August 3: A few short stories from a day of offensive explosions…
1989: The Reds erupt to score 14 runs on 16 hits in the first inning in defeating the Houston Astros, 18-2, at Riverfront Stadium. The 14 runs in one inning tied a team record set in 1893. The team set a major league record by having seven players get two hits and six players scored twice in the inning. Seven players had three hits in the game which tied another major league record.
The first seven Reds of the game reached base off Astro starter Jack Clancy before the Astros called on Bob Forsch with the bases loaded and no one out. A three-run homer by Ken Griffey was the big blast of the inning off Clancy. Ron Oester greeted Forsch with a double before Forsch retired pitcher Tom Browning on a groundball for the first out of the inning. The Reds then batted around again with every Red getting either a single or a double off Forsch before two flyballs finally ended the inning with the Reds leading 14-0. The bases were loaded as the final two outs were recorded. Rolando Roomes and Jeff Reed both homered in the seventh to add some insurance runs as Browning went the distance at pitcher to earn the victory. Roomes, Reed, and Todd Benzinger all had four hits in the game and Griffey had four rbi. Luis Quinones, Eric Davis, Griffey, and Oester all had three hits contributing to record of seven players with three or more hits in the game.
Jacob Brumfield and Bret Boone opened the game for the Reds with back-to-back home runs off Giants starter, Bud Black. Barry Larkin reached on an error and Mitchell followed a two-run homer to give the Reds a quick, 4-0, lead before any outs were recorded. Later in the game, Mitchell had a run-scoring double in the second inning, a double in the fourth, a single in the fifth, and a two-run single in the sixth. Mitchell’s performance raised his batting average to .328 and his OPS to 1.116 on the year. Brian Hunter and Jeff Branson also homered in the game. Boone had four hits, and Hunter and Tony Fernandez each had three hits. John Roper was the winning pitcher for the Reds.
Mitchell was simply outstanding in 1994. Due to the player-strike shortened season, the Reds only played 114 games with Mitchell playing 95 of them. In those 95 games, Kevin Mitchell batted .326 with 30 homers, 77 rbi, a .429 OBP, .681 SLP, an OPS of 1.110, and an OPS+ of 185. The .681 slugging percentage set a Reds single season record, breaking Ted Kluszewski’s .642 in 1954. In Mitchell’s first season with the Reds (1993), Mitchell batted .341 (.986 OPS) with 19 home runs in 93 games.
The Reds had acquired Mitchell in a trade that sent pitcher Norm Charlton to the Seattle Mariners. Mitchell played for the Reds a second time when they acquired him in trade in 1996 from the Boston Red Sox and he batted .325 (1.026 OPS) in 37 games. However, he didn’t show up for a baseball series against the Pirates and he was suspended for the remainder of the season and he became a free agent again. As a Red, Mitchell batted .332 with 55 home runs, 50 doubles, and 167 rbi (1.045 OPS) in 225 games. Nearly half his Reds hits went for extra bases.
1969: The Reds move into within 1/2 game of first place in the newly formed National League Western Division with a 19-17 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in Philadelphia. Former Minnesota Twin great Camilo Pascual made his only Reds start and retired the first batter before being replaced by Jack Fisher after walking a batter and then surrendering three straight doubles. The Phillies were leading 9-6 after after four innings when the Reds erupted for 10 runs in the top of the fifth inning to take a 16-9 lead. The Reds had nine hits in the inning, with Pete Rose getting two of them including a three-run home run.
Trailing 18-9 in the sixth, the Phillies scored seven times off Clay Carroll and Pedro Ramos with four of the runs scoring on a grand slam by Tony Taylor with two outs. Leading 19-17 with two outs and two on in the bottom of the ninth, the game ended when Rose made a sliding catch in right field to preserve the victory. 11 pitchers were used in the game and the only one that did not allow a run was Reds reliever Wayne Granger. Granger pitched three scoreless innings and was awarded the victory in a rare official scorer’s judgment call. He entered the game in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Reds already leading 18-16. Carroll had been pitching in relief when the Reds took the lead, but he had allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings and his replacement, Ramos, allowed four runs in 2/3 of an inning, so the scorer awarded the win to Granger instead.
The Reds had 25 hits in the game with Johnny Bench contributing five of them. Alex Johnson and Tony Perez both had four hits, each with a home run. Rose and Woody Woodward both had three hits, with Rose contributing a home run. Former Red Deron Johnson had five hits for the Phillies.
The Reds moved into a tie for first place the next day with a 1-0 win over the New York Mets. Jim Maloney pitched a two-hitter for the Reds whose only run came on an Alex Johnson sacrifice fly. The Reds spent 16 days in first place over the last two months of the season, but finally finished third, four games out first place behind the division champion Atlanta Braves. Rose won his MVP award in 1973 (.338, 230 hits, 138 OPS+), but his best seasons may have been 1968 (.335, 158 OPS+) and 1969 (.348, 82 ribi, .940 OPS, 158 OPS+) when offense was harder to come by as 1968 is known as the “year of the pitcher.” Lee May (.278 with 38 homers) and Tony Perez (.294 with 37 home runs) also had huge seasons for the Reds. Granger set a then-league record by appearing in 90 games and finishing 9-6 with a 2.80 ERA and 28 saves. This was Maloney’s last effective major league season, going 12-5 with a 2.77 ERA before injuries ended his career.
1954: Reds manager Birdie Tebbets, in his first year at the helm, resorts to chicanery in defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-2, in a game at Pittsburgh. Tebbets started right handed pitcher Bud Podbeilan, but switched to lefty Joe Nuxhall after only one batter as the Pirates started four left handed batters in the game. Podbeilan surrended a leadoff single to Curt Roberts and was promptly replaced by Nuxhall who pitched nine innings of five-hit baseball to earn the win, striking out nine in the game. The Reds’ offense was led by Jim Greengrass and the Reds’ first African-American player, Chuck Harmon, playing in his first season with the Reds. Both Greengrass and Harmon had three hits in the game. The Pirates entered the game with a 34-70 record leading their manager Fred Haney to say “A manager doesn’t have to be a genius to find ways to beat the Pirates.” (from “Redleg Journal.”)
1954 was Kluszewski’s big year (mentioned above) when he set then-Reds records of 49 home runs, 141 rbi, and a .642 slugging percentage. He batted .326 and only struck out 35 times all season. Greengrass had his best season, batting .280 with 27 home runs. Gus Bell drove in 101 runs, batting .299. Harmon batted .238 (.582 OPS) as a 30-year-old “rookie” in 94 games. Baseball-reference.com’s bullpen notes that Harmon was the first Reds African-American player and that Puerto Rican Nino Escalera joined the Reds one year before and is listed in some sources as the Reds’ first black player. Escalera had batted .159 in 1953 in 77 plate appearances over 73 games.