CINCINNATI — Skip Schumaker was seated next to pitcher Homer Bailey in the Cincinnati Reds dugout Saturday, talking baseball. Yes, even teams in last place talk baseball this late in the season.
Oh, there might be some golfing, hunting and fishing conversation, too. But Schumaker is baseball, baseball, baseball — with some charity fantasy football stirred in, too.
Schumaker, by far the team’s best pinch-hitter this season, had not hit a home run this year and was bemoaning the fact to Bailey.
“I think this might be the year I don’t hit one,” he said. “I really think that. I mean, it is September 12 and I don’t have one.”
AMAZINGLY, NOT LONG after that chat Schumaker drove a Lance Lynn pitch over the right field wall, a three-run home run that turned a one-run deficit into a two-run lead in a game the Reds eventually won, 5-1.
As Schumaker chatted with Baily, Brayan Pena was sitting right there listening and Pena is the only other Reds position player who has been with the team most of the season who doesn’t have a home run.
“When I hit the home run I think Pena was more upset that I hit it than anybody,” Schumaker said with a laugh.
SCHUMAKER’S run helped the Reds win their third straight game in this series against the Cardinals, the team with baseball’s best record. And Schumaker played seven years for the Cardinals.
“We have to disrupt a little bit of what’s going on the in the division race,” said Schumaker. “We have a chance to affect some teams. We play the Pirates a bunch, the Cubs a bunch and the Cardinals a bunch. In order for us to have fun around here you have to try to beat the teams going to the playoffs. The Cardinals are the organization I respect the most so it is nice to win against them.”
ALTHOUGH HE HAS only one home run, Schumaker is only two pinch-hits away from the single-season club record, 20 by Jacob Cruz in 2005.
“Being a bench player is a tough spot because you are usually facing the closer or the set-up guy,” he said. “It is something I knew when I signed here. I had to be good off the bench. I’ve been successful as a pinch-hitter. That’s my role and the record is something to look forward to and you hope it happens. It is something I take pride in, being a bench player and helping our young guys accept bench roles. When you come up you weren’t bench player in the minors, so I take pride in helping them adjust.”
MANAGER BRYAN PRICE not only appreciates Schumaker’s batwork in a pinch, but he loves the leadership and guidance the 35-year-old infielder/outfielder provides the young players.
“He has accepted his role and for guys to thrive off the bench they have to accept it,” said Price. “They have to be ready any time they are called. And the thing about Skip is that he makes all those other guys who are bench players a lot better.
“He teaches them the philosophical stuff, like how to prepare,” Price added. “He teaches them how to get ready and how to stay ready. He answers the ball. He is two hits away from the single-season pinch-hit record. That’s a special accomplishment and I’d like to see him get there.”
ON THE DAY of Schumaker’s game-changing home run, Reds starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani began the game by giving up three straight hits and a run to start the game, then struck out the side and retired 15 straight en route to pushing his record to 9-10.
“For me, DeSclafani is a top of the rotation guy,” said Schumaker. “He gets it. Not only does he have the stuff and the work ethic, but he has the mindset for a top of the rotation guy. I love everything about him and for us to get him in a trade (from Miami for Mat Latos) is, for me, one of the best trades I’ve ever seen.”
PRICE CERTAINLY IS pleased to be able to run a guy like DeSclafani to the mound every fifth day.
“We talk a lot about how good his stuff is,” said Price. “But if he doesn’t have the demeanor he has he doesn’t persevere through that tough first inning. He is a tough kid. I’m happy about how he has developed as a pitcher, but he showed up with his makeup intact. He didn’t have to be taught how to be a tough kid.”
ADAD DUVALL DOESN’T wear a cape or wear one of those silly mask, but he is strong enough to be a super hero.
The home run he hit Saturday to win the continuation of Friday’s suspended game against the Cardinals, 4-2, astonished everybody, including himself.
The game was tied 2-2 Friday in the eighth when rain threatened to turn center field into a tributary of the Ohio River. The game was suspended.
When it continued Saturday, Eugenio Suarez poked a one-out single and Duvall hit what appeared to be a lazy fly ball to right. Price didn’t think it was out. Duvall didn’t think it was out. But out it went.
“AT FIRST I DIDN’T think it had a chance,” said Duvall. “Then I saw the ball’s flight and I thought, ‘It has a chance.’ Then I saw (right fielder Jason Heyward) with his face to me and thought, ‘Well, he might catch it,’ but it just kept on carrying.”
It was Duvall’s third home run with the Reds since being called up early this month after he was acquired in a trade that sent Mike Leake to San Francisco. He has three hits. All home runs.
“They were joking with me in the clubhouse that I need a single,” said Duvall. “I’ll keep taking these. I was thinking single then and that’s the approach I need to take. Usually if you think home run you end up popping up or striking out.”
PRICE COULDN’T BELIEVE the ball cleared the fence and then he heard what Duvall’s Louisville teammate, Ryan LaMarre said about Duvall.
“What type of strength does Duvall have to have, because off the bat I didn’t think it had a chance,” said Price. “On the way into the clubhouse LaMarre said, “You wouldn’t believe how many balls he hit like that in Louisville this year that looked like a routine fly ball and it would carry to the wall and over the wall. You’d just be shocked.’ I sure didn’t anticipate that ball going out. He is one strong kid.”