August 27, 1971: The defending National League champions come as close to .500 as they do all year by scoring five times in the top of the ninth inning to to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 8-7, in St. Louis. Reds supersub Jimmy Stewart socks a bases-loaded pinch triple in the top of the ninth to tie the score and then scores what proves to be the winning run on a Pete Rose sacrifice fly.
The Cardinals struck first with a two-run home run by Jose Cruz off Reds starter Wayne Simpson. The Reds scored three times in the third to take the lead, but the Cardinals scored two in the fifth and one run in each of the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings to take a 7-3 lead into the ninth inning.
Johnny Bench walked to open the ninth off Cardinals starter Jerry Reuss. George Foster singled to left with Bench stopping at second base. Al Santorini was called on to relieve Reuss, and Tommy Helms greeted him with a single to load the bases with no one out. Santorini was pulled in favor of Frank Linzy, but Linzy walked Woody Woodward to force in a run and pull the Reds within three at 7-4.
Stewart was then called on to pinch hit for Wayne Granger. Stewart tripled to right, clearing the bases and tying the score at 7-7. Reliever Don Shaw became the fourth Cardinals pitcher of the inning, replacing Linzy. Rose lofted a sacrifice fly to left, giving the Reds an 8-7 lead. One out later, Lee May singled and Dave Concepcion was called into the game to pinch run for him. Tony Perez doubled to left, but Concepcion was cut down at the plate. Joe Gibbon retired the Cardinals in order in the bottom of the ninth, two on strikeouts, to record the save.
The win brought the Reds within one game of .500 on the year at 66-67, the closest they had been since being 3-4 early in the season. The Reds were within .500 on one other occasion at 79-80, but they lost their last three games of the season to finish 79-83, in fourth place, 11 games behind the San Francisco Giants.
August 27, 1977: Dan Driessen and Johnny Bench hit back-to-back homers in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 8-7, at home in Riverfront Stadium. To add to the excitment, Driessen’s was an inside the park home run off the center field wall.
The score was tied at 4-4 entering the top of the ninth inning when the Phillies scored the go ahead run without the benefit of a hit. The Phillies loaded the bases off Reds reliever Jack Billingham on a hit batsman, a walk, and a fielder’s choice ground ball. Richie Hebner hit a sacrifice fly to right to give the Phillies the lead.
Phillies ace reliever Tug McGraw was on the mound in the ninth when Ken Griffey led off with an infield single, but was erased trying to steal second on a strike out by Foster. Then the fireworks began. From baseball-reference.com’s bullpen:
:Dan Driessen and Johnny Bench hit back-to-back homers in the 9th inning to give the Reds a 5 – 4 win over the Phils. Tug McGraw serves up both. Driessen’s homer is a line drive that hits the CF wall at Riverfront Stadium and rebounds back over Jerry Martin’s head all the way to the infield for an inside-the-park home run. Bench follows with one over the LF wall.
The homers were Driessen’s 16th and Bench’s 28 of the year. Driessen, the new Reds’ first baseman following the Tony Perez trade to the Expos, had probably his best major league season, as he finished the year batting .300 with 17 homers, 95 rbi, and 31 steals. Bench rebounded from a “down” 1976, to bat .275 with 31 home runs and 109 rbi.
The 1977 Reds spent the vast majority of the year in second place, trailing the eventual National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers. The Reds moved into second place for good on May 28 and remained there for the rest of the season, finishing 88-74 and 10 games behind.