Reds 4, Pirates 1: Cincinnati winning streak at season-high four
CINCINNATI — If the Cincinnati Reds are going to pull off a run to the postseason, they're going to need some exceptional performances from players when pressed into roles.
They got one Tuesday from Michael Lorenzen. He was spot-on in a spot start. He and the bullpen made the early lead stand up for a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on a fall-like night at Great American Ball Park.
And, voila, the Reds have their first longest winning streak of the year at four games at the perfect time. The Reds are within two games of .500 at 24-26 and will sit no more than a game out of the second wild-card spot with 10 games left.
With a worn-down bullpen and no other choices to start, Lorenzen's performance was key to keeping the streak rolling.
"It was huge," Reds manager David Bell said. "You throw a lot out the window right now as far as, you know, what we're used to. You do whatever it takes to win games. There's something really special about being able to do that and you know it really is just about winning a game."
The pitching had to be good: The Reds drifted into one of their offensive stupors after scoring three runs in the first and one in the second. Pirates pitchers retired 19 of the last 20 Reds they faced.
Lorenzen, the 28-year-old right-hander, has always been willing to take the ball in any situation. He went five innings and allowed one run on four hits, walked none and struck out six. He threw 76 pitches – 19 more than he’s thrown a game this year.
“I just wanted the same approach, same everything,” Lorenzen said. "I was just going to throw more pitches. That's kind of what I went out there and did. Our bullpen did an unbelievable job coming in and keeping our lead. So kudos to, you know, the whole pitching staff and offense for giving me that wiggle room early so that obviously allowed me to attack the zone a lot more and just go right after them.”
Tejay Antone, Lucas Sims and Amir Garrett finished it. Garrett stepped out of his usual role as well. He pitched the ninth for his first career save.
It was not an easy save for Garrett. Colin Moran was robbed of a home run by Brian Goodwin for the first out. Garrett walked the next two. But Garrett struck Cole Tucker and got pinch-hitter Kevin Newman to fly out.
Garrett did not care about style points. He was ecstatic afterward.
"I got my first save," he said. "This means more to me than other accolade I ever had in my career so far. My first save. It's awesome. It's awesome."
It was the 27th start of Lorenzen’s career but the first since the end of the 2018 season. Since then, he’s made 88 appearances in relief and put up a 3.38 ERA. Six of his 15 appearances this year have been longer than an inning. On Aug. 31, he went four scoreless innings against St. Louis, throwing 57 pitches.
Lorenzen’s night started with a 1-2-3, 11-pitch first.
The Reds took a 3-0 lead in the first. Shogo Akiyama and Nick Castellanos started it with back-to-back singles. Joey Votto walked to load the bases. Jesse Winker, back after missing five games with lower back tightness, grounded one back to the pitcher Joe Musgrove, who flipped it home to force Akiyama.
Mike Moustakas took an 83 mph curveball off the left foot to force in a run. That’s the same foot that cost Moustakas to two games after taking an HBP off it. But Moustakas stayed in the game. Brian Goodwin made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly to right.
Freddy Galvis, 4-for-30 over his last 11 games, singled in the third run.
Lorenzen pitched a perfect second as well.
Tucker Barnhart, the only Red not to bat in the first, led off the second with his fourth home run – a 404-foot shot into the visitors’ bullpen. And it was 4-0.
The Pirates got to Lorenzen in the fourth. Ke’Bryan Hayes hit one to the wall left for a double with one out. Colin Moran beat the shift with a single into right to score Hayes. When Josh Bell reached on a roller down the first baseline that somehow stayed fair, it had the makings of a big inning.
But Lorenzen struck out out Gregory Polanco and got Cole Tucker on a soft fly to left to limit the damage.
”It was huge,” Lorenzen said. “I felt like a lot of my outings recently have have been those little cheap hits or like a single here – that little weak groundball from Bell for it to stay fair and stuff like that. I felt really under control. I felt like it was more of a mental challenge to continue to trust what I was doing. It ended up working out in my favor. To get out of that inning was huge."
Lorenzen bounced back with a 1-2-3 fifth. Antone took over and pitched a scoreless sixth.
Sims pitched the seventh and eighth.
Garrett admitted the ninth is different. Garrett got a huge assist from Goodwin, who robbed Moran of home run to start the ninth.
"He saved me, man," Garrett said, "especially in that situation."
Then Garrett saved the game.
And the saving of the season continues.
“It feels like we have a lot of momentum on our side,” Lorenzen said. “I feel like we haven't felt that the whole year really. But we feel like we're picking up steam and we got some momentum on our side. It's a really good feeling when you know we're getting timely hits when we need timely hits. We're robbing home runs in center field.
"When things are going your way, it feels good. We're moving in the right direction. So – 60-game season – it can flip in an instant. And I feel like that's where we're at right now where, you know, we feel like we're in a good position.”