When the Cincinnati Reds give the St. Louis Cardinals an early 4-0 lead in Busch Stadium, normally the Reds could pack their bats, put away their batting helmets and go have an early dinner at Charlie Gitto’s Italian restaurant.
And because they were on a four-game losing streak, a comeback in Saturday afternoon’s game seemed improbable, if not impossible.
THAT WASN’T THE case this time. They staged a high-powered three-inning comeback in the middle of the game against St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright and recorded a 9-8 victory.
They didn’t make it easy for starter Brandon Finnegan when a second-inning error led to four unearned runs, the high hill the Reds had to climb to rescue this one.
If you give the Cardinals an inch, they’ll take about a mile-and-a-half, which is about the total distance of home runs they have hit against the Reds in two games this season.
IT WAS THE SECOND inning when Scott Schebler gave the Cardinals an inch.
Billy Hamilton was given the day off and Schebler was in center field. With one out and one on, Aledmys Diaz hit a fly ball to center. Schebler took two steps in, then turned and fled toward the wall. The ball glanced off his glove for an error.
That would have brought up pitcher Adam Wainwright with two outs. Instead there was one out and two on. Wainwright made an out that would have been the third out.
Instead Matt Carpenter singled for a run and Stephen Piscotty ripped one 431 feet to the grass beyond the center field wall, a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead — all four runs unearned against Finnegan.
Piscotty’s home run was the seventh of the series after the Cardinals hit six Friday night in a 14-3 annihilation of the Reds.
THE REDS GRITTILY scratched their way back against Wainwright, scoring two in the fourth, two in the fifth and four in the sixth to take an 8-4 lead.
The Red put the first three runners on base in the fourth on Joey Votto’s double, a walk to Brandon Phillips and a run-scoring single by Jay Bruce, who popped the ball to left field against the overshift. A second run scored on Devin Mesoraco’s fielder’s choice ground ball.
FINNEGAN HELPED himself in the fifth by leading the inning with a double, his second hit, and he scored on Zack Cozart’s double. It was Cozart’s 43rd time to swing at a pitch and not miss it. The tying run scored on a two-out double by Phillips.
The Reds really came out swinging in the sixth. Devin Mesoraco led with a double and Adam Duvall singled. Schebler grounded out, but Mesoraco scored. When pinch-hitter Jordan Pacheco, batting for Finnegan, singled to right, Wainwright’s day was done.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny brought in Seth Maness and every Reds hitter swung at his first pitch and hit it hard, with the exception of Votto, who was walked intentionally.
Cozart made it 44 swings without a miss by lining the first pitch to center, a sacrifice fly. Eugenio Suarez doubled to left to make it 7-4 and after Votto’s walk Phillips doubled to left to push it to 8-4.
THE CARDINALS, of course, didn’t go away quietly against the Reds bullpen. They scored one in the sixth and one in the seventh to creep back to within 8-6.
Blake Wood gave up a run in the sixth on two singles and a fielder’s choice. Caleb Cotham gave up one in the seventh on a walk, his own wild pickoff throw to first base that sent Randal Grichuk to second and he scored on Jedd Gyorko’s single to right.
Tony Cingrani pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. Closer J.J. Hoover gave up a leadoff double to Matt Holliday in the ninth, then retired the final two before giving up a two-run home run to Brandon Moss and make it a scary proposition. It became scarier for the Reds when Hoover walked Gyorko on a full count to put the tying run on first base. But Diaz popped up the first pitch to catcher Devin Mesocraco to end it.
Cozart finally swung at a pitch and missed it with one out in the eighth, then doubled on the next pitch, raising his batting average to .480.
Jay Bruce gave his team some breathing room in the ninth inning by pulling a home run down the right field line against former teammate Jonathan Broxton, a run that was needed when Hoover gave up the home run to Moss.
The nine runs were the most the Reds scored in Busch since August of 2013 and until Saturday they hadn’t scored more than three. And while the Cardinals lived by the home run the first two games of the series, the Reds survived Saturday with doubles — nine of them to tie the club record. They had five in the fifth and sixth innings and Phillips had two.