Center fielder hits game-tying homer, go-ahead single to win finale.
CINCINNATI — September 24, 2023 – Article by Mark Sheldon (MLB.com, Reds.com)
Reds center fielder TJ Friedl is fighting for every chance to keep his team in the postseason race.
Friedl delivered three RBIs, including a go-ahead single in the seventh inning, during the Reds’ 4-2 victory over the Pirates on Sunday, which snapped a four-game losing streak. It came on the heels of a demoralizing 13-12 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday after leading, 9-0.
“Watching someone play like that, there’s nothing like it,” Reds manager David Bell said. “TJ is a really good player in a lot of ways. In the moments when the season is on the line, it brings out the best in a player that’s driven by winning.
“I don’t even know what to say about what he’s done. He’s just completely locked into every single pitch — offensively, defensively, on the bases. Just willing a way to help us win games.”
- Games remaining (5): vs. at CLE (2), at STL (3)
- Standings update: The Reds (80-77) remain 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs (82-74) for the third National League Wild Card. Cincinnati holds the tiebreaker over Chicago. The Marlins (81-75) are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Reds and have the second tiebreaker based on interdivision record.
There were two outs in the bottom of the seventh when Jonathan India reached base for the fourth time in the game by hitting a double to left field against reliever Jose Hernandez. Friedl also reached for a fourth time when he followed India with his RBI hit to right-center field.
“He’s a really good player, and he’s the guy who beat us today. He kind of beat us all series,” Pirates catcher Jason Delay said.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand made it a two-run game with a one-out solo homer to left field against Andre Jackson in the eighth inning. It was Encarnacion-Strand’s fourth homer in his past seven games and 11th overall.
The Reds, who finished with a 38-43 home record, are trying to become the rare club to make the playoffs with a losing record at home. It’s happened only three times, but just once in a full season, when the 2001 Braves reached the postseason. They got no help, however, as both the Cubs and Marlins earned wins on Sunday.
“We need to win out, bottom line. We need to win every game,” India said. “That’s our goal. We need to win at any cost, any game. That’s the only way we have a chance.”
Reds starter Brandon Williamson opened the game by retiring 12 of his first 14 batters and eight in a row before Jack Suwinski began the fifth inning with a home run to right-center field. A one-out double by Henry Davis was followed by Jason Delay’s RBI single for a 2-0 Pittsburgh lead, and it finished Williamson’s day after 4 1/3 innings.
Cincinnati was no-hit by Pirates starter Quinn Priester for five innings before breaking through. India led off with a single to left field in the sixth before Friedl slugged a game-tying two-run homer to right field, his 17th of the season. He has homered in three straight games for the first time in his career, including an inside-the-park home run on Saturday.
“At this point, it’s fighting for inches,” Friedl said. “You’re clawing for anything that you can get. Going into the hole, 2-0, it’s not foreign to us. We’ve seen that many times. There’s no quit. After games like last night and you go down, 2-0, in a Sunday day game, it’s so easy to just kind of roll over and say that’s it. That’s just not this team. We’ve never done that once this year.”
Friedl is batting .280 with an .819 OPS, 26 steals and 63 RBIs. He also has as many bunt singles (17) as home runs.
“We’re going to go with everything we have,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can every single day to put ourselves in the best possible position.”
It was also a big rebound for the Cincinnati bullpen, which was 0-3 with a 12.50 ERA during the four-game losing streak, including Saturday’s lead implosion.
Buck Farmer, Sam Moll and Lucas Sims followed Williamson. Closer Alexis Díaz, who gave up four runs and took the loss on Saturday, was warming up in the seventh inning after Pittsburgh notched back-to-back hits against Sims. He entered in the eighth inning, which ended scoreless despite two walks. Ian Gibaut earned his third save with a perfect ninth inning.
“That’s who this team is,” Bell said. “In some ways, only this team comes back and wins that game after last night. I expected it. I think we all expected it. This time of year, there’s something to be said for the teams that are the closest. This team is very close.”