CINCINNATI — When slumping Jonathan India was plunked on his left ankle in the first inning vs. the Mets on Wednesday and had to leave the game in the second, the Reds’ second baseman felt like it was another misfortune in a cursed season..
But X-rays were negative, and India was back in the lineup for both games of Thursday’s doubleheader vs. the Pirates. It turned out to be a four-hit day, the biggest being a two-out RBI single in the seventh inning of the Reds’ 5-1 win in Game 2 to earn a split at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds fell, 4-2, in the opener.
“We’ve seen him play great,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He’s playing well right now, but he’s also grinding it out right now. To me, it’s even more impressive at times like this, when he’s still trying to get where he needs to be. But when you kind of lose yourself and just do what it takes to win a game, it can go a long way. That’s what he did tonight.”
With scheduled Game 2 starter Tyler Mahle on the injured list, Bell went with a bullpen game. Robert Dugger, who had been designated for assignment twice this season, was brought back and struck out five over 3 2/3 scoreless innings**,** allowing just two hits and two walks after entering in the third inning.
“My job today was to eat some innings and keep us in the ballgame. And I think I did a very good job with that,” Dugger said.
Lefty Reiver Sanmartin replaced Dugger and delivered 2 2/3 perfect innings with three strikeouts to earn the victory.
Their work enabled the Reds to stay with the Pirates after falling behind, 1-0, in the third. Tyler Naquin evened the game with a two-out solo home run to right field in the sixth inning against Pittsburgh starter Bryse Wilson.
It took a two-out break for the Reds to take over the game in the bottom of the seventh. Nick Senzel hit a chopper and reached on second baseman Josh VanMeter’s fielding error. Michael Papierski lifted a fly ball to short right field that landed just out of the reach of a diving Ben Gamel, who trapped the ball.
Next came India, who smoked a 111.3 mph ground ball through the right side for the go-ahead run.
“Was it that hard? That’s a good swing. I’ll take it,” India said. “I put a good swing on a pretty good pitch. Stayed on the ball and went right side. That was a good swing. I’m going to carry that over to tomorrow.”
After Chris Stratton relieved Wilson, Brandon Drury hit a drive to right field that got by the diving Gamel and rolled to the wall for a two-run triple. Tommy Pham added an RBI single to cap the four-run rally.
“That was just a matter of time before we broke through,” Bell said. “Their pitcher pitched a really good game. Just staying with it. That’s why you just have to keep going. The big hit by Jon, I know that was a big hit for him. That was a big hit in the game.”
Before Game 1, India was hitless in his previous 13 at-bats, and he was batting .145 (10-for-69) in 19 games since returning from a right hamstring strain that put him on the injured list for the second time. In 30 games overall, he was batting .204 with a .551 OPS and two homers.
“Someone told me, ‘You’ve only played 30 games this year when you really think about it.’ I was like, ‘Really, that’s it?’ It’s kind of crazy to put that in perspective when we’re in July,” India said. “Even though it’s not going really well for me right now, I’m battling. I’m still trying to find something with my swing. This is part of the game.”
Entering the 36th game of his rookie year in 2021, India was batting a season-low .221. He went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award after batting .269 with an .835 OPS and 21 homers.
“For me, it’s still early in the season,” India said. “It sucks that I missed a pretty long time with that [injury]. I talked to a lot of guys who say as your career goes on, you have to keep a level head no matter what happens and just keep playing hard. That’s what I’m going to do, keep my body healthy and play hard.”