video thumbnail

Must C Clutch: Hernandez gives Reds a walk-off win

CINCINNATI -- The Reds kept putting runners on the bases and then kept leaving them out there, inning after inning on Thursday. In fact, they only had one hitter come through with a hit with runners in scoring position all afternoon.

But what a doozy that one clutch moment was.

Ramon Hernandez's three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth provided a stunning comeback for the Reds in a 7-6 Opening Day walk-off win over the Brewers.

"We don't want to win it like that. We got lucky enough we got the win today," Hernandez said. "To me, it's amazing. This is one of the best opening days I've ever had in my career. I'm so happy that I helped my team and my team won a ballgame."

Capping an inning started with the Reds down by three runs, Hernandez got ahold of Brewers closer John Axford's 0-1 pitch and jogged up the line as it carried. Hernandez raised both arms in the air when he saw the ball clear the right-field fence.

"He throws pretty hard. He uses his fastball a lot," Hernandez said of Axford. "I was trying to catch up on his fastball and trying to hit it hard somewhere and keep the inning going. He left it a little over the plate and I got it. I hit it pretty well. I wanted to keep the inning going."

The destination was far more satisfying than the journey for a sold-out crowd of 42,398 fans during a chilly day at Great American Ball Park. Before Hernandez stepped to the plate, the Reds were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base. That included twice having runners on first and second with one out in both the sixth and eighth innings.

Starting pitcher Edinson Volquez gave up a career-high three homers, including starting the game with back-to-back shots by Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez. Ryan Braun's homer in the fourth inning gave Milwaukee a 5-2 lead.

None of that discouraged the Reds, a team that was tied for second in the Majors with 45 come-from-behind wins last season, including 22 in its last at-bat. Facing Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo, Drew Stubbs hit a two-out solo homer in the fourth inning. Joey Votto went deep to right field for a homer against Kameron Loe in the seventh.

"That wasn't much fun for us to watch. It was a long game. It got cold at the end," Reds third baseman Scott Rolen said. "It wasn't real clean all the way through. We had some big at-bats at the end of the game. We were in position for something good like that to happen. That's the sign of a good offense."

With the Reds trailing 6-3 in the bottom of the ninth, they caught a closer who has struggled during Spring Training in Axford. Brandon Phillips sparked the rally with a long liner that so quickly reached the left-field wall that he had to settle on a single. Joey Votto followed Phillips with a walk on five pitches.

A stroke of luck touched the Reds next, when Phillips missed being touched by a tag. On a Rolen groundball to third base, Casey McGehee made an unsuccessful fielder's choice tag attempt on Phillips, who dodged as he ran to third. Rolen barely beat out McGehee's throw to first base, leaving everybody safe and the bases loaded. There was a brief argument, but umpire Dan Bellino got the call correct.

"I knew he didn't touch me," Phillips said. "But hearing him say he touched me was pretty funny. I would have done the same thing too. ... It's the little things sometimes. I know we didn't start the game off right. But it's not how you start. It's how you finish."

After seeing four fastballs, Jay Bruce struck out on an Axford curveball with a chance to win the game. Jonny Gomes came just short of being the hero when his hard drive to center field was caught at the warning track for a sacrifice fly.

Next was Hernandez, who hit a 93-mph Axford fastball on the outer edge of home plate. It was in the upper half of the strike zone, and not in the location Axford had sought. It gave Hernandez his fourth, and most important, hit of the game.

"I got away with one in the at-bat before with Gomes," Axford said. "This time I paid for it."

Reds right-hander Logan Ondrusek notched the win after working a scoreless top of the ninth.

The last and only time the Reds claimed a walk-off homer on Opening Day was from a Joe Randa solo shot vs. the Mets in 2005. Cincinnati has not had bountiful openers lately and hadn't won one since '07. The Reds hadn't won any of the previous three regular-season Opening Days in March.

"These guys, they don't quit," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Sometimes I tell them 'I wish you'd do that a little earlier. It'd be a lot easier on my heart.'" Comments