In a game where Brandon Phillips was a homer shy of hitting for the cycle, they stole five bases in one inning and Robert Stephenson cruised in his second big league start, the Reds held on to a 4-3 victory from the Rockies on Tuesday at Great American Ball Park.
All of the damage against Colorado starter Jorge De La Rosa came during a four-run bottom of the second inning when the Reds sent nine men to the plate and collected five hits with five steals. Down by a run entering the frame, Phillips led off with a single and later scored from third base on Jay Bruce's fielder's choice. Billy Hamilton chopped a two-out, two-run double into short left field, and Zack Cozart added an RBI single.
De La Rosa was lifted after his first two batters reached in the third inning.
"My command wasn't there," De La Rosa said. "The first inning was a good inning, but after that I don't know what happened. I lost my concentration and they hit the ball pretty good."
Lefty reliever Chris Rusin kept the game in reach, allowing two hits over four scoreless innings. Stephenson, who was called up from Triple-A Louisville when Alfredo Simon was scratched with biceps tendinitis, became the first Reds starter to complete seven innings this season. Stephenson allowed one earned run on three hits and two walks and struck out three.
"I was definitely happy to be able to help the team as much as I could," said Stephenson, the Reds' No. 2 prospect. "The defense played awesome behind me. We had that big inning in the second inning to jump ahead and get that lead."
Caleb Cotham followed Stephenson with a perfect eighth inning. Tony Cingrani opened the ninth by striking out the first batter before J.J. Hoover gave up an infield hit and Mark Reynolds' two-out, two-run homer on a full count. Ben Paulsen drove Hoover's final pitch deep, but not deep enough to tie the score.
"The fact that we were still within striking distance after the way that game started, I was very happy with that," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "Going into the eighth and ninth, we thought we had a chance to win that game."
The Rockies scored their first run in the top of the second inning when Paulsen singled home Reynolds who had doubled and advanced to third on a balk.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Hot-hitting Cozart: Cincinnati already had three runs in the bottom of the second when Cozart prolonged the rally with a 10-pitch at-bat vs. De La Rosa. Cozart fouled off four straight full-count pitches before ripping an RBI single to left field that scored Hamilton. The single extended Cozart's hitting streak to begin the season to 10 games. Cozart also entered the night 6-for-12 (.500) this season when batting with two strikes.
Give the man a chance: Rockies catcher Tony Wolters threw out 40 percent (88-for-220) of those attempting to steal against him in his Minor League career. But he had no chance in the second inning on Tuesday, as the Reds' five steals -- the most ever against the Rockies in an inning and tied for third-most in a game -- were exclusively the product of De La Rosa's deliberateness. Just once, on Bruce's swipe of third in a double-steal, did Wolters even make a throw.
"I wasn't paying attention to the runner," De La Rosa said. "I have to do a better job than that."
Bruce stole his first two bases of the season in the inning, and Tyler Holt, Hamilton andEugenio Suarez each swiped one. According to Retrosheet, it was Cincinnati's first five stolen base inning since July 8, 1922, vs. the Phillies.
Nearly a natural cycle: Phillips went 4-for-4 in the game, lacking the home run that would've given him a natural cycle. After he singled in the second inning, Phillips hit a leadoff double in the third inning and got his triple in the fifth when Carlos Gonzalez fell down while fielding a drive to the right-field wall. Batting against David Hale in the eighth with a 1-1 count, Phillips shot a sharp single up the middle for his fourth hit. How sharp? According to Statcast™, the ball had an exit velocity off the bat at 109 mph. The last Red to hit for the cycle was Eric Davis on June 2, 1989.
"I was telling [Davis] I'm going to get a cycle before I leave. I talked to him maybe two or three days ago," Phillips said. "It's funny I came close for doing it today. When I hit that triple, I was like 'Oh snap, here we go. I'm about to get E.D.' I really tried. It was a good miss. I ended up getting a hit but I swung out of my [shoes], I really did."
Room enough for both:The right-handed-hitting Reynolds and the left-swinging Paulsen have been sharing first base. But the absence of regular center fielder Charlie Blackmonallowed an outfield shuffle that opened left field for Paulsen on Tuesday. They combined for a run in the second when Reynolds doubled and Paulsen singled him home for a brief 1-0 lead.
Paulsen had a breath-holding moment in the fifth, when three-time Gold Glove Award-winning third baseman Nolan Arenado picked up Devin Mesoraco's bouncer with a man at third and took Reynolds into foul ground for the throw. Reynolds seemed to surprise himself by doing nearly a full split.
"He's made a couple plays where everybody kind of dropped their jaw, but that one was special," Paulsen said. "Mark's a machine out there."
QUOTABLE "I knew that would be a question today after tonight's game. It's just kind of a tenuous situation at this point in time. I want him to be able to handle that situation, and we need performance as well. I'm going to sleep on it, and I will probably have a better answer moving ahead tomorrow." -- Reds manager Bryan Price, on Hoover, who has a 15.19 ERA with three homers allowed in seven appearances
"I'm not going to jump to that conclusion yet, but the last time out he used his fastball much better. It complements his changeup. That's a big part of his recipe for success -- that fastball-changeup. He's got to use the fastball more." -- Weiss, when asked if abandoning the fastball is a red flag for De La Rosa, whose average velocity coming into Tuesday was down more than 1 mph from last year
THERE WHEN YOU NEED HIM Tuesday was the second time in a week that Rusin has been solid after replacing a struggling starter. In his previous outing on April 13, Rusin replaced Jordan Lyles with two out in the fifth, struck out the Giants' Brandon Belt and went 2 1/3 scoreless inning to earn credit for the team's 10-6 victory.
"Just be ready in my name was called, and I was fortunate to throw four scoreless innings and save the bullpen for tomorrow or whenever," Rusin said. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Rockies: Right-hander Chad Bettis (2-0, 2.95 ERA), who held the Cubs scoreless on three hits in six innings in his last start, will face the Reds in the finale of the three-game set at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday at 10:35 a.m. MT on MLB Network.
Reds: The 12:35 p.m. ET series finale between Cincinnati and Colorado will be televised by MLB Network. The Reds will have Raisel Iglesias make his fourth start. Iglesias has yet to give up more than three earned runs this season, but he also has yet to complete seven innings.