CINCINNATI (AP) — This Cincinnati celebration was unexpected.
One out away from another nondescript loss, the NL Central champions pulled out a 2-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday that sparked their first on-field celebration since clinching the title five days earlier.
Didn’t mean nearly as much, but it felt good nonetheless.
Slumping Todd Frazier tied the game with a two-out homer in the ninth inning, and Dioner Navarro followed with an RBI triple that dealt a major setback to the Brewers’ playoff chances.
The Reds had struggled on offense the last two games despite playing most of their regulars. The two-out rally provided a nice moment for a team focused on the big picture.
“Runs are not our worry,” said Frazier, who has an empty bottle of Korbel champagne in his locker as a keepsake from the clincher. “Our worry is figuring out who we’ll play in the playoffs.”
The Brewers slipped four games behind idle St. Louis for the final NL wild card with six games left.
All they needed was one more out from closer John Axford (5-8), who had converted his last 15 save chances. Frazier connected on the first pitch for his first homer since Aug. 21, tying it at 1. Jay Bruce singled and came around on Navarro’s triple to deep right-center field.
Navarro worked the count full and pulled two balls down the first base line that curved foul by a few feet before hitting the game-winner.
“He kept challenging me and challenging me,” Navarro said. “Once I got to two strikes, I was just trying to put the ball in play and make something happen. Then he threw me a little curveball.”
Until the ninth inning, the Reds played a like a team that had already clinched, managing only three singles and fanning a dozen times. Axford’s rare failure — he’s 33 of 42 overall in save chances — provided a stunning finish for the Brewers, who won the division last season.
Bench coach Chris Speier isn’t worried about the Reds’ recent struggle to get hits as they head off for three games in Pittsburgh followed by three in St. Louis.
“Not at all,” he said. “If we were in St. Louis right now, we might wondering, `Is this it?’ We might be a little concerned, but good pitching will do that.”
The Brewers headed home for six concluding games against Houston and San Diego. Meanwhile, the Cardinals finish with six at home against Washington and Cincinnati, the two teams vying for the NL’s top seed in the playoffs.
Reds manager Dusty Baker missed his eighth game while recovering from an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke. He was at the ballpark before the game. Doctors think he could return to managing on Monday in St. Louis.
“It’s a shame he wasn’t able to celebrate with us,” Reds starter Mat Latos said. “It will be good for him to be back. We have big series coming up in Pittsburgh and St. Louis — and also, the playoffs.”
Latos, who pitched eight shutout innings during a 6-0 win on Saturday night that clinched the division title, allowed only three this over seven innings, including Carlos Gomez’s 17th homer leading off the third inning.
Jonathan Broxton (3-1) escaped a two-on threat in the ninth to keep it 1-0.
Milwaukee also had a new concern about its rotation as it left town. Rookie starter Wily Peralta came out of the game after throwing a high fastball — his 71st pitch — to fan Latos in the sixth inning. The 23-year-old is considered Milwaukee’s top pitching prospect. He allowed only two hits and fanned a career-high six.
Peralta said his biceps tightened early in the game and got worse as it went along.
NOTES: The Brewers finished 34-47 on the road. They’re 46-29 at Miller Park. … The Reds went 50-31 at Great American Ball Park, the most wins there in a season. … Gomez’s homer was only the second allowed by Latos in his last six starts, four of them at homer-friendly Great American Ball Park. … The Reds won the season series against the Brewers 9-6. … Reds LF Ryan Ludwick was out of the lineup for the seventh consecutive game with a sore groin. … The Reds drew 2,347,251 at home this season, the second-highest attendance in the ballpark’s 10 seasons.