Sunday, April 09, 2000
Reds 8, Cubs 7
Unlikely rally saves series
BY John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Reds, the Comeback Kids of 1999, showed this weekend that when they get down in 2000, they aren't necessarily out of it either.
Alex Ochoa celebrates as he watches his game-winning hit goes through the infield.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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Sunday, they beat the Chicago Cubs 8-7 in 11 innings after falling behind 6-0.
We never give up, Pokey Reese said. When we were down 6-0, we pulled together and didn't give up. The fans stuck with us.
Most of the 37,798 fans were at Cinergy Field for all four hours and 10 minutes of Sunday's game. This isn't a team you want to leave early on. The Reds came back to win 45 times in 1999, including 11 walk-off wins. Sunday's walk-off win followed Saturday's 4-3, 11-inning comeback victory.
The two victories allowed the Reds to split the season-opening homestand that started so badly.
It gives you confidence when you come back two days in a row, said Alex Ochoa, who had three hits, including a home run and the game-winning single in the 11th. Everyone is doing their job.
Ochoa is greeted by Hal Morris and teammates.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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The Reds (3-3) head to Colorado for a three-game series today.
It's nice to get off to a little better start than we did last year, Reds manager Jack McKeon said.
The Reds started 1999 1-4. They easily could have started 2000 1-5. Saturday's win was improbable, but Sunday's looked close to impossible.
Starter Denny Neagle was hit hard. He allowed eight hits, including three home runs, in 5 2/3 innings.
I thought I threw better than my linescore reads, Neagle said. I felt great. I've always said that the most important stat for a pitcher is whether his team gets a win. I'm glad we did that.
But the Reds had to come out of a 6-0 hole to get the win. That didn't look likely when Neagle left. Scott Downs, who was making his major-league debut, had allowed only two hits through five innings.
Denny Neagle tips his hat to booing fans after he was relieved.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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But the offense stirred in the sixth. Barry Larkin start ed the inning with a walk. Ken Griffey Jr. followed with his first home run as a Red, a 388-foot shot into the right-field green seats.
Two outs later, Ochoa followed with his second homer of the year, a bolt to center, that made it 6-3.
It looked like the comeback would fizzle when the Reds came away from a bases-loaded, one-out situation without a run.
But the bullpen, which went 5ô innings without allowing an earned run, held the fort for another rally. Sunday's performance came after the relievers pitched four innings of one-hit ball Saturday.
Defense also played a big role for the Reds late in Sunday's game. Griffey threw out Eric Young at the plate with what would have been the seventh Chicago run, and Ochoa nailed Joe Girardi at second when he tried to stretch a single into a double.
The Reds' next rally came in the eighth. Dante Bichette walked. Ochoa doubled. Aaron Boone and Eddie Taubensee then hit back-to-back sacrifice flies.
Pinch-hitter D.T. Cromer then reached on an error. Reese, who had two hits and two walks, singled. Larkin then drove in Cromer from second with a single to tie it 6-6.
The score stayed tied until the 11th inning.
The Cubs went up 7-6 when Mark Grace reached on Reese's throwing error. No excuse. I threw it away, he said. Grace eventually came around to score on Damon Buford's single.
But the Reds weren't dead.
Griffey led off the bottom of the 11th with a walk. Hal Morris tried to sacrifice him to second, but Griffey ended up scoring, and Morris wound up at second when Shane Andrews threw wildly to first.
Bichette got Steve Parris, who was pinch-running for Morris (strained groin), to third with a grounder to the right side.
That brought up Ochoa, who was acquired from Milwaukee for Mark Sweeney in the offseason. He singled through the hole at short, and the Reds had an 8-7 win.
This team just keeps going and going, Ochoa said. I saw that last year when I was in Milwaukee. They never seemed to be out of a game.
McKeon was happy with another win, but he isn't in love with the method.
I'd like to get a lead once and hold it, he said. But this way is more exciting.
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