CINCINNATI — When you go with a four-man bench to compensate for a young, likely shaky starting rotation, it means you’ve got to do things you wouldn’t normally do — like sending a relief pitcher to pinch-hit.
The Reds did that Thursday with Michael Lorenzen, and he delivered a home run to dead center. It turned out to be the key blow in a 7-4, comeback victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
The win gave the Reds the series and a very good feeling going into the road trip that begins Friday in St. Louis.
“It was a different way to get where we needed to go,” Reds manager Bryan Price said.
You need that occasionally, especially on days that begin like the Reds’ did. Price often talks about how much he likes his team’s young pitchers. But he always adds: “There are going to be growing pains.”
The growth of rookie Rookie Davis was particularly painful Thursday. Davis made his big league debut. He went three innings and allowed four runs on five hits.
“They picked me up,” Davis said. “It was a great team win today. That’s what it’s about. Hopefully, I’ll pick them up later. The way the team rallied was special for me.”
Davis showed the stuff to be successful, mixing a 94-mph fastball with a slider and changeup. But he also made his share of mistakes.
He left a breaking ball over the middle of the plate to Daniel Nava in the first. Nava hit it out to right. He left another breaking ball over the middle of the plate to Nava in the third. Nava hit it out to right for a two-run homer. Davis was ahead in the count both times.
But Davis’ biggest mistake came later in the inning. He failed to cover home on a wild pitch. A run that could have easily been prevented scored. That’s a rookie mistake. It’s understandable on a frustrating day, but it’s still inexcusable.
“It was good to get that first one out of the way,” Davis said. “A couple pitches beat me in that game. Look at video, making better pitches, especially that two-run home run. When I’m ahead in the count, I’ve got to make a better pitch than that.”
The 23-year-old right-hander came to the Reds in the Aroldis Chapman deal in December of 2015. He put up great numbers at Double-A Pensacola last year — 10-3, 2.94 ERA — despite dealing with a strained right groin much of the year.
He was considered a long shot in the rotation race, but he pitched well in Goodyear, putting up a 4.02 ERA in five outings. He walked only three and struck out 17.
He nearly walked that many Thursday.
But, again, the Reds are going to have to deal with starts like the one they got from Davis. The hope of the front office is the lineup and the bullpen are enough to recover from some of those bad starts.
The Reds did that. First they clawed back with three runs in fourth, two of which scored on outs, to tie it at 4.
“That reinvigorated the ballclub,” Price said.
The Reds sent up Lorenzen with two outs in the sixth. He’s not your average reliever. He played center field and closed at Cal State-Fullerton. He hit a home run last year. He came in as a .244 hitter with seven RBI in 41 at-bats.
He worked the count to 3-1.
“He (reliever Adam Morgan) was throwing me changeups,” Lorenzen said. “He couldn’t really get it over. I knew he had to throw me a fastball. I was ready for it.”
Lorenzen went down and got a 92-mph fastball and sent it out to center to give the Reds a 5-4 lead. It was the first pinch-hit home run by a pitcher since Micah Owings hit one for the Reds against St. Louis in 2009.
Lorenzen would like to hit, play the field and pitch.
“People don’t take me seriously when I say that,” he said. “But I believe I can play both ways … I’m an all-around baseball player. I take pride in that.”
Adam Duvall added a two-run shot in the seventh.
The bullpen put up zeroes over the last six innings — one from Wandy Peralta, two from Cody Reed, one from Tony Cingrani, one from Blake Wood and one from Drew Storen. Storen pitched the ninth for the save.
Reed got his first win, despite walking the first two batters in both innings.
“There were a lot of good things that happened in that game,” Price said. “Guys hung in there. It was good to see — down 4-1 early and come back.”