After the Cincinnati Reds lost four consecutive games out of the All-Star break, well, maybe it was time to try something a little different.
When the New York Mets took the field for drills before Tuesday’s game, Reds reliever Sean Doolittle walked around the dugout burning sage. He carefully walked through both rows of the dugout, then headed for the bullpen.
Doolittle passed a small group of reporters standing outside the dugout and shrugged without saying a word.
Hey, whatever it takes.
After Doolittle burned sage in the dugout, after Wade Miley pitched 6 1/3 innings, after the bullpen withstood some trouble, the Reds were finally back in the win column with a 4-3 victory over the New York Mets at Great American Ball Park.
"In this game, if you dwell in the past, it’s going to eat you alive," Amir Garrett said. "That’s something Wade tells me every day."
It wasn't an easy win, but nothing has been easy for the Reds since the All-Star break.
With a two-run lead in the seventh inning, Reds reliever Brad Brach replaced Miley with two runners on base. Brach induced a 40-foot dribbler against Pete Alonso, but Joey Votto dropped his throw at first base for an error, which allowed a run to score.
Brach survived the inning with a one-run lead when he induced an inning-ending double play on the next pitch.
After the Reds scored a run to add to their lead, reliever Heath Hembree surrendered two hits in the eighth inning, including an RBI double to pinch-hitter Luis Guillorme.
Garrett took the mound for the ninth inning and walked the first batter he faced on four pitches. Facing the top of the Mets lineup in front of 19,096 fans, Garrett pitched around his leadoff walk with two strikeouts and a foul out to earn his seventh save of the season.
"What (Garrett) did tonight was really outstanding," Reds manager David Bell said. "To be able to stay tough like that, find it, lock in and get the job done, it takes a lot of toughness. I thought he really demonstrated that tonight."
Garrett struggled in his first two relief appearances out of the All-Star break, losing a lead during innings he pitched in losses to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Joey Votto and Nick Castellanos made sure to greet Garrett at the dugout steps when he pitched a scoreless inning Monday.
"(Nick) saw me have a little meltdown the other day," Garrett said. "Nick is so chill. He was like, 'all right, when you’re done, here’s your glove.' Joey the last few days has been telling me you’ve been getting some bad luck but you’re getting better and I see you’re getting better. He was like, 'just keep going.' To hear those two guys all the time is very reassuring for me as a pitcher.
"I can’t thank those guys enough for what they do for me."
The Reds needed a big start from Miley, especially with a taxed bullpen from two extra-inning games in a three-day stretch. The 34-year-old left-hander didn't pitch as deep into the game as he wanted, but he delivered another impressive performance.
He permitted one earned run across 6 1/3 innings and matched a season-high with eight strikeouts. He didn't walk any batters until his final inning on the mound.
"I just wanted to come out," Miley said, "and right the ship a little bit."
It was Miley’s sixth consecutive start where he’s pitched at least six innings, lowering his ERA to 2.72.
He received some timely help from his defense. After giving up a leadoff single in the fourth inning, Miley watched Michael Conforto connect with one of his sinkers. Bell thought it was either a home run or a line drive off the wall when he saw Conforto's swing.
Instead, it turned into a running grab on the warning track by Aristides Aquino in right field.
It became even more important of a catch when Miley gave up a single to the next hitter, putting two runners on base with one out, but Miley struck out the final two batters in the inning.
"I’ve never seen somebody like Wade ever in my career," Garrett said. "He comes in, puts his clothes on, goes out there and pitches like he was born to be a starting pitcher."
The Reds climbed ahead in the third inning through back-to-back solo homers from Votto and Aquino. Votto’s homer was a no-doubter as he hammered an elevated fastball from Mets reliever Stephen Nogosek. Votto is one RBI shy from tying Frank Robinson for fourth on the franchise’s all-time list.
Aquino homered on the next pitch, a literal wall scraper in center field. It was the fifth set of back-to-back homers by the Reds this season.
"After (Votto) hit his home run," Aquino said, according to interpreter Jorge Merlos, "he came back and we high-fived each other and I told him, 'wow, you really looked like The Punisher up there.'"
The Reds used the long ball to score their first three runs, but the run they scored in the bottom of the seventh inning ended up as the difference.
Jonathan India, who homered in the first inning, drew a leadoff walk. Votto followed with a single against lefty Aaron Loup after falling into a 0-2 count. Aquino walked to load the bases with one out and pinch-hitter Tyler Stephenson drove in the eventual game-winning run on a sacrifice fly.
Aquino did nearly his entire postgame interview in Spanish, but he had one answer in English.
"We really needed that win," he said.