When Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez hit a go-ahead home run in a win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, Suárez said he tried to enjoy the moment like he was “a little kid.”
As he rounded third base, he pointed to the sky. After that, he stomped on home plate, clapped his hands and smiled. Suárez’s home run gave the Reds a 6-5 lead, but it carried even more significance for the Reds third baseman.
“I just enjoy the moment every time that (manager David Bell) plays me,” Suárez said. “I do my best. September has been very good for me. I just want to finish hard and do my best to help my team.”
This season, Suárez ranks last in MLB among qualifying hitters with a .179 batting average. As a result, Suárez lost his every day spot in the starting lineup and has been platooning with Mike Moustakas at third base.
But in September, Suárez is having his first great, extended stretch of the season. This month, Suárez ranks fifth in MLB in OPS. He’s hitting .313, which is the best average on the Reds. And then on Monday, he carried that momentum into a pivotal swing that finished one of the Reds biggest comebacks of the season.
“Everybody knows the numbers, but I just think about finishing hard,” Suárez said. “Help my team win games, that’s all that matters right now for me. I don’t care about my numbers. I know everybody knows it’s 170-something. For me, I just want to finish hard. Every time David gives me the opportunity to play, I will do my best.”
With his home run swing, Suárez accomplished what he's done best throughout his career: taking advantage when opposing pitchers leave breaking balls in the strike zone. Suárez got ahead 3-0 in the count in his at-bat against Pirates reliever Cody Ponce, but then Ponce forced Suárez to foul off four consecutive pitches.
On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Ponce left a changeup in the middle of the strike zone. Suárez hit a 399-foot home run off the top of the left field wall.
“I made him work, and I feel like I was ready to hit, to win,” Suárez said. “In my mind, I told myself, ‘Don’t let this guy beat you.’ I went into that at-bat with a big homer giving the team the lead and I’m enjoying running the bases. You’re doing it, winning this at bat and giving the lead to the team. That was big time to me.”
It carried extra significance because Suárez continued to take advantage of his limited playing time. Suárez hadn’t started against a right-handed pitcher since August 21, but manager David Bell rewarded Suárez for his standout month with a start against the Pirates right-handed starter on Tuesday.
After Suárez’s home run on Monday, the Reds dugout had an especially energetic celebration. Bell said that celebration was a product of the way Suárez carried himself when he struggled earlier in the season.
“It’s been fun for the whole team to see this,” Bell said. “It’s nice when we’re all pulling for each other non-stop, but when a player goes through a tough time and a struggle, we all immediately relate because we’ve all gone through stuff. To see somebody pull themself out of that, it takes a lot of courage, a lot of strength and a lot of energy.”