DENVER – When Eugenio Suárez ripped a three-run double into the left-center gap in the 10th inning Wednesday, his teammates cheered wildly from the dugout.
Some guys pumped their fists. Others banged their hands on the top of the dugout railing.
The Cincinnati Reds know how important it would be to have Suárez look like his old self at the plate. Even after a five-hit series against Pittsburgh this week, he owns a .156/.238/.336 slash line in 143 plate appearances with 16 RBI and 16 runs.
“He’s been very open for a player that’s had a lot of success in his career,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He’s listening. He’s learning. He’s not afraid to make an adjustment. It’s not always easy to do that. Just the work, it’s going to pay off.”
Suárez has worked a lot with hitting coach Alan Zinter on ways to improve his approach. He’s struck out a league-high 50 times. He’s shown flashes of a breakout – he had a three-hit game vs. the Chicago Cubs earlier this month – but then dropped back into a slump.
“This game is a fun game,” Suárez said in an on-field interview with Bally Sports Ohio. “Sometimes, you’re good. Sometimes, you struggle. I just try to enjoy my life, living the dream, do my best to help my team. I’m the same guy every day. I just enjoy what I do.”
Suárez leads the team in plate appearances and he’s mostly remained in his spot in the middle of the lineup. Bell said he wanted to give him the opportunity to play through his slump.
“He’s always been able to hit,” Bell said. “He’s just going through a time where it really does become an opportunity to get better. It doesn’t make it fun going through, but he will. I think that’s what we’re seeing right now. He’s just been open to new adjustments, but the main thing is he’s working super hard at it.”
DIRECT HIT: Tyler Stephenson was in visible pain in the 10th inning Wednesday when he fouled a pitch off his right knee, the back leg for a right-handed hitter. When he tried to walk it off, he dropped his bat and put his hands on his knees.
After a visit from Bell and trainer Steve Baumann, Stephenson completed his at-bat and caught the bottom of the 10th inning.
“He took it pretty square off the knee, so we’ll have to check him,” Bell said Wednesday afternoon. “I know he’s going to be sore, but he showed a lot of toughness staying in the game right there because it got him in a bad spot. Hopefully, we’ll keep the swelling down and he’ll be OK.”
MINOR LEAGUE REVIEW: Infielder Mike Freeman, one of the two players traveling with the Reds on their current road trip as a part of the taxi squad, isn’t a fan of the way the six-game series for minor-league teams this year.
Minor-league teams play a six-game series, from Monday to Saturday, to limit travel and potential exposure to COVID-19.
“I think that first series, you could see pretty early on, things got chippy,” said Freeman, who played five games at Triple-A Louisville. “I think there’s a reason the games are three- and four-game series typically. With us playing (Cleveland’s) affiliate, kind of joked that because I knew a lot of those guys, I think we were able to kind of lessen some of the chatter, or kind of explain our frame of mind the next day to lessen some of the animosity.
“It’s going to be interesting to see the minor league season play out with the six-game series because different teams, especially as far as the unwritten rules go, you don’t know how the teams view certain things, and if you don’t have somebody kind of be the mediator in between, things can go quick.”
RARE AT-BAT: The Reds used Wade Miley as a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning Wednesday after exhausting all the position players on their bench.
Miley, pinch-hitting with the bases loaded and no outs, popped out down the third-base line on a 2-0 pitch. It was the first time he’s been used as a pinch-hitter since Aug. 14, 2013 when he hit in the 13th inning of a game.