Castro's RBI double sinks Phils in 11
Reds stay atop Wild Card, trim Cards' lead to 1 1/2 games
PHILADELPHIA -- Reds manager Jerry Narron was talking about Ryan Freel breaking up a double play in the third inning of Sunday's 7-5, 11-inning win over the Phillies when he had to pause for a second."That was today, wasn't it?" the Reds skipper asked. "We can't even remember whether it was today or not." It was that kind of series -- one that featured a 14-inning game, Sunday's 11-inning affair and ninth-inning drama each day. But the Reds were able to get the better of the Phils, taking the last two of the three-game series. With the win, the Reds moved to within 1 1/2 games of first-place St. Louis in the National League Central with a three-game series coming up at Busch Stadium. They also remained a half-game up on San Diego for the NL Wild Card. But just like Saturday night, Cincinnati was very nearly trailing in the Wild Card race. After closer Eddie Guardado blew his second save in three days, Juan Castro drove in the winning run in the top of the 11th. Brandon Phillips singled off Ryan Madson to open the inning, and after a David Ross sacrifice bunt, Castro doubled down the line in left for the go-ahead run. Two batters later, Ken Griffey Jr.'s RBI single gave the Reds some insurance. "They put me at two strikes real quick, so I was just trying to make contact and was lucky and found a hole," said Castro, who was inserted as part of a double switch in the eighth inning. Castro's heroics made up for another adventurous outing for Guardado, who blew a save by giving up a run in the ninth in Friday's loss and gave up a run before striking out Ryan Howard with two men on to preserve Saturday's victory. On Sunday, Howard tied the game with a two-out single in the ninth after Guardado entered with a two-run lead. Guardado allowed a single up the middle to Abraham Nunez to open the inning. Two batters later, Jimmy Rollins reached on Edwin Encarnacion's fielding error at third base and Chris Coste singled in a run before Howard's game-tying stroke to right. "I know Eddie is a tremendous competitor, and he's probably going out there at times that he probably shouldn't have," Narron said. "When he says he can go, we have a lot of confidence in him. We need to make sure that when he does go out there, he's completely healthy." Guardado said he felt fine, but took all the blame, despite Encarnacion's error at third. "If we would have lost that game, it would have been all my fault," the lefty said. "The guys grind and grit and dig deep down inside and we pulled one out, so that was nice." Lefty Bill Bray came on for the win, pitching two scoreless innings with a little help from Phillips, who made a nice catch on a Nunez liner and flipped to second for an inning-ending double play in the 10th. Almost lost in the late drama were the back-to-back-to-back home runs the Reds hit in the sixth inning off Brett Myers. The 400-plus-foot homers from Encarnacion, Adam Dunn and Rich Aurilia got longer each time, capped by Aurilia's 433-foot blast to left-center that gave the Reds a 5-1 lead. "[Myers] had us off balance the first couple of times through the order throwing a lot of breaking balls," Aurilia said. "That inning, he seemed to throw more fastballs and we took advantage of it. But like the previous two nights, the Phils got back into it. Howard's league-leading 41st homer of the season made it 5-3 and forced the departure of starter Eric Milton, who went 5 1/3 solid innings, giving up three runs on five hits. Then after strong efforts in relief from Todd Coffey, Rheal Cormier and David Weathers, the Phils sent the home crowd into a frenzy again. "It's not going to be easy," Narron said. "I don't think any of us expect it to. It's going to be like this, hopefully, every day until the end." On Tuesday, the Reds take their 30-26 road record to Busch Stadium for arguably the biggest series of the season, coming off a set that they were somehow fortunate to win two games but unlucky not to win all three. "We do want to keep our sights on the division before anything else, and this is the last chance we get at St. Louis, so it should be an exciting three days," Narron said. But before that, there's some welcome relief for the bullpen, which tossed 20 1/3 innings in the last three days. "I'm excited about the off-day [on Monday]," Bray said.
Zachary Levine is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.