Jay Bruce hits unlikely homer to beat Brewers
CINCINNATI—Left-hander Will Smith hadn’t allowed a homer to a lefty all season. Jay Bruce was in the deepest slump of his career. It seemed like a matchup that favored the Milwaukee Brewers in every way.
It turned the game the other way.
Bruce emerged from an 0-for-26 slump with a tiebreaking homer off Smith in the eighth inning on Sunday, rallying Mat Latos and the Cincinnati Reds over the Brewers 4-2.
The Reds gained a game on the NL Central leaders by taking two of three in their series, moving to six back. Cincinnati has won 10 of 15 overall.
The Brewers have lost five of six but still have the NL’s best record and a comfortable lead.
Bruce hit a two-run shot with one out off Smith (1-2), who took over for Yovani Gallardo. Left-handers were batting only .143 off Smith, who got ahead in the count 1-2 and decided to throw an inside fastball.
“He made the pitch up and in that he was trying to make,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “Smith gets out left-handers with breaking balls. That’s a pitch they have a lot of trouble with. But he’s not just a breaking ball pitcher.”
It was tied in the eight in part because the Brewers got the benefit of a replay review. Ramon Santiago’s inside-the-park homer was nullified in the second inning.
A fan reached his mitt onto the field and hit right fielder Logan Schafer’s glove as he tried to catch the fly ball in front of the wall. The umpires initially ruled the ball in play, and Santiago circled the bases as Schafer and the ball fell to the ground.
Schafer was stunned when the fan reached in front of his glove and hit the ball before the outfielder could touch it. He’d never been involved in an interference play.
“I had it off the bat, to be honest,” Schafer said. “I jumped up, waiting for it to come into my glove and just never felt anything. That’s why when I came down, I was a little confused, then I saw the ball come down. I just looked up at the fan and was like, ‘What just happened?’”
Following a 3-minute, 46-second review, Santiago was ruled out because of the fan’s interference.
Latos (2-1) allowed two runs and four hits in a season-high eight innings. Jonathan Broxton pitched the ninth for his sixth save in eight chances.
Both teams were missing stars.
Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun was sidelined by a stiff back that forced him to leave Saturday’s game. Roenicke said the problem doesn’t appear to be series.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto got a day to rest his bothersome left leg. Votto missed 23 games with a strained muscle above his left knee and has batted .250 without a homer since his return. The muscle isn’t expected to heal fully until after the season.
Latos made his fifth start since recovering from torn knee cartilage and a strained pitching forearm that sidelined him until June 14. He let a 2-0 lead slip away.
Schafer tripled and scored on Scooter Gennett’s groundout in the sixth. Schafer also doubled off Latos with two outs in the eighth and came around on Rickie Weeks’ pinch-hit single, making Latos smack his glove in frustration.
In his last three starts, Latos has allowed a total of four runs in 22 innings, showing he’s fully recovered from the injuries.
Devin Mesoraco had three hits, including an RBI single in the first inning off Gallardo, who gave up two runs in seven innings.
Gallardo was coming off his worst start of the season: 10 hits, eight runs in five innings of a 10-4 loss to Colorado last Sunday. He settled in after a rough first inning. Bruce grounded into a forceout that drove in a run, and Mesoraco’s single made it 2-0.
“In that first inning, I struggled a little bit,” Gallardo said. “I was leaving the ball up in the (strike) zone, similar to what happened in my last start. After that, I focused on keeping the ball down.”
NOTES: The Brewers open a seven-game homestand against Philadelphia and St. Louis on Monday. Marco Estrada (7-5) faces Cole Hamels (2-5). The Reds continue their homestand with the start of a five-game series against the Cubs. Mike Leake (6-7), who has won his last three starts against Chicago, faces Edwin Jackson (5-8). … The Reds put C Brayan Pena on the paternity list and called up C Tucker Barnhart for his third stint this season. … Closer Aroldis Chapman aggravated a hamstring while running before the game and wasn’t available to pitch.