CINCINNATI – Immediately before Devin Mesoraco stepped into the box in the fifth inning Sunday, manager Mike Redmond watched eight of 13 Brad Hand pitches miss the zone. The first walk loaded the bases and the second gave the Reds a 3-2 lead.
Nonetheless, Hand – sitting at 27 pitches for the inning – stayed in to face right-handed hitting cleanup man Devin Mesoraco, who in the first hit a two-run homer. After falling behind 2-1, Hand threw a changeup that put Mesoraco in the Reds' record book.
His third grand slam of the season tied a club record and sent the Reds to a series-salvaging 7-2 win at Great American Ballpark. The Marlins return home exactly how they left – three games under .500 after a 3-3 road trip.
With runners on second and third and two out, Hand threw Jay Bruce six straight curveballs. Three of those missed and Bruce ultimately took a fastball out of the zone to draw the walk. Hand fell behind Todd Frazier 3-0 and on the sixth pitch of the at-bat again missed with a fastball.
"I was hoping he'd get through it," said Redmond, who had Sam Dyson warming. "He's got two outs. I thought he made a couple of good pitches to [Jay] Bruce there. It would have been nice for him to be able to get through that with one run."
Added Hand: "I got in a good situation there with second and third, two outs. I had the guy up there I wanted, just couldn't make a pitch. I ended up losing him, walked the next guy and then the home run. You have to limit the big innings. I had a chance to get out of there with no runs and couldn't finish it."
His 92nd and final pitch (31st of the inning) landed in the left-field bleachers. Mesoraco accounted for all but one of his team's runs, notching a career-high six RBI with two swings. Just two of Mesoraco's 18 homers entering the game had come against lefties (60 at-bats).
Hand's string of quality starts ended at four, as did the rotation's run of 21 games allowing fewer than two homers. All three walks Hand issued came in the decisive fifth inning. He had not walked more than two in any of his previous seven starts, five of which saw him go 6 1/3 or more innings.
The cushion was ample for Reds' ace Johnny Cueto, who beat the Marlins for the second time in as many games this season. Cueto completed eight innings, allowing two runs on five hits, walking two and striking out nine. On July 31 at Marlins Park, he struck out nine over seven innings.
Three of the nine hits – including two Sunday – Cueto gave up the Marlins this season left the park. Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee both hit solo shots. McGehee's third, which raised his RBI count to 60, came with one out in the fourth and tied the game at two.
No Marlin has totaled 60 or more RBI in a season while hitting fewer than nine homers. Kevin Millar in 1999 hit nine and knocked in 67. Since 1990, the only National League hitters to finish a season with 60-plus RBI and fewer than four home runs are Willie McGee (3-62, 1990), Jose Offerman (1-62, 1993) and Rey Ordonez (1-60, 1999).
In the eighth, Bruce brought back what would have been Stanton's 30th homer, making a leaping catch at the wall in right.
The first-inning, 1-0 lead Stanton provided with his second homer in as many games off Cueto and was short-lived. In the bottom of the first with two out and one on, Mesoraco unloaded on a Hand 1-1 fastball and sent it over the center-field wall.
Hand in his first seven starts (43 innings) since re-joining the rotation had not allowed a home run. This weekend marked the first time since July 26-27 Marlins' starters served up a homer in back-to-back games.
"I didn't really lose location," Hand said. "I made some good pitches, just missing a little bit. Walks haven't been an issue since I've been back. I just need to keep pounding the strike zone, come back in five days and get it back right."
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