CINCINNATI — Reds rookie reliever Alexis Daz had yet to inherit a bases-loaded situation in the big leagues this year. That changed on Sunday afternoon when he was needed in the eighth inning with one out to avert an emergency developed by Hunter Strickland.
High leverage? High intensity? Yes and yes. For Daz, however, it became no issue. He struck out two batters in the eighth inning to leave the bases full and two more in the ninth to perform a five-out save because the Reds held on for an 8-5 victory over Chicago.
My mindset had not been letting a run score for the reason that inning. I was on the market prepared to attack the hitters and affirmed, I could escape there,” Daz said via translator Jorge Merlos after his team snapped a five-game losing streak.
It turned out a back-and-forth game as Reds starter Justin Dunn surrendered a lead twice giving up five earned runs — with three home runs — over 3 2/3 innings. It had been 5-5 in the fifth inning once the Reds scored three runs on Jose Barrero‘s RBI single to left field and a two-run double to right-center field by No. 9 hitter Austin Romine.
The bullpen worked 5 1/3 scoreless innings, however the game nearly went off the rails for the Reds in the very best of the eighth inning. Strickland, who has been found in the closer role for days gone by month or two, has struggled lately to retire hitters. That trend continued vs. Chicago.
Patrick Wisdom reached on a check-swing single to lead off the eighth, and Strickland issued back-to-back one-out walks that loaded the bases for Nelson Velazquez. Manager David Bell turned the overall game to Daz.
“Youre hoping he will come in and you escape that with perhaps a run or two, but still have a lead,” Bell said.
Daz delivered much better than that. First, he struck out Velazquez having an 88 mph slider that dove outside and right above the dirt. Ian Happ followed and struck from another 88 mph slider in the dirt to get rid of the threat and leave the bases loaded.
Excited in the moment, Daz pounded his glove once as he walked off the mound.
“To totally shut it down against those two hitters, its pretty special,” Bell said. “We realize he has an excellent fastball, but he was also carrying it out along with his slider. I believe for just about any pitcher in this game, getting five outs to get rid of the game is actually difficult. He looked really comfortable carrying it out.”
In the ninth inning, Seiya Suzuki grounded to shortstop and reached on a Barrero fielding error. Daz struck out Franmil Reyes with another slider before Nico Hoerner hit an individual to center field to create the tying set you back the plate.
Wisdom flied out to left field before Daz froze Zach McKinstry with another 88 mph slider for the game-ending strike three and his fifth save.
In 47 games this year, Strickland includes a 5.70 ERA and seven saves with a 1.69 WHIP over 42 2/3 innings. He retired his first batter only 27 times. Because the All-Star break, he’s blown two saves.
Daz includes a 1.83 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 42 appearances over 44 1/3 innings. Since he returned from the injured list on July 8 — after coping with right biceps tendinitis — he’s got a 0.82 ERA while retiring 33 of 40 batters.
The slider is a big section of his success.
Really, its since Ive come off the injured list that Ive felt excellent with my slider, and Ive been deploying it much more often,” Daz said. “Its all due to the work Ive been doing following the injured list. Im really spending so much time onto it. It demonstrates its paid.
Bell has often avoided defining bullpen roles but had installed Strickland as his main ninth-inning reliever to greatly help him prepare better. Daz has been found in the best leverage situations, whatever the inning.
“We’ve options, but Daz, I dont think its any secret. Hes pitching along with anyone in baseball at this time, so well definitely keep seeking to head to him in the most important spots,” Bell said. “Frequently that’ll be the ninth.”
Daz has long had a concept of what’s necessary to be considered a closer. His brother, Edwin, did it successfully for a long time, finishing games for the Mariners and Mets. However the younger Daz isn’t lobbying for the closer role on the Reds.
“Im not considering that if the moment comes, obviously Im likely to be equipped for it,” he said. “At this time, Im just considering venturing out there whenever Im called.