Cincinnati Reds' Marlon Byrd, bottom, collides with Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Friday, May 29, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
CINCINNATI — There’s only so much a manager can say to his players to get them going. At some point it’s up to them to produce.
The Reds haven’t produced much lately. They produced Friday in a way they haven’t in more than two weeks. They beat Washington 5-2 for just their second win in the last 12 games. More than the fact that they won, how they won stood out. People talk about having fun and how that’s the key to winning.
Winning has a lot more to do with having fun.
"The fun comes from the winning and we all know that," said manager Bryan Price. "It’s hard to always talk about silver linings in losses. You get sick about hearing about silver linings. That’s stuff we talk about in the minor leagues. Here, we’re trying to stay away from that.
"It was just a really well-played game."
That’s something the Reds haven’t been able to say many times the past few weeks.
There have been a lot of questions regarding the Reds and how much fight they actually have in them. You want a way to answer someone questioning your fire? Go score three runs immediately after your opponent takes the lead on you the previous half inning, two of them coming with two outs. Then add on a run your next at-bat while your bullpen shuts things down, stranding six runners in the final three innings.
"We haven’t been doing that," said shortstop Zack Cozart, who had three singles, including a two-out hit in the sixth inning that gave the Reds a 4-2 lead. It was their first lead of more than one run since May 13.
"We don’t want it to be so hard on the pitching staff. As a team, in general, we’ve been out there pushing and probably wanting it a little too much instead of relying on how good we are as players to get the job done. I think that was the difference tonight. We just relaxed and let the game come to us instead of trying to force everything."
Price called a team meeting after Wednesday’s 6-4 loss to Colorado. He wouldn’t say what his message was, calling it nobody else’s business. There was no reason for him to talk about the contents of that meeting. Talk means little. Actions hold more weight.
Washington came back from a 1-0 deficit to take a 2-1 lead off of Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani in the top of the sixth inning. This has been a point the Reds ended up rolling over the past two weeks. There was no rolling over on Friday night.
After regaining the lead, the bullpen of Jumbo Diaz, Tony Cingrani, J.J. Hoover and Aroldis Chapman made it stand up. Cingrani hit Nationals’ star Bryce Harper with his first pitch after relieving Diaz with two outs and runner on first in the seventh inning but got Ryan Zimmerman to line out to Joey Votto at first base to end the threat.
Harper wasn’t pleased with Cingrani’s pitch that landed square in the middle of his back. He took his time getting to first base, a move that got Votto talking to him. Cingrani wasn’t too concerned.
"I just threw it as hard as I could and it ran up and in. I hit him," said Cingrani. "What are you going to do? He should’ve jogged (to first) but, what are you going to do? Be a baseball player. Sorry I hit you. Run."
When Cingrani walked three in the eighth inning, Hoover came into the two-out, bases loaded situation and ended it with a strikeout of Ian Desmond.
"I definitely wanted it. I’ve been working to get back into those leverage situations and pitch when the game is closer. That was a lot of fun," said Hoover. "It was huge for the team, especially with the offense coming through to get Disco (DeSclafani) a chance for the victory. That was just a really fun, solid baseball game to watch. We had a lot of clutch hitting, some good defense and good pitching."
The Reds, now 20-27, are still in a big hole of their own making. It’s going to take a lot of fighting to get themselves out of that hole. They showed that fight on Friday.