead on a two-run homer by Byrd in the second inning off of starter Alfredo Simon, Todd Frazier tied it up with his team-leading 13th home run leading off the bottom of the second. The Reds took the lead with two runs in the fourth inning, including a sacrifice fly by Hamilton and then Bruce hit his first home run since April 20, a two-run shot to right-center field that put the Reds up 6-2 in the fifth inning.
Philadelphia catcher Carlos Ruiz led off the sixth with a solo home run to cut the lead to 6-3 and it looked as if the Phillies would get another run when Domonic Brown drove a ball to the wall with two outs and Byrd on first base. Mesoraco took a one-hop throw from Phillips and held on to the ball as Byrd collided hard into him.
Crew chief Tom Hallion asked for a review of the play under MLB’s new rules regarding plays at the plate but Chris Guccione’s out call was upheld by officials in New York. Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg was ejected after he continued to question the call after the review.
The Phillies had scored twice in the seventh off of reliever J.J. Hoover on a two-run home run by Jimmy Rollins. Hoover was replaced by Manny Parra one batter later after walking Ruiz. This time it was Chase Utley who hit the ball into nearly the identical spot as Brown.
Phillips’ throw was a up the third base line this time but Mesoraco was able to take the throw and swipe tag as Ruiz attempted to avoid him.
"Those are exciting plays because there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of action," said Mesoraco. "Billy is so quick to the ball out there and Brandon made two good throws. He has a good arm. He doesn’t get to show it too much at second base but he does have a good arm. Those are fun plays."
Mesoraco said he got a call from catching coach Mike Stefanski, who was in the bullpen, when he got back to the dugout after the collision with Byrd.
"That’s always his favorite play. That gets him fired up," said Mesoraco. "He was pumped up."
That’s something that could be said about the Reds as a whole Saturday. It’s something Price would like to see more of throughout the season.
"We’re not the type of club that has to think it’s over if we’re down by two or three runs," said Price after the game. "We have a team of guys that have credentials. You can make an argument about Billy Hamilton but beyond that when we run a lineup out there it’s guys who are loaded with credentials, guys who have been in this environment and have been winners. They’ve produced runs and done a lot of good things to help winning teams win games. There’s no reason for our team to ever think we’re out of a ball game."