Pulling off a big Opening Day comeback, the Reds scored four times off John Axford in the bottom of the ninth Thursday to beat the Brewers 7-6.
The Brewers supplied all of the fireworks early on today, with Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez delivering back-to-back homers to start the top of the first against Edinson Volquez. Ryan Braun later added the team’s third homer, all of them coming off the struggling Volquez.
But while the Reds have to possess some concerns about a rotation that’s already lost two starters to the disabled list, the offense came through yet again. Leadoff man Drew Stubbs homered and doubled to help get the team back in the game, setting the scene for the bottom of the ninth.
Down 6-3, the Reds started the ninth against Axford with Brandon Phillips’ shot to the wall in center. It would have been a double under normal circumstances, but Phillips sensed the possibility of a close play at second and opted to stay at first because of the score.
After Joey Votto walked, Scott Rolen hit a roller to third that Casey McGehee grabbed on the move. McGehee opted to try to tag Phillips as he was streaking by, only to miss with the glove, and was then late with the relay to first. Manager Ron Roenicke came out to argue that Phillips went out of the baseline, but he didn’t get the call and Axford faced a bases-loaded, no-out situation.
Axford rebounded from there to strike out Jay Bruce on his one good curve of the day. However, after that, Jonny Gomes smashed one to center that had to be caught by a jumping Carlos Gomez, scoring one run on the sac fly. Hernandez, who already had three singles on the day, ended the game as the next batter, lifting one over the fence in right.
For Axford, it was just the third time in 58 career appearances that he had allowed multiple runs and first in which he gave up three or more. He was 8-2 with 24 saves in 27 chances for the Brewers last year, but he suffered from a nasty case of food poisoning in February and mostly struggled this spring.
Hernandez continued with his recent clutchiness. He hit .342 with RISP last year and .328 in 2009. Although he was one of baseball’s better offensive catchers while hitting .297/.364/.428 in 313 at-bats last season, he settled for $3 million as a free agent over the winter. That’s less than Rod Barajas received from the Dodgers.
The Reds as a whole became known for their comebacks last year. They started the season with their first six wins coming in their final at-bat, tying a major league record. If one day is any indication — and it’s not like they changed much in the way of personnel over the winter — similar feats are in store for 2011.