CINCINNATI — One swing of the bat by Jose Ramirez soured a rare midseason Opening Day in Cincinnati.
A grand slam in the ninth inning capped a six-RBI game for Ramirez and helped win the Guardians its third straight during a 10-5 win at the Reds on Tuesday.
“[Shane] Bieber was so tough to start that game,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Great comeback. Tyler Naquin off the lefty to tie the game. … Tony [Santillan] gave us an opportunity to win. Good game and fighting back you want to win that one. We gave ourselves a chance against a really tough starter today.”
The ninth began with the score tied at four as Bell inserted reliever Hunter Strickland on the mound. After allowing a leadoff double, Andres Gimenez smashed a two-run home run to right centerfield to give Cleveland (3-2) the lead.
Strickland would hit a batter and give up another double before being pulled. Daniel Duarte replaced him and after a walk to load the bases, Ramirez put the game out of reach with a blast into the first rows of the right field bleachers.
His other two RBI came on a triple hugging the right field line during the third inning off starter Tyler Mahle.
The game was the first for the Reds at home, but not in its traditional spot as the season opener. The 99-day lockout during the offseason delayed the first six games of the season and left Cincinnati (2-3) to start the year at Atlanta on Thursday as the schedule had originally intended for that day.
Tuesday’s game was just the sixth time since 1890 the Reds home opener was not its first game of the season.
Guardians’ starter Shane Bieber did not allow a hit into the sixth inning, but was quickly pulled after consecutive one-out doubles cut the Reds four-run deficit in half.
“He’s always going to give his team a chance to win,” Naquin said of Bieber. “He had good stuff and was sharp. He doesn’t show any emotion whether he gives up a hit or not and he threw the ball well.”
Naquin completed the sudden comeback with a two-run home run hit high off the centerfield batters eye to tie the score off of Anthony Gose.
Bieber’s line ended with three earned runs charged to him to go along with five strikeouts.
Art Warren and Santillan struck out three hitters in the next two innings to hold down Cleveland. The Reds only baserunner came on a Kyle Farmer single, but he ended up being doubled off on a shallow fly to left field after not immediately noticing Jake Fraley’s hit ball did not fall.
Mahle followed up his start on Opening Day in Atlanta with a similar performance on Tuesday. He threw four innings, allowing four hits, two runs and struck out four while allowing one walk.
“I thought they did a nice job of fouling off his fastball and almost sitting on his offspeed and really just get it in place,” Bell said. “Not hard hit balls but timely hits where they were able to just get enough bat on the ball. A lot of times when you have runners in scoring position, that’s all it takes.”
Tyler Stephenson provided a bright spot with three throws to second to shut down steal attempts, including two in the first inning. He had eight total caught stealings during the entire 2021 season.
“When you got a guy back there that can throw anyone out, it’s nice. You can focus less on the runner and can do what you got to do which was to execute,” Mahle said.
Rookie Steven Kwan continued his sensational start to the season for Cleveland with a 1-for-2 effort at the plate that included two walks and a sacrifice fly. In five games for the Guardians, Kwan is 10 of 15 and has reached base in 18 of his 24 plate appearances, also having yet to swing and miss at a pitch.
Tommy Pham exited the game in the third inning after fouling a ball off his hand and a collision in the outfield. Bell said x-rays taken on his right hand were negative and he should be OK.