Sunday, July 28, 2002

Reds 2. Mets 1

Reds go 11 innings to gain game on Cardinals

By John Fay,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Todd Walker hits an eleventh inning RBI single.
(AP photo)
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        NEW YORK — This one, the Reds couldn't afford to lose. Not with their pitchers pitching as well as they had. Not with the St.Louis loss already posted on the scoreboard. Not with their abysmal record in one-run games.

        Yes, the Reds definitely had to have this one.

        They got it.

        Todd Walker delivered the game-winning hit in a 2-1, 11-inning victory, lining a pitch from left-hander Jaime Cerda, the seventh Mets pitcher of the day, into center field to score Austin Kearns.

        “That's a pretty good win right there,” Reds manager Bob Boone said. “Our guys pitched as good as they can — every one of them.”

        It went to the 11th because seven Mets pitched pretty well, too, and the Reds squandered scoring chances in the eighth and 10th.

        It looked as if the Reds were headed that way in the 11th as well. Kearns led off the top of the inning with a double, but Brandon Larson struck out — the 15th Red to do so in the game. Kelly Stinnett, responsible for four of those Ks, followed Larson and worked a walk.

        The Reds brought in the left- handed-hitting Walker to pinch-hit for second baseman Juan Castro. The Mets countered by bringing in Cerda. Walker knew a little about Cerda.

        “I didn't look at his overall numbers, but I saw his ERA (1.04 entering the game),” Walker said. “I figured he had to have good stuff.”

        It was only Walker's third pinch-hit appearance of the year. Most of the pinch-hitting he has done in his career was with the Minnesota Twins.

        “In the American League when you pinch-hit, it's in the ninth against closers,” Walker said. “That's tough. You do all kinds of strange swings, especially being 24, 25 years old. Now, I'm a little more comfortable.”

Mets pitcher Al Leiter reacts after giving up a sixth inning home run to Adam Dunn.
(AP photo)
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        Walker quickly fell behind 1-2, but Cerda tipped his hand by throwing a curveball in the dirt to make it 2-2.

        “I knew what was coming next,” Walker said. “The cutter is his best pitch. I was sitting on it.”

        Walker hit it hard up the middle and Kearns scored. Reds closer Danny Graves (4-3) got through the bottom of the 11th unscathed, ending the game after three hours and 55 minutes of baseball.

        The victory pulled the Reds to four games behind the first-place St.Louis Cardinals in the National League Central. It was only the second timethey've made up ground on the Cardinals since July6. It also was the first one-run game the Reds have won since June15 — they had lost eight straight one-runners since then.

        “It's a big win, especially against the New York Mets,” Walker said. “They've kind of had their way with us. To lose a close game like this after last night (a 3-2 loss) would have been tough.”

        “This is a game we needed to win,” Reds starter Jared Fernandez said. “The bullpen was fantastic.”

        All the pitcher were fantastic. Fernandez, Scott Sullivan, Bruce Chen and Graves combined to shut out New York on three hits over the last eight innings.

        The Mets' only run came in the third. New York loaded the bases, thanks to three walks, and first baseman Mo Vaughn, the hero of Friday's 2 win, drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.

        “I was aiming it, even my fastball,” Fernandez said. “I was glad Boone stuck with me. A lot of managers pull the plug on knuckleballs pretty quick. He let me work it out.”

        Fernandez worked it out OK, retiring the last 11 Mets he faced.

        “His knuckleball is a stock-market pitch,” New York catcher Mike Piazza said. “You never know which way it's going to go.”

        The Reds tied it in the sixth on Adam Dunn's home run off Mets starter Al Leiter. Dunn just missed striking out on a check-swing before launching a 410-foot shot into right field — his 21st homer this season.

        That was all the scoring until Walker's big hit.


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