Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 5/3/12
CINCINNATI It was the kind of game on a hot, humid afternoon that sometimes defines a team's personality for the rest of the season. For the Cincinnati Reds it seems like serenity and complete confidence. For the Chicago Cubs it seems like schizophrenia. It was a day that the Reds were down to their last gulp of oxygen, three outs away from losing two straight to the Cubs by scoring only one run on six hits over 18 innings. They had lost Wednesday night, 3-1, getting three hits. On Thursday afternoon, Birthday Boy Ryan Dempster had the Reds nuzzling kernels out of his hand no runs, three hits over eight innings. And the Cubs led, 3-0, after three solo home runs (Starlin Castro, Ian Stewart, Geovany Soto) against another Birthday Boy, Reds starter Homer Bailey. It was the first time in major-league history that both starting pitchers in a game were celebrating birthdays. Neither received a victory for a present just a couple of no-decisions. That's because Cubs closer Carlos Marmol suffered a monumental meltdown in the ninth, enabling the Reds to tie it, 3-3. Willie Harris walked on a 3-and-1 count and Joey Votto walked on four pitches. Third baseman Ian Stewart booted a ground ball by Brandon Phillips and one run scored. Jay Bruce singled, the only hit of the inning for the Reds, and that filled the bases. The Cubs stuck with Marmol and he walked Ryan Ludwick on a full count, forcing in the second run. That ended Marmol's day and perhaps his days as the team's closer, according to manager Dale Sveum. Rafael Solis came in and induced a double play ball out of Devin Mesoraco, but the tying run scored during the play's execution. That made the 10th inning almost anticlimactic as the Reds scored the walk-off win on Scott Rolen's sacrifice fly. Neither regular third baseman Rolen nor regular shortstop Zack Cozart started the game, but both entered in the top of the 10th. And Cozart made a WebGem stop and throw on Darwin Barney to open the 10th. Then Cozart started the bottom of the 10th with a single. Chris Heisey bunted and when Solis's throw hit Heisey and rolled away, Cozart motored to third and trotted home on Rolen's fly to right. End of game, rescue accomplished. "Nice day off, for eight innings," said Cozart. "That's what's being on the bench is all about, I guess. It's kind of weird because I've been playing every day. It's a tough job. You're just sitting there and suddenly we get some people on and Dusty says, 'Hey, get ready to hit. Get ready to run. Get ready to go in to play shortstop." Of course, Heisey's bunt between Cozart's hit and Rolen's sacrifice fly set up the finish. "We've worked on bunting a lot lately, taking extra bunting practice," said Heisey. "Part of my thought process was, 'I better get this bunt down so we don't have to keep doing a ton of more practice bunting, because it is a lot more fun to hit.'" Said manager Dusty Baker, whose team finished the homestand 5-and-3 before embarking on a six-game trip to Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, "We hadn't scored in a couple of days one Wednesday none off Dempster for eight innings. Homer Bailey only gave up those three solo home runs and usually you have a good chance to win if that's all you give up." And the Reds made good use of that 'chance,' especially with the off-the-bench contributions of regulars like Cozart and Rolen. "I tell all our guys, 'If you're not starting, that doesn't mean you won't be in the game,'" said Baker. "So I tell them to stay in the game, stay loose. But I try to give them enough notice to get their minds and their bodies ready to go into the game." The Reds open a three-game series in Pittsburgh Friday night and Baker said, "Pittsburgh has been tough on us in their park and with the pitching they have. They might be a little banged up in the bullpen because they just gave up a lot of runs in a series with St. Louis, so it will be to our advantage to get to their starter early." Or, as they seem to do a lot these days, get to the other team's bullpen late.
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