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Reds win season series against Phillies before tough schedule


CINCINNATI — Save this one for later, even though it may seem trivial at the moment.

What the Reds did this month against an expected contender like the Phillies could become very useful once the end of September arrives. By claiming a 7-4 win over Philadelphia on Wednesday at Great American Ball Park, the Reds clinched the seven-game season series with one game to play.

“When you get into September, obviously those games are important in terms of the intensity of the game, but you can’t sleep on the game that’s in April. Those games are just as important,” said Will Benson, who hit a solo home run and delivered the go-ahead run with an RBI single in the sixth inning.

Of course, Cincinnati’s main goal is to win the National League Central, but there are also three NL Wild Card spots up for grabs. And if the 2023 Reds learned anything from missing the postseason, their head-to-head records against other NL contenders mean more when factoring in tiebreaker scenarios.

Beating the Phillies now (15-10) could give the Reds an edge over them later should they compete for playoff position. This year the two teams will no longer play against each other in the regular competition.

“You want to win every season series. If you do that, you’ll probably be in a pretty good place at the end of the year,” said Spencer Steer, who recorded a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning. “That could be the difference between making or missing the play-offs. Definitely very important matches.”

On Wednesday, the Reds (14-10) gave up one after trailing 3-1 in the top of the sixth inning. In the bottom of the sixth, against reliever Seranthony Domínguez, Tyler Stephenson’s ground-rule double put runners on second and third base. With two outs, Santiago Espinal hit a game-tying two-run single to right field.

After Stuart Fairchild’s walk, left-hander Matt Strahm replaced Domínguez, but gave up an RBI single to Benson that gave the Reds the lead.

Benson, who posted a career-worse 0-for-18 slump in Tuesday’s win, also hit a solo home run in the bottom of the third. Last year, the left-handed hitter was a platoon player. This season he will have to deal with lefty pitchers.

What was better: the homer off righty Spencer Turnbull, or the winning hit against a lefty?

“The left-hander’s hit,” Benson said without hesitation. “I love performing in such big situations. I was able to stay in the game and be productive.”

An extra run was scored in the sixth when Elly De La Cruz scorched a ground-rule double to right field, giving Fairchild a two-run lead.

After the Phillies scored a run in the top of the seventh inning against Reds reliever Emilio Pagán, Espinal filled the lead with a sac-fly, his third RBI of the evening. After singled in the eighth inning, De La Cruz created an insurance run by stealing second and third base before coming around to score on a Steer sac fly.

It was the Reds’ first win over the Phillies since 2021; they also broke Philadelphia’s seven-game win streak on Tuesday.

“I give credit to all my teammates for coming here and preparing,” said reliever Fernando Cruz, who capped a Phillies rally in the seventh inning that left two runners in scoring position. “We are ready for whatever we need at this time.”

Cruz inherited a bases-loaded jam on Tuesday and escaped unscathed to earn the win.

“It doesn’t matter who we play,” he said. “We’re just ready to go and take advantage of whatever situation we need to win the game.”

After the Reds travel to Texas this weekend to take on defending World Series champion Rangers, the schedule becomes a gauntlet against mostly potential NL contenders. They will face the Rangers, Padres, Orioles, D-backs, Giants and Dodgers, then play in the division against the Cardinals and Cubs.

Besides the Rangers, the only other upcoming non-NL games for the Reds are May 3-5 against the Orioles, who happen to take the lead in the American League East.

“That’s why every series is important, every point differential, in-division games, National League games, every game presents its own challenges and presents its own rewards when you win, honestly,” said Brent Suter, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning. “Winning the season series against those guys – first and foremost, it’s a great team there and they’re playing really well.

“Every match is precious. That’s why we come to play every match.”

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