August 13, 2022

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Moustakas (2 HRs) getting 'dangerous' at plate

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PITTSBURGH — Don’t blame Mike Moustakas for savoring this a little bit.

The third baseman is having the kind of offensive production he envisioned when he signed with the Reds. As Cincinnati zoomed to an 8-2 win over the Pirates on Friday at PNC Park, Moustakas hit two home runs, with his first long ball snapping a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning and putting his club up for good.

“He’s enjoying it,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He’s enjoying his teammates. That goes a long way at this point. He wants to win, there’s no question. He wants to enjoy playing, and that’s what’s happening right now.”

In 14 games since returning from a right biceps injury that put him on the injured list, Moustakas is batting .347 with three homers and eight RBIs. Overall, he’s batting .263/.326/.438.

Moustakas isn’t the only player hitting well, but his recent rise mirrors his team’s lately. The Reds have won five of their last six games and six of the last eight to improve to 9-24. In the last eight games, they’ve scored 61 runs for an average of 7.6 runs per game.

“It’s always fun to have [success], but I’m more enjoying winning a lot of baseball games,” Moustakas said. “We’re playing good baseball right now as a team. Anything we can do to contribute — whether it be defense, offense — finding ways to win baseball games is huge. We’ve done a phenomenal job of that.”

Little went right during Moustakas’ first two years in Cincinnati after he signed a four-year, $64 million contract ahead of the 2020 season. He batted .217 in 106 games over 2020-21 and missed a lot of time with injuries, including 85 games last season over three stints on the injured list.

“He’s been doing this for a long time. He’s getting his feel and his rhythm back,” said second baseman Brandon Drury, who hit a two-run double in the fifth inning and a two-run homer in the seventh. “He didn’t get as many at-bats last year as usual. You can tell he’s finding his stride and getting his rhythm back. When he’s on, he is as dangerous as they come.”

In the bottom of the third inning, Reds starter Tyler Mahle gave up a pair of two-out hits that included Ke’Bryan Hayes’ RBI double to left field that made it a 2-2 game. With one out in the top of the fourth, Moustakas gave Mahle a boost and a return of his lead.

On a 1-2 fastball at 97.7 mph from Pirates pitcher Mitch Keller, Moustakas lifted a drive to right field for a solo homer.

“That was huge,” said Mahle, who pitched six innings for his first win since April 7. “I was pretty mad we took the lead and I gave it up. That was pretty frustrating. He put us right back up. It was huge for the team to get that.”

Two batters after Drury’s homer gave Cincinnati a 7-2 lead in the seventh, Moustakas punctuated the game with a solo homer to right-center field against Heath Hembree. He slugged the 0-1 fastball with an exit velocity of 105 mph.

Moustakas ranks at the bottom of the league in exit velocity, hard hits and barrel percentage, but he has started to make stronger contact lately.

“He’s swinging the bat with authority, there’s no question. We know he can do that,” Bell said. “We’ve seen it for a long time. Just getting back into the flow of playing is helping him a lot.”

Moustakas is looking forward to injured hitters Jonathan India, Joey Votto and Nick Senzel returning to join in the offensive success he and others are currently having.

“The season didn’t kick off the way we wanted to, but we’re playing good baseball now,” Moustakas said. “There’s a lot of baseball left, and we’ll keep grinding. We’re all starting to feel good and hitting our rhythm right now.

“We get Jon back, Joey back, Senzel, we’ll be in an even better spot. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Can’t wait for that to happen. Right now, we’re having some fun playing some baseball. It’s been good.”

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