July 19, 1969: The Reds win a nail biter, erasing a 9-0 deficit to beat the Houston Astros, 10-9 in ten innings. The win moves the fourth place Reds to within 3 1/2 games behind the virtually tied Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers in the newly formed National League Western Division.
Clay Carroll, who pitched in 486 games for the Reds (471 in relief) made his fourth consecutive 1969 start for the Reds. He had a win and two no decisions in his three previous starts, pitching 21 2/3 innings and allowing 21 hits and seven runs, including an 8 inning, six-hit performance against the Astros on July 10. Unfortunately for the Reds, July 19th didn’t go so well. The Astros struck for eight runs off Carroll in 3 2/3 innings on five hits and four walks. Two runs scored on bases loaded walks and another run scored on a suicide squeeze bunt. Jim Merritt, ordinarily a starter, relieved Carroll, and was greeted by a Denis Menke two-run single making the score 8-0. The Astros made it 9-0 in the sixth when Menke singled in another run, this time off former Met Al Jackson. Jackson was twice a 20-game loser while with the Mets, but had never led the league in losses as in each season (1963 and 1965) another Met had lost more games than Jackson himself. (Note: both of those pitchers at one time pitched for the Reds, too: Roger Craig lost 24 for the Mets in 1963 and pitched for the Reds in 1965; Jack Fisher lost 24 for the Mets in 1965 and was on the Reds pitching staff in 1969 with Jackson).
The Reds started their comeback in the bottom of the sixth when Lee May blasted a solo home run off Astros starter Denny Lemaster. The Reds loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh and the Astros replaced Lemaster with reliever Jim Ray. Ray stuck out Fred Whitfield, pinch hitting for Chico Ruiz, but Bobby Tolan singled home Pat Corrales and Jim Beauchamp to make the score 9-3.
The Reds had purchased former Minnesota Twins ace Camilo Pascual, a two-time twenty game winner, from the Washington Senators on July 7th to bolster their pitching staff. He was called on to hold the Astros and pitched a scoreless ninth in his fourth game with the Reds (he was released two weeks later after his first start in his fifth appearance when he gave up three runs and couldn’t get out of the first inning). In this game, Pete Rose also was later moved from right field to play second base for the next to last time in his career after beginning his career as a second baseman in 1963 (his last appearance at second base came later that year in an August 24th 9-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates).
The Reds tied it in the eighth. With one out, Ted Savage homered to right-centerfield off Ray to make it 9-4. Tommy Helms drew a walk, but Corrales struck out for the second out of the inning. Beauchamp singled to shortstop with the runners advancing to second and third on a Menke error. Rose doubled to centerfield to score both Helms and Beauchamp (score now 9-6) and reliever Skip Guinn was called on to replace Ray. Pinch hitter Jimmy Stewart (batting for Pascual) drew a walk, putting runners on first and second, and Bobby Tolan followed with a home run to tie the game at 9-9.
Another former Senators/Twins pitcher, Pedro Ramos, took the mound for the Reds. Ramos four times had led the American League in losses (18, 19, 18, and 20, 1958-61) and was a former teammate of Pascual’s. Ramos pitched three scoreless innings in relief, including pitching out of a 9th inning Astro threat. Jim Wynn had opened the Astro ninth with a single and was sacrificed to second by Menke. Curt Blefary was intentionally walked and Wynn advanced to third base when Johnny Edwards flied to centerfield. Ramos induced Doug Rader to ground to first to end the inning.
The Reds missed a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. Savage walked to lead off the inning. Helms sacrificed him to second base and Savage stole third with one out. Corrales flied to centerfield but Savage couldn’t score and Darrel Chaney struck out to end the inning.
The Reds finally won it in the bottom of the 11th. Tony Perez singled to lead off the inning off Jack Billingham. Lee May singled Perez to third base, and Savage singled to right field to score Perez with the winning run.
The Reds finished their season in third place, four games behind the Braves at season’s end, and one game behind the second place San Francisco Giants. The Reds overall record for 1969 was 89-73.