Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Avisaíl Garcia waited to flip his bat. After hitting a line drive to deep center field against the Cincinnati Reds in the eighth inning, he waited for the ball to land.
After it ricocheted high off the batter’s eye, he threw his bat toward Milwaukee’s dugout to celebrate. And Reds reliever Brad Brach walked to the mound, picked up the rosin bag and spiked it into the dirt.
The first game in a seven-game stretch between the top two teams in the NL Central was waiting for a moment like this. At the Reds' expense, Garcia delivered and led the Brewers to a 5-3 win over Cincinnati on Thursday at American Family Field.
The Reds had plenty of chances for their game-changing moment, and they had more chances than the Brewers. In the first two innings alone, they had five.
In the first inning, the Reds loaded the bases with no outs. Against Brewers starter Adrian Houser, opposing hitters have a .353 batting average with the bases loaded, and Houser had only struck out four hitters with the bases loaded in his five-year career.
In the first inning, Houser struck out Joey Votto and Tyler Naquin with the bases loaded and ended the inning by getting third baseman Eugenio Suárez to pop out. Then in the second inning, Houser fanned Reds All-Star outfielders Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos with the bases loaded again.
In the third inning, the Reds had runners on first and second with no outs. Cincinnati let another prime scoring chance slip away. The Reds finally got on the board in the fifth, but it took two runs scored off wild pitches for Cincinnati to tie the game.
Catcher Tucker Barnhart gave the Reds a 3-2 lead in the fifth with an RBI single, but the Reds didn’t score a single earned run against Houser. Even though Houser allowed five hits and four walks in 4 ⅓ innings, the Reds failed to take advantage.
The Brewers have one of the best late-game bullpens in MLB, and the Reds only recorded one hit between the fifth inning and the eighth inning. Reds relievers Josh Osich and Art Warren combined for a scoreless seventh, and the score was tied at three entering the eighth inning.
Reds manager David Bell called on Brad Brach out of the bullpen. Brach entered the game with a 2.66 ERA, and the 11-year veteran has consistently been Bell’s go-to reliever in high-leverage situations.
After allowing an infield single to start the eighth, Brach allowed a 426-foot homer by Garcia to center field. Brach had only allowed two runs over his last 14 games, and he had only allowed one home run all season before Thursday.
But Garcia drove a 93 mph fastball placed on the right corner of the strike zone to give Milwaukee the lead.
In the ninth inning, Brewers All-Star closer Josh Hader picked up his 21st save of the year, and he got a strikeout looking against Winker to end the game.