After Jesse Winker watched his two-run homer clear the left-field fence to open the 10th inning Monday, he turned his head toward the dugout as he neared second base and gestured to his teammates with his left hand.
He pumped his left arm after slapping hands with third-base coach J.R. House, shouting something to his coach as he ran past him, then celebrated with his teammates once he returned to the dugout.
It's way too early to describe something as a season-defining game. The Cincinnati Reds are still in the first month of the season. But it felt like one of those games that the Reds couldn't afford to lose.
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Winker wouldn't let them lose. Not again. He broke the hex, snapping a seven-game losing streak, with his go-ahead homer off Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, lifting the Reds to a 5-3 win at Dodger Stadium.
"Any time you can do anything to help a team get a win, that’s what you come to the park every day for," Winker said. "It was a dogfight. I was just happy that ball got up and got out."
The Reds were in control for most of the game Monday. Tyler Mahle, who went to high school 30 minutes away from Dodger Stadium, allowed one across five innings. The offense jumped to a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning. Lucas Sims struck out the first four batters he faced out of the bullpen.
Then the momentum disappeared when struggling reliever Amir Garrett surrendered a game-tying, two-run homer to Corey Seager with two outs in the seventh inning. It woke up the crowd of 15,199.
Enter Winker's heroics against Jansen, the team's first hit since the sixth inning. Tejay Antone pitched a scoreless bottom of the 10th inning, his third inning out of the bullpen, to seal the team’s first victory since April 17.
"We expect to win these games," said Antone, who didn't allow a hit while striking out three and walking two in 53 pitches. "We know we’re a good team. We know when we click that we're better than the Dodgers. We know that. It’s just about expressing it and it’s about executing when we’re on the field.”
Antone, who followed Sims and Garrett, was expecting to throw one inning when he entered with the game tied in the eighth inning. He returned to pitch in the ninth inning and then was given the 10th after Winker's fifth homer of the season.
"That was amazing," Antone said of Winker's homer. "I got insanely fired up. Then I got in the box and actually saw what he had to hit against. That blew my mind, the fact that he hit that guy."
The Reds had a two-run lead with two outs in the seventh inning when manager David Bell called for Garrett out of the bullpen. Garrett replaced Lucas Sims, who mostly cruised through his 1 2/3 innings. Sims struck out his first four batters, walked a batter on four pitches and induced a soft lineout against Mookie Betts.
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With a runner on first base and the left-handed-hitting Corey Seager coming to the plate, Bell chose to play the matchups. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Seager lifted a slider of the wall in center field for a game-tying, two-run homer.
"I know Amir is struggling right now, but we have to continue to go with our best guys," Bell said. "Amir is not only one of our best guys, he’s an important player, teammate and a big part of our bullpen. He’s going to continue to get opportunities. We’ll find spots for him to work through.
"That was a spot there where Lucas had already been at 30-plus pitches and faced six hitters. Kind of already pushed him as far as we wanted to."
It was the third time in the past week that Garrett has surrendered the game-tying or go-ahead run in a relief appearance. He just hasn't been consistent, yielding 10 hits (four homers) and 10 runs in 6 1/3 innings.
Left-handed hitters had only one hit vs. Garrett in the regular season last year, but they are 5-for-11 (.455 batting average) against him this year with two homers and a double.
"Amir, I liked his spot against Seager," Antone said. "A very aggressive hitter, lefty-on-left, great situation. Whatever. That happens. Amir is going to figure it out. We all have 100% faith in him."
Winker, one of the hottest hitters in the league, helped jumpstart the Reds' offense. He drilled a single up the middle in the fourth inning, the first hit against Dodgers starter Julio Urías, and Nick Castellanos followed with a double down the right-field line.
Eugenio Suárez, who is hitless in 20 consecutive at-bats, made it a productive out with an RBI groundout to shortstop. Next up was Nick Senzel, who hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Castellanos.
All four of those at-bats in the inning came in two-strike counts.
"What a game," said Bell, smiling. "So many great performances tonight. So many great things that happened – and a lot of little things. Just a great team win."