Gonzalez gives Reds an extras walk-off
Three-RBI day helps Cincy overcome obstruction call
CINCINNATI -- When shortstop Alex Gonzalez missed a bunch of games earlier this month because of a strained oblique, many Reds fans didn't think he should be put back in the starting lineup.Gonzalez's average was well below the Mendoza line of .200, but it was believed it wouldn't be down that low for too long. On Sunday, it was his three hits and three RBIs that loomed largest in the Reds' 4-3 win over the Indians in 11 innings that gave them two of three in the Interleague series.
"He was better than he was doing," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It was just a matter of him getting some reps. I know a lot of people were down on him, but we weren't. We know what he can do. He's at 100 at-bats now, and a whole bunch of them weren't consecutive at-bats. It's good to see Gonzo getting back to Gonzo."No hit during the day was bigger than the one-out RBI double Gonzalez slugged to the center -ield wall over Grady Sizemore's head in the bottom of the 11th. It was a 3-3 game when Ramon Hernandez led off the bottom of the 11th with a hard single up the middle. In a perfect bunt play in front of the plate, Adam Rosales sacrificed pinch-runner Paul Janish to second base to set up the winning run. Gonzalez then slugged a 3-2 outside slider from Luis Vizcaino (1-2) and leaped into teammate Chris Dickerson's outstretched arms after touching second base. "The last series and this series, I saw all pitches away, away, away," Gonzalez said. "In the cage, I tried to work on hitting pitches away and use both hands and get it down. I put good contact on it." In his last six games since returning from his injury, Gonzalez is batting .393 (11-for-28) with six RBIs and has raised his overall average to .225. He also has a five-game hitting streak. Sunday's production from the bottom of the lineup helped Cincinnati compensate without key hitters Joey Votto (dizziness) and Brandon Phillips (fractured thumb). The Reds entered the day with losses in six of their previous eight games. "The guys know we have to pull together in tough times like this," Baker said. "Things really aren't going our way, so to speak. We have to tighten it up, keep on playing, keep on fighting and just keep believing." Gonzalez's game-winner also made a winner of rookie reliever Carlos Fisher in his Major League debut. In a scoreless Cleveland 11th, Fisher (1-0) struck out his first batter and walked one. "I didn't want to put that pressure on him to have to face all those lefties the next inning," Baker said. "I wanted to win it right then." It was not the ideal situation to make a first appearance. It certainly could not have been more pressure-packed entering during a tie game in extra innings. "I wouldn't say nervous, but more than anything anxious to get out there and throw strikes," Fisher said. "Once I threw those first pitches and knew my stuff was pretty good, I kind of relaxed, kept breathing and went after the hitters." Reds starter Johnny Cueto received a no-decision after he pitched seven innings and allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits with three walks, two hit batters and seven strikeouts. While he threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of 29 batters, it was Cueto's seventh straight start of at least seven innings. Two unfortunate mistakes cost Cueto a victory -- one was his own doing, the other someone else's. After Cueto hit Kelly Shoppach with a 1-2 pitch with two outs and a 1-0 Reds lead, it opened the door for Cleveland to tie it. Luis Valbuena hit an RBI double to right field and did just that. Cincinnati moved ahead again in the bottom half of the fourth on Gonzalez's RBI single to second base that scored Hernandez. Gonzalez's two-out bloop single to center field in the sixth gave the Reds a 3-1 lead. In the top of the seventh, after Sizemore hit a two-out RBI triple to the right-field corner that scored Valbuena, the relay throw to third base got past Rosales. Sizemore broke for home as alert left fielder Jonny Gomes ran in and backed up the play with a sliding stop of the errant ball in front of the visitors' dugout. Gomes fired a perfect throw home, where the sliding Sizemore was tagged by catcher Ryan Hanigan and called out by plate umpire Mark Wegner. Both teams were headed off the field until the run was allowed to score when third-base umpire Rob Drake ruled interference on Rosales for standing in the base line in Sizemore's way. "Cueto threw great," said Baker, who argued Drake's call to no avail. "Boy, that was a tough way to get a no-decision." Fortunately for the Reds, Gonzalez's big hit in the 11th lessened the ache.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.