NEW YORK — Trailing by three runs in the ninth inning against the best team in baseball, the Cincinnati Reds’ rally started with the improbable and ended with the unbelievable.
There was Jonathan India fouling changeup after changeup with the Reds down to their final strike and the tying run at third base. Once India finally saw a fastball, he hit a flare into center field for a two-run single to put the Reds ahead for a 4-3 victory on Tuesday.
The New York Yankees had a 49-0 record when leading after eight innings until the Reds’ rally. Yankees closer Clay Holmes entered with a 0.46 ERA, but he didn’t record an out against the five batters he faced.
In the middle of a disappointing season, here were the Reds refusing to back down and silencing the Yankee Stadium crowd of 40,235.
“That’s an unbelievable win,” India said. “I think that’s our best win of the year. It shows a lot of fight and who we are, what kind of team we are. I’m just happy we did it with this group because this group doesn’t stop fighting ever.”
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It was one of those stunning wins that defied expectations. Holmes had allowed two earned runs all season and he gave up four Tuesday. He had no control of his sinker and he opened the door for the comeback: Walk, single, hit by pitch, single, hit by pitch.
Former Reds reliever Wandy Peralta replaced Holmes and nearly walked the tightrope with the bases loaded and no outs in a one-run game. Peralta induced a pair of groundballs and they both turned into outs at the plate.
India stood as the Reds’ last chance and the crowd was so loud Peralta kept cupping his ear so he could hear the headset in his cap with the catcher’s signs. Every one of his swings came on a pitch outside of the strike zone, fouling three straight changeups before he delivered the go-ahead hit.
“There is not a tougher at-bat,” Reds Manager David Bell said. “Jonathan wants to be up in those situations.”
Reds rookie reliever Alexis Díaz earned his third save of the season. He struck out superstar Aaron Judge on a full-count slider to begin the inning after firing five straight fastballs.
Díaz erased a one-out walk with a game-ending double play, which needed to replay review to confirm the final out.
“To make that pitch on Judge, to throw the slider there, trust his ability to make a pitch and not worry about walking maybe the best hitter in the game, that’s what it takes,” Bell said. “It takes not being afraid like that. That’s why he’s going to be really good.”
It was a remarkable comeback for a Reds lineup that was shut down all evening by Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. The Reds finally were back to full strength with their lineup, an extremely rare occurrence this year, but two leadoff doubles against Cole turned into nothing.
Cole struck out 11 in seven innings, one shy of his season-high, and he permitted four hits. He struck out the final three batters he faced, firing a 100.5-mph fastball past Mike Moustakas with his 113th pitch of the evening. It was the hardest pitch of the game.
It wasn’t one of those starts that will have many clips to add to the highlight reel, but Graham Ashcraft returned to the dugout after the fifth inning to high-fives from his teammates.
Ashcraft didn’t have his best stuff against the Yankees, the best offense in the Majors. He didn’t have any easy innings either, but this was a sign of maturity from one of the Reds’ rookie starting pitchers.
Ashcraft found himself in a two-run deficit after 10 pitches. The first three batters all reached base. He was in the danger zone against an unforgiving lineup in front of 40,235 fans. He’s had a couple of starts this season that have snowballed on him.
It wasn’t pretty nor necessarily sharp, but Ashcraft survived. He pitched out of the first-inning jam with a strikeout, a lineout and a flyout. The Yankees had at least one batter reach base against Ashcraft in all five innings he pitched Tuesday, but Ashcraft gave the Reds a chance to extend their winning streak to a season-high five games.
After a rough first inning for the 24-year-old Ashcraft, which included Anthony Rizzo’s two-run single, he escaped trouble with runners on base. He walked the first two batters of the third inning and Nick Senzel dropped a fly ball when he slipped in center field, but Ashcraft limited the damage to one run by striking out the next two hitters.
Ashcraft allowed three runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out three. It wasn’t his best outing, but his teammates appreciated how he kept them in the game.
By the ninth inning, Ashcraft’s teammates showed their appreciation with their comeback win.