There was a glimmer of sunshine on a gloomy Sunday afternoon at the end of a gloomy homestand for the Cincinnati Reds.
They won a baseball game, 6-3, only their second win on the now completed 10-game homestand.
And what did it take?
It took an outstanding pitching performance by rookie Sal Romano, six innings of one-run, three-hit pitching against the high octane Miami Marlins.
It took a broken bat home run by Scooter Gennett — yes, a broken bat home run.
And, of course, it helped that the Reds were facing Tom Koehler, who came into the game with a 1-and-4 record and a 7.92 earned run average. Koehler buried himself in the fifth inning by throwing away a possible inning-ending double play ball that led to two runs, pushing a Reds lead from 2-1 to 4-1.
GENNETT’S CRACKED BAT home run into the first row of the right field seats broke a 1-1 tie leading off the fourth inning. His home run was his 17th and he drove in another run later with a single and has 57 RBI.
The Reds added home runs by Eugenio Suarez and Tucker Barnhart in the sixth. And Billy Hamilton contributed three hits.
Even though the Reds went 2-and-8 on the homestand, Suarez hit four home runs and Hamilton batted .400 with five stolen bases.
The problem was that Joey Votto had only four hits in the 10 games and neither scored a rum nor drove in a run (4 for 33, seven walks). And Scott Schebler is scraping along at 0 for 16 and 1 for 27.
THE WIN WAS WELCOME and refreshing for the win-starved Reds, but Romano’s performance was the noteworthy item of the day.
The 6-foot-5, 270-pound right hander from Syosset, N.Y., a 23rd-round draft pick in 2011, is one of a multitude of candidates for the 2018 starting rotation.
And he was impressive on this day, one of seven rookies to start a game for the Reds this season, one of 25 pitchers used by the Reds this year and one of 13 rookie pitchers to toe the rubber for the Reds this season.
Romano left after six innings with 98 pitches, even though he retired the last seven Marlins he faced, four via strikeouts. In his last inning he mowed down the meat of the Marlins order: Giancarlo Stanton strikeout, Christian Yelich groundout, Justin Bour strikeout.
THE ONLY RUN HE GAVE up was a two-out home run to catcher A.J. Ellis in the fourth on a 3-and-1 fastball, only the second home run all year by Ellis. During the 10-game homestan Reds pitchers gave up 23 home runs.
Miami’s Dee Gordeon opened the game with a two-strike bunt for a base hit and stole second. He moved to third on a ground ball, but Romano left him there by striking out both Christian Yelich and Justin Bour.
“Gordon got into scoring position right away and Sal being able to leave him out there was a great way for us to get the game underway,” manager Bryan Price said during his post-game media conference. “That’s a good lineup, not an easy match-up. They stacked the lineup with lefties and you have Stanton on the front end and a speed guy like Gordon at the top.”
On a hot, humid day, Romano used two red jersey tops, alternating them each inning, wearing one while the other was in a clubhouse dryer.
The main thing Price preaches to his young pitchers, on an hourly basis, is to throw quality strikes and to command the strike zone. Romano, who was beat up in his previous start (six runs, six hits, five walks in four innings against Arizona), issued one harmless walk.
“I attacked the strike zone and used all my pitches (fastball, slider and an occasional changeup,” said Romano. “I threw the changeup a decent amount to keep them off my fastball. My fastball location was definitely No. 1.”
The Marlins scored two runs on three hits against Michael Lorenzen in the seventh and Price went to closer Raisel Iglesias for the eighth and ninth and he preserved Romano’s win with his 17th save, giving up no runs and one hit.
That means, though, that Iglesias won’t be available during a makeup game in Cleveland Monday night and probably not Tuesday when the Reds open a two-game series Tuesday night in New York against the Yankees.