CINCINNATI — As the Reds develop the character for their 2022 team, they will eventually become less and less satisfied with great comeback efforts and only desire more and more great comeback victories.
For the third time in five games on Tuesday, Cincinnati battled back from an early deficit but was unable to get in the win column, this time during a 10-5 loss to the Guardians at Great American Ball Park.
“It’s something that we’re talking a lot about, our players are talking a lot about,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Over the course of a long year, as tough as it is to take a loss there, we just need to keep playing like that and don’t give up. And just do everything we can. Even if you don’t win that game, it can really carry over. We saw that in Atlanta, and this team is committed to playing hard and it’s going to pay off.”
Cleveland ace Shane Bieber had a commanding 4-0 lead and a no-hit bid entering the bottom of the sixth inning before the Reds rallied for four runs, and their sellout home opener crowd of 43,036 fans roared to life. But they left disappointed after the Guardians scored six runs in the top of the ninth, including a José Ramírez grand slam.
“It is a game of momentum sometimes,” Reds right fielder Tyler Naquin said. “We had it for a little bit and then fell a little bit short.”
After Bieber hit Kyle Farmer with a one-out pitch in the sixth, Jake Fraley notched the Reds’ first hit with a double to left field, and the team felt a change coming.
“It’s usually how it goes when a guy has a no-hitter or perfect game going and you finally break that,” Fraley said. “It kind of opens everything up for everybody else. You take a deep breath and go back to square one again. It worked for us.”
India followed with a two-run double down the left-field line. He waved his hands to motion “Come on!” to the dugout and fans. Naquin delivered on that wish when he evened the game with a 428-foot two-run homer off the center-field batter’s eye in the next at-bat.
“It shows what type of team we are. We want to win at all costs,” India said. “We’ll do it until the last out, so it’s pretty cool to see.”
The turn of momentum brought to mind two losses from the previous series. On Friday after they trailed the Braves, 7-0, in the third inning, the Reds’ bullpen worked five consecutive scoreless innings while the offense battled back. But they fell short in a 7-6 defeat. On Saturday, the deficit was much smaller, 2-0, in the first inning, and the pitching staff worked scoreless over the final seven innings before a 2-1 loss to Atlanta.
“We’re going to have to be tenacious all year. We’re going to have to press teams all year,” first baseman Joey Votto said before the game. “When we’re down, we’ll have to keep moving forward and make it tough. We’re going to have to have a culture here that never quits. Little things can affect an entire series.
“To me, the second game of the season needs to be our personality all year, where we were down by a bunch and kept pushing forward and we forced them to use a lot of pitchers that in all likelihood probably were fine with using because it was so early in the season. But midway or the back half of the season, teams don’t want to do that. They want to rest their guys and if we have that habit now and continue it through all 162, I think that will bode well for us.”
Following starter Tyler Mahle’s exit vs. Cleveland after four innings and down four runs, the bullpen trio of Jeff Hoffman, Art Warren and Tony Santillan combined for four scoreless innings.
That trend of success ended when Hunter Strickland gave up Andrés Giménez’s two-run homer in the ninth inning and rookie Daniel Duarte surrendered the Ramírez grand slam.
“At the end of the day, you have to come out with a ‘W,’ and [we] fell a little bit short,” Naquin said. “Hunter and Duarte are going to be really good for us. It’s early and both of those dudes throw the ball really, really well. Sad to lose it, but we have a lot of games.”