J.T. Realmuto was an All-Star snub. But he continues to play like he belonged, banging two home runs Saturday in the Marlins’ 5-4 victory over the Reds.
Realmuto drove in four runs and also added a double as the Marlins positioned themselves for a possible series sweep of the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
That is, if the fickle weather in the region allows them to get in Sunday’s finale. Rain is in the forecast. Then again, the mere threat of rain delayed the start of Saturday’s game by one hour, though drops never fell.
Realmuto provided his own thunderclaps Saturday with a pair of two-run shots off Reds starter Robert Stephenson. Both blasts found the upper deck in left.
“He’s getting better,” manager Don Mattingly said of Realmuto. “I think you see what he can do. He’s going to be one of those guys.”
Despite the fact Realmuto ranks fourth among all Major League catchers with an offensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 2.4, he failed to land a spot on the All-Star team.
“It’s one of the more friendly parks out there,” Realmuto said of the Reds’ hitter-friendly home park. “But you’ve got to have the same approach no matter where you’re at, just put good hard contact on the ball.”
Both of Realmuto’s homers Saturday would have gone out in any park.
“I felt good at the plate today, got some good pitches to handle,” Realmuto said.
Rookie pitcher Chris O’Grady barely survived a shaky outing in which he walked six (one intentionally) in 4 2/3 innings but somehow held the Reds to just three runs, producing two double play grounders to limit the damage.
Due to the muggy playing conditions, he said he had trouble gripping the ball.
“Tonight was a grind, from the first inning on,” O’Grady said. “I had a lot of trouble gripping the ball, something I’ve never experienced before.”
O’Grady said he had to use a rosin bag for the first time in his career.
“Sweat was dripping down my arm, getting onto the ball,” he said. “After the first we put some stuff on my left arm to limit the sweat from going down onto the ball. Then in the second inning, it was coming from my right hand.”
After three consecutive walks by O’Grady allowed the Reds to take a 2-1 lead in the first, Realmuto responded in the second with the first of his two home runs. With the score knotted 3-3 in the sixth, Realmuto launched his second homer of the night.
The Reds made it a one-run game in the eighth on Scooter Gennett’s single and were threatening to add on more runs.
But, with runners at first and third and one out, Justin Bour came to the rescue of reliever Junichi Tazawa by making a sensational grab on a sharp line drive and stepping on the bag for an inning-ending double play.
“Did he even get off the ground on that?” Mattingly asked. “That was a huge double play.”
Said shortstop Miguel Rojas on Bour’s defensive play: “That was awesome. I feel like that play right there saved us. It was an unbelievable play. You never expect a right-hander (Patrick Kivlehan) to hit that kind of line drive. That showed me he was in the game.”