September 5, 1973: For the second day in a row, the Reds explode in extra innings to beat the Houston Astros in Houston. The Reds use the three game series to move into first place in the Western Division, a lead they won’t relinquish for the rest of the season.

The Reds entered the three-game series with the Astros one game behind the division leading Los Angeles Dodgers. Having spent most of the season in third and fourth place, the Reds trailed by as many as 11 games as late as June 30. The Reds moved into a tie for first on the first day (September 3). While the Dodgers were losing 11-8 to the San Francisco Giants, the Reds scored two runs in the eighth inning on a Ken Griffey pinch single to beat the Astros, 4-3.

The Reds scored first on a second inning solo home run by Andy Kosco, but the Astros plated three runs in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead. The Reds got one run back in the sixth inning on a Pete Rose two-out single. The Reds won it in the eighth when Johnny Bench doubled with two outs. Kosco drew a walk, and Ed Armbrister, making his second consecutive start since his recall from AAA, reached on an infield single to load the bases. Ken Griffey, in his seventh game since his recall, then delivered a pinch two-run single giving the Reds their 4-3 lead and eventual margin of victory. Pedro Borbon pitched the final three innings of the game, surrendering no runs despite giving up six singles in those three innings. Former Astro Jack Billingham had started the game for the Reds and had pitched six innings, allowing three unearned runs.

The Reds moved into first place for good on the next day, September 4, with a 12-7 extra inning win over the Astros. The Astros scored three times in the bottom of the first off Reds starter Don Gullett, and were leading 4-2 after five innings of play. The Reds took the lead with three runs in the sixth inning on back to back home runs by Tony Perez and Bench and a pinch-sacrifice fly by former Astro farmhand Armbrister which scored Griffey, who had tripled. The Reds made it 5-3 in the seventh when former Astro Joe Morgan singled, stole second, went to third on the catcher’s throwing error, and continued on home on an error by centerfielder Cesar Cedeno. The Reds made it 7-4 when another former Astro, Denis Menke homered in the top of the ninth.

The Astros tied it in the bottom of the ninth inning off Reds relievers Dick Baney and Clay Carroll. Baney had relieved Gullett in the fifth inning and had pitched four innings of one-hit scoreless relief. However, in the ninth, former Red Jimmy Stewart led off with a walk, and scored on a double by Gary Sutherland. Carroll relieved Baney, but Cedeno greeted him with a two-out two-run homer to tie the game and send it into extra innings.

The Reds won it in the 10th off young Astros fireballer J.R. Richard who had taken the mound in relief to start the inning. With one out, Bench and Griffey both singled. Hal King, who had already delivered a couple of dramatic pinch hit home runs during the year, was called on to pinch hit for Armbrister, but struck out for the second out. Menke walked to load the bases, and Phil Gagliano was called on to pinch hit for Carroll. Gagliano and the Reds successfully executed a suicide squeeze bunt, scoring Bench from third, to give the Reds an 8-7 lead. Rose and Morgan followed with consecutive two-run singles and the Reds held on for the 12-7 victory. Borbon pitched the bottom of the 10th inning and was awarded his second consecutive relief win.

The Reds division lead grew to two games the next day. While the Dodgers were losing, 3-0, to the Giants, the Reds drew first blood in the second inning . Kosco singled with one out, Armbrister tripled him home, and then Menke plated Armbrister with a sacrifice fly. The Astros scored once in the the third, but the Reds made it 3-1, when Armbrister connected for one of his first career home run (he only hit four…) in the seventh inning. The Astros scored one run in both the seventh and eighth innings to tie the game off Reds starter Fred Norman and the game entered extra innings as Borbon, pitching for the third day in a row, stopped the bleeding.

The Reds won it with six runs in the 11th. Perez led off with a walk and Larry Stahl (he of 22 career stolen bases in ten seasons) was inserted to pinch run. Bench singled to centerfield, and the Reds loaded the bases on a bunt single by another former Astro, Cesar Geronimo. Pinch hitter Dan Driessen singled to score Stahl and Menke delivered a sacrifice fly to score Bench with Geronimo advancing to third. Ed Crosby struck out, but reliever Carroll reached on an infield hit with Geronimo scoring and Driessen advancing to second base. Rose followed with a double, scoring Driessen, and Morgan greeted reliever Cecil Upshaw with a two-run single, giving the Reds their final 9-3 margin of victory.

As mentioned earlier, the Reds moved into first place, a lead they didn’t relinquish for the remainder of the season. What I find fascinating, though, is manager Sparky Anderson’s use of his entire bench, including the use of young players (Armbrister and Griffey’s first major league experience) in the heat of a pennant race. We all remember the “Great Eight” of the mid-1970’s, but Anderson was never afraid to use the Andy Kosco’s, the Phil Gagliano’s, and the Larry Stahl’s of the world, picking the appropriate moments for them to shine.

September 5, 1999 Following up on their nine-home run performance from the day before, the Reds club five more home runs off Phillies pitching to set a major league home run record of 14 home runs in two days. They also tie National League records with 15 home runs in three games, and 17 home runs over a four game period.

In this game, Greg Vaughn slugged a three-run homer in the first inning to start the Reds onslaught. Jeffrey Hammonds had two solo home runs on the day, Eddie Taubensee hit a third inning three-run homer, and Dmitri Young had a seventh inning solo home run to give the Reds a 9-1 lead. The Phillies scored once in the home half of the eighth off Reds starter Denny Neagle and five times in the ninth off Reds reliever Gabe White before Scott Sullivan recorded the final out to preserve the victory.