It’s the kind of season the Cincinnati Reds lose even one day when they beat the St. Louis Cardinals and scored seven points against Adam Wainwright.
Reds wide receiver Tyler Stephenson left Friday’s game in the first run with a broken right collarbone. It was devastating news in the club’s first game after the all-star break.
The potential season-ending injury clouded the Reds’ 9-5 win at Great American Ball Park. The Reds are 22-24 in Stephenson’s starting games, an impressive mark for a team that is 22 games under the .500 mark.
“Our dugout, it was very deflating,” Reds manager David Bell said. “I will say our players did a good job of rallying behind each other and sticking with them during the game. They played well the rest of the game, but it was tough.”
With two outs early in the first inning, Paul Goldschmidt fouled a 100mph cutter straight to Stephenson’s collarbone, catching the top of the chest protector. Stephenson immediately grimaced and crumbled to the point where his mask fell off, but he convinced a coach he was OK to stay in the game.
“When I went there, I actually thought he was going out,” Bell said. “I mean, it was noisy from where I was. When I came out, he didn’t seem to be in as much pain as I expected.”
Stephenson said, “I’ve taken foul balls in very different places before. I’ve never had one in that area. I thought it was fine.”
Two pitches later, Goldschmidt hit a ball directly in front of the plate. Stephenson, who pitched to the mound after the foul ball, sprinted to catch the swinging bunt but was unable to throw the ball to first base and fell to the ground. He told pitcher Graham Ashcraft he felt a pop.
It was a clean break, Stephenson said, and it won’t require surgery if it heals properly. The Reds have not announced a timetable for his return.
“I can still feel it,” said an upbeat Stephenson while wearing a scarf after the game. “It’s going to be a tough few days. I have to sleep in a chair. If I move badly, I can always feel the bones rubbing against each other.
“We’ll be back. I don’t know when.”
The Reds, after losing Stephenson, responded to a two-run deficit in the second inning with three straight hits against Wainwright in front of 25,597 fans. After a Kyle Farmer brace put two runners in scoring position, Tyler Naquin fielded a two-run single into shallow left field. Donovan Solano followed with a two-run homer, his second of the season.
“It put us in the right direction and pushed us to win this game,” Ashcraft said. “It could have gone in the completely opposite direction.”
One of the reasons the Reds played well into the All-Star break, winning six of their last nine games, was their roster returning to full strength. The No. 6-7-8 hitters in the Reds Friday squad combined for four hits, five runs and seven RBIs.
Wainwright came out in the sixth inning after making back-to-back walks. Naquin, facing Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks, lined up a two-run triple in center field past a Dylan Carlson dive.
It was the first time Wainwright had allowed seven earned runs in a start since July 19, 2019, also at Great American Ball Park. This Reds line-up included Ryan Lavarnway, Yasiel Puig, Scooter Gennett, Phillip Ervin and José Iglesias.
“It’s baseball, things won’t go your way,” Ashcraft said. “There are going to be problems. Tonight was one of those nights. I felt like we handled it well as a team and did what we were supposed to do.”
Ashcraft, the Reds’ rookie right-hander, had one of those equally electric and infuriating starts.
Ashcraft pulled out a season-high eight, with a quality slider to pair with its 101-mph cutter. On the other hand, he failed to complete five innings on 112 pitches and he allowed four runs.
“Based on what’s happened in the last two outings, it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Ashcraft, who allowed 12 runs in his last 13 1/3 innings before the start of Friday.
Ashcraft was one pitch away from escaping the second inning without giving up a run. Facing leadoff batter Tommy Edman with two runners in batting position, Ashcraft pitched a seven-pitch walk. Ashcraft was knocked out on the seventh pitch, an elevated cutter inside the strike zone, was called a ball. He took a few steps from the mound towards the dugout, then shouted “No way!” when he realized it wasn’t an end-of-inning strikeout.
Three pitches later, Tyler O’Neill bounced a single down the right side of the infield to drive in two runs.
“Referees have bad days too,” Ashcraft said. “I’m not going to say too much. It’s something you have to ride with.”
The Reds had to roll with a lot of punches in their first game out of the All-Star break. With the trade deadline looming in less than two weeks, which could change who stays at the clubhouse, they are now without their franchise wide receiver.
“I’m disappointed,” said Joey Votto, who homered in the third inning. “(Stephenson) has played really well this year and fought through some things. More importantly, the Reds fans don’t see him play, which isn’t good either. He’s such a good player.”
This article originally appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Reds beat Cardinals, lose Tyler Stephenson to injury