Reds homers lead way to win

CINCINNATI — The Reds played their 71st game of the season Tuesday, still far from a postseason setting. But in these last couple of days vs. the American League West-leading Astros, they’re playing like there is a lot on the line with each moment, and David Bell certainly managed like

CINCINNATI — The Reds played their 71st game of the season Tuesday, still far from a postseason setting. But in these last couple of days vs. the American League West-leading Astros, they’re playing like there is a lot on the line with each moment, and David Bell certainly managed like that was the case.

That showed during a 4-3 victory over the Astros at Great American Ball Park that put Cincinnati (33-38) in position to get a three-game series sweep with one more win Wednesday. Not only did the Reds collect a third straight win for the first time since May 9-11, they knocked off ace Justin Verlander by hitting three home runs, while handing injury-riddled Houston its first series loss since May 2 and its first three-game losing streak since April 20-22.

Box score

“These past two games have felt like a playoff game, honestly,” said Reds second baseman Kyle Farmer, who provided a huge insurance run with a homer off Verlander in the seventh inning. “That’s the mentality we should have every day. That’s what David is really telling us, and it’s clicking for us. It’s great to see guys swinging the bat well, pitchers throwing well, defense playing great. Everything is clicking for us right now.

“I was exhausted more mentally than physically. You’re going up against one of the best teams in MLB right now. You have to play your best, and that’s what we’re doing right now, which is really fun.”

Four batters into the game, the Reds already had a 3-0 lead. Leadoff batter Jesse Winker slugged an elevated 1-2 fastball from Verlander to the opposite field for a home run, his second in three games following a 20-game drought.

Joey Votto followed with a ground-rule double that bounced just inside the left-field line. With one out, Derek Dietrich lifted a 1-2 slider to right field for a two-run homer, his 18th of the year.

“I didn’t play in the game yesterday and I was mentally exhausted,” Dietrich said. “When you play these types of teams in those games when you’re really all-in on the close ones, it can be mentally exhausting just standing in and watching and supporting the guys, and playing is the same thing. That’s how you should feel after a game.”

Verlander shut down the Reds by retiring 19 of the 22 batters that came to the plate after Dietrich. That changed when Farmer added his solo homer to left field with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

“I thank them for leaving him in as long [as they did]. I got him on the tail end of his start with 100 pitches, and he was tired,” Farmer said. “I was able to get a good barrel on the ball. But that first inning was incredible. That’s what we want to do, be aggressive and come out swinging.”

The Reds didn’t just win with their bats. The defense turned three double plays, but the biggest one came in the sixth. After Anthony DeSclafani gave up back-to-back doubles, including one by Yordan Alvarez that plated Houston’s first run, Bell went to reliever David Hernandez. Yuli Gurriel flied out to center fielder Nick Senzel, who fired a great throw to Eugenio Suarez at third base as Alvarez tagged up to advance. Houston’s left fielder slid past the bag for a moment, and after an initial safe call, a replay review overturned the call when it showed Suarez made a successful tag.

DeSclafani pitched 5 1/3 innings with one run, six hits and one walk allowed, along with four strikeouts. In the eighth inning, the game got tense when lefty reliever Amir Garrett gave up a two-run homer to Alex Bregman and a single to Michael Brantley. With one out and Gurriel batting again, Bell made his next move by summoning closer Raisel Iglesias, who struck out both Gurriel and Robinson Chirinos to escape the threat.

In Monday’s win, Iglesias also entered with one out in the eighth and struggled. He returned for the ninth and walked a batter before Bell turned to Michael Lorenzen for a two-out save. For the second consecutive night, Lorenzen picked up the save, this time with a 1-2-3 outing in the ninth. Bell noted that there was no role change in the back of the bullpen, saying there was urgency to get two outs from Iglesias in the eighth.

“If Gurriel came up in that inning, that’s where the game was going to be. We wanted Iggy. That was the game. So he pitched,” Bell said. “We knew if we could get out of that inning, we had a much better chance to win the game. … We didn’t want to save him for a ninth inning that may not be as important.”

While the fourth-place Reds have been maligned for their 15 one-run losses this season, they now have back-to-back one-run victories.

“We’ve been talking about getting on a roll, but what I’m seeing is a level of expectation and determination to win games,” Bell said. “We’ve come together as a team for a while now, and playing against these really good teams, I’ve seen us respond with that extra level of whatever it takes to do everything it takes to win a game. That’s been really fun to be a part of.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.

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