July 26, 1970: Left fielder Johnny Bench homers in three straight at bats against the Steve Carlton and the St. Louis Cardinals, driving in seven runs, and leading the Reds to a 12-5 victory.
Bench homered in the first, second, and fifth innings off Carlton. His first inning homer came with two runners on base giving the Reds a 3-0 lead. His second inning homer was a two-run shot, and his third homer was a fifth inning leadoff job giving the Reds a 6-0 lead. Carlton gave up a total of 25 home runs in 1970 during a 10-19 season. Bench enjoyed similar success against Carlton throughout his career. In 153 plate appearances against Carlton, Bench batted .298 with 12 homers, 30 rbi, a .414 OBP, a .645 SLP, and an OPS of 1.060. Bench hit 12 careers off both Carlton and Don Sutton and slugged 11 off Phil Niekro.
During this game Bench added a single off reliever Sal Campisi (thrown out attempting to stretch it into a double), and an rbi ground out in the eighth.
Pitching wise, Wayne Simpson was exceptional (again) for the Reds. He held the Cardinals scoreless through seven innings, but ran into trouble in the eighth when the Cardinals scored all five of their runs. An error, a single, and a walk loaded the bases before three runs scored on a single, a sacrifice fly, and a triple. Reds closer Wayne Granger replaced Simpson, allowed two more runs (another error and a wild pitch) before nailing it down for the Reds. The win improved Simpson’s record to 14-2 and Granger picked up his 23rd save on his way to a then-league record of 35 saves. The win was Simpson’s last win of his rookie season before damaging his shoulder.
Only 22 years of age at the time, 1970 was Bench’s first MVP season as he finished the year batting .293 with 45 home runs and 148 rbi. Bench received 22 of 24 first place MVP votes; Tony Perez (.317, 40 HR, 129 rbi) finished third, and Pete Rose (.316, 15, 52) finished sixth. Bench went on to win a second MVP in 1972 (.270, 40, 125 rbi, 100 walks), and he placed fourth in both in 1974 and 1975. Bench won ten Gold Gloves as a catcher in his career.
The win gave the Reds an incredible 70-30 record, a .700 won-loss percentage, and a 12 1/2 game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pitching injuries and an offense not ideally suited to their new ballpark (Riverfront Stadium) was their downfall the rest of the way. The Reds won the Western Division and the National League pennant, but they went 32-30 during the last 62 games of the season. The Reds fell to the Baltimore Orioles in the 1970 Series four games to one.