CINCINNATI, Ohio—This highly-anticipated rubber match had no shortage of storylines heading into it between Johnny Cueto‘s return to his original MLB home, Graham Ashcraft looking to continue his hot stretch since coming back from injury, and both the Marlins and Reds struggling as of late desperately needing a win to keep pace in the NL Wild Card race. Despite a delayed start and a three-run deficit, the Marlins put together one of their best comebacks of the year on Wednesday to take the series, 5-4.
Both pitchers were cooking the first time through the order, as the game was scoreless after three. However, that changed in the top of the fourth. Josh Bell got the Marlins out to a 1-0 lead for the third time this series on a solo shot.
The scoring would continue in the next half-inning. Spencer Steer hit a no-doubter to left field against Cueto. Tie game, 1-1.
Johnny Cueto’s final line: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, BB, 5 K, 2 HR. He didn’t provide quite as much length as he did in his recent Marlins starts, but he attacked the strike zone with confidence as usual. More on his outing later.
In that same fifth inning, Jazz Chisholm Jr. showed why he belongs in center. He threw out the fastest man in baseball on this throw.
Jorge Lopez came on in relief for Cueto, but it didn’t go so swimmingly. He allowed three singles to the first four batters he faced, the third of which came from Encarnacion-Strand to drive in Matt McLain. 4-1, Reds.
With one runner on, Jorge Soler was called out looking on strikes. Skip Schumaker has already had troubles with this umpire crew this week (tossed late in Monday’s contest). He gave an animated rant en route to another ejection. That was his second of the series and his fourth on the season. I’ve been at three of them, with the other in Cleveland earlier this season. Sorry, Skip.
This sparked a rally from the Marlins no one saw coming. With Jon Berti already on first, Luis Arraez moved him over to second on a single. Bell then did it again. This was the eight multi-homer game of his career and first as a Marlin. 4-4. Tie. Game.
Tanner Scott recorded three strikeouts in the eighth and looked the best he has all year. Can’t be understated how much his improvement from 2022 has helped the team.
The ninth inning may have proved who the better De La Cruz was in this series. First pitch, no time wasted. Bryan De La Cruz. 5-4, Miami.
David Robertson would get the save in the ninth for the second day in a row to notch the series win. Game of the year? It’s up there.
Johnny Cueto beat by the long ball
Cueto was dialed in his first time through the order. He retired everyone in the Reds lineup the first time through except for former teammate Joey Votto. He only allowed three hits that weren’t homers and two of those were by Votto. His command looked especially good early on, which Votto told me pregame he’s “one of the best at.” Cueto did enough to win the game in what could be his final start at his first home.
A cool note: Cueto threw his 600th strikeout at Great American Ball Park in his career during the second inning.
Bell blasts to carry Marlins offense
Safe to say, the Marlins are getting exactly what they wanted out of that trade. Josh Bell achieved his first multi-homer game of the season and brought in four Marlins runs today. No offense to Garrett Cooper, but Bell is raising the bar for offensive production at first base. Maybe all Bell needed was a change of scenery?
Regardless of the change of scenery, Bell has quickly learned to trust his new manager in Schumaker. Speaking on Schumaker’s ejection, Bell said, “It’s nice knowing Skip has our back. I was telling him yesterday that I think that’s the first time in my career where one of my managers got thrown out over balls and strikes.” Bell continued, “So, it means a lot knowing that he’s got our back, that he’s paying attention and he doesn’t mind letting them know if he thinks they’re wrong.”
The Marlins will finally get a day off on Thursday after a stretch where they played 13 games in a row.
They’ll return to action at loanDepot park Friday night to face the New York Yankees. Crowds of 30,000+ are expected, so if you’re planning on heading down to the ballpark for Flashback Friday, plan to get there early. If you don’t plan on attending the game, first pitch is at 6:40 p.m. and can be seen on Bally Sports Florida and the Bally Sports app.
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images