THE RESULT: Cespedes’ 433-foot, two-out, two-run home run off Reds reliever Jonathan Broxton in the top of the eighth capped a 3-2 comeback victory for the Red Sox in front of many appreciative Boston fans at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati on Tuesday night.
YOU KNOW IT, YOENIS: The Red Sox were down 2-1, and Boston had experienced problems all night trying to string together meaningful hits. It changed when Brock Holt led off the eighth with a shot to right field for a single. Both Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz had strong at-bats but just missed out on base hits. Then, Cespedes came to the plate. The first pitch he saw from Broxton was a brushback, high and inside, drawing a reaction from the crowd. Cespedes drove the next pitch he saw far -- very far -- over the center-field wall, sending many of the 35,903 fans home happy (they had started one of many “Let’s go, Red Sox” cheers during Ortiz’s at-bat).
RED-HOT HITTERS: The last time Boston pitcher Joe Kelly faced the Reds, it was nearly a year ago -- Aug. 27, 2013 -- and Kelly was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. He fared well, giving up just one run in six innings and earning the victory. Tuesday night, Kelly again fared well, but the Reds' hot hitters worked the count and made Kelly pay from the first inning.
It started when Reds rookie Billy Hamilton led off the game by earning a four-pitch walk. He then stole second (his 44th stolen bag of the year) and advanced to third on a throwing error by Sox catcher Christian Vasquez. Kelly responded by walking Reds slugger Jay Bruce to put runners on the corners for Todd Frazier, who came in hitting 13-40 in the month of August. Frazier worked Kelly to a full count before stretching to reach what easily could have been ball four. Instead, Frazier just made contact with the end of the bat and deposited the pitch into left field for an RBI and a 1-0 Reds lead.
Then came catcher Devin Mesoraco with runners on first and second. Mesoraco just happened to be 17-54 in his past 15 games with four doubles and four home runs. The Reds catcher worked the count to 2-2 before sending a shot into center field to score Bruce.
Kelly then was able to get a double play and a called third strike in back-to-back plays to end the inning. It might have saved the game.
LATOS DEALS: It looked like two runs were all Mat Latos would need. The righty was masterful, making just his 11th start of the season after beginning the year on the disabled list. He finished by giving up five hits, one earned run and one walk while striking out five in seven innings.
NAVA STARTS IT: Red Sox right fielder Daniel Nava started the seventh by hitting the hardest ball off Latos all night up until that point, sending a shot into deep left-center for a double. Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, armed with his .229 batting average, ripped a single to drive in Nava and cut the lead to 2-1. Vasquez then bunted Bogaerts to second, and Will Middlebrooks sent a blast to the warning track in left for a long out.
But Mike Napoli came in to pinch-hit for Kelly and worked the count to 3-2, fouling off at least three pitches before striking out. He would have to leave the heroics to Cespedes.
KELLY IGNITES RALLY: It looked as though the Red Sox would get a run or two back in the third, when Kelly started off the inning with a solid single to right field. He followed that up with a stolen base -- his first of the season -- when he took third (with no throw from Mesoraco, as Pedroia had gotten a walk to first base). Ortiz popped out, and Cespedes lined out to end the inning. (Kelly would finish 1-2 at the plate.) His pitching line: six innings, five hits, two earned runs, three walks and four strikeouts. Most importantly, he kept Boston in the game.
HOLT FILLS IN FOR BRADLEY: Red Sox utility man Brock Holt started in center field Tuesday in place of struggling rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. (he of the 0-for-35 streak). Holt finished 1-3 with a sacrifice bunt and a run scored, but it should be noted that Holt started the comeback with his sharp single in the eighth. In the bottom of the inning, Holt shifted to right field and Bradley came in at center.