MILWAUKEE –– Before the Cincinnati Reds played the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, third baseman Eugenio Suárez was discussing the positive impact of Reds manager David Bell.
Suárez mentioned how Bell helped every player on the team, and then he turned his focus to how Bell helped him personally. Suárez started by saying, “When I was struggling...”
He put his slow start to the season behind him.
Suárez didn’t struggle on Saturday night. In the ninth inning, Suárez hit a go-ahead homer off Brewers All-Star closer Josh Hader, which gave the Reds a 4-3 win.
“I think this was the best at-bat that I’ve had this year,” Suárez said. “My thought was don’t let him beat you, be on time, put your best swing on it. I think he missed that fastball right there, and I got it very good."
For most of the last two months, Suárez has had one of the five lowest batting averages in the National League. Suárez entered the game hitting .176 with 107 strikeouts, the fourth most in MLB among qualifying batters.
But recently, Suárez feels like he has turned a corner. After a cooking incident at a barbecue at home, Suárez began hitting with one finger off the bat. That helped him relax his hands, and Suárez went on a recent six-game hitting streak.
Over the last two weeks, Suárez has started to break out of his slump.
“It’s baseball, everyone struggles,” Reds second baseman Jonathan India said. “Geno came through for us at that moment (on Saturday). He can do that for us. He’s one of those guys we want in that moment. He came through and it’s a beautiful thing for him.”
When Suárez stepped up to the plate against Hader, Suárez said he had three things on his mind: don’t let Hader beat him with a fastball, be on time and put his best swing on it.
Hader, who had only allowed one home run all year before Saturday, threw a fastball on the third pitch of the at-bat and left it over the plate. Suárez hit the ball to the opposite field and crushed it 418 feet to right field.
“I can’t believe how far that ball went,” Reds shortstop Mike Freeman said. “I’ve never hit the ball that far pull-side. He hits one (opposite field) like that. That was impressive.”
“(Suárez) working so hard and sometimes facing a guy like that that is so dominant and throws very, very hard, I think sometimes that can have a carryover, too,” Bell said. “The team is just thrilled for Geno. It was a game-winner and it came against one of the best in the game. He deserves it.”
Suárez picked the Reds up after they lost the lead in the eighth inning.
Reliever Brad Brach entered the game in the eighth with the Reds leading 3-1. After Brach walked Brewers third baseman Luis Urias, he faced outfielder Tyrone Taylor. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Taylor hit a 390-foot homer to center field that tied the game at 3.
Following that home run, a lead that the Reds built behind six quality innings from Reds starter Vladimir Gutierrez and a three-run home run by Nick Castellanos had disappeared.
But after Taylor’s potentially backbreaking homer, Suárez responded in the ninth and scored the fourth run of the entire season against Hader.
“These games are fun to play in,” Bell said. “Our guys love playing in the close games. Every pitch matters, every play matters, every at-bat matters. It makes you better as a team. I think we've seen that happen over the course of the season.”
In the bottom of the ninth, reliever Heath Hembree picked up the save, bringing the Reds five games back in the division. With Saturday’s win, the Reds clinched at least a split of the four-game series in Milwaukee and pulled within five games of the Brewers in the NL Central standings.
“It was a big moment for me and for the team,” Suárez said. “I did it for my teammates, for the team and Cincinnati.”