GREENEVILLE — A low pitch called a strike just made Greeneville Reds’ slugger Cameron Warren mad.
With the score tied 2-2 in the sixth inning and with two of his teammates already on base, Warren shook off the low strike call and on the next pitch, connected on an absolute laser out of the park for a three-run home run, his eighth round-tripper of the season. The hit proved to be the pivotal one in the contest as the Reds downed Kingsport 5-2 Monday night at Pioneer Park.
“I talk to the guys day in and day out, including the pitchers, that different umpires have different strike zones and you have to adjust,” Reds manager Gookie Dawkins said of Warren’s bounce back with the big bomb. “Regardless if you think it’s a bad pitch or not, you still have to compete. He didn’t like the call but he put it behind him and he got ready to compete the next pitch and came up big for us.”
Dawkins had a bit of a pep talk with Warren before he went to the plate with two runners already on base. “Before he got up to the batter’s box, he asked me (if I wanted him to) bunt but I told him he was in the five-hole, he wasn’t bunting, he was going to drive them in and he started smiling. He was in the five-hole for a reason, to drive in runs, and he did a really good job of coming up big for us.”
The Reds struck first as Tyler Callihan drew a walk and came home on Garrett Wolforth’s double to left center field in the second inning. The Mets answered in the fifth when Cristopher Pujols struck out but reached base on a wild pitch. Sebastian Espino drove him to third base with a single to left field. Kennie Taylor picked up an RBI with the sac fly to center and Scott Ota singled in Espino with a shot to right.
After Carlos Reina walked to begin the fifth for Greeneville, Wolforth brought him around with his second RBI-double to the night. Dawkins said Wolforth is one of the natural leaders on the Reds team in 2019. “He does everything like he has been doing all year. Garrett is always ready to play, is always ready to hit. He got some good pitches up in the zone and he didn’t miss. I love the way he plays the game because he plays every inning like it’s the last inning he will play which is huge. He’s a first year guy but these younger guys see that and feed off of him. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep the guys going and it’s always good to have someone like that on the team.”
Greeneville bounced back with the three-run sixth inning. Allan Cerda and Cristian Olivo drew the base on balls but didn’t stay there for long as Warren’s shot made it 5-2 and that was the way things ended as the Mets were retired in order in the final three innings.
The Reds’ pitching staff was outstanding as they struck out 13 Kingsport batters, scattered four hits and didn’t walk a single batter. Alec Byrd (3-0) picked up the win in relief as he didn’t allow a hit and fanned five batters in his two innings on the mound. Starter Jose Salvador had six strikeouts in his five innings and Tanner Cooper pitched the final two innings with two strikeouts to notch his first save of the season.
“Salvador did a great job challenging the hitters. He gave up two runs but he threw strikes and mixed in some off-speed pitches here and there and for me, he set the tone for everybody. The guys in the bullpen have been great all year. Byrd came in and gave us two nice innings and then Cooper finished it off,” Dawkins said of his pitching staff in Monday’s win.
The bullpen was strong once more in the win over the Mets on Monday and Dawkins had high praise for his relievers. “They went right at them like they have done all year. There have been times when guys got hits off of them but they don’t get down, they still compete. For me, that’s what it’s all about, they want the ball in their hand every single day and have the mindset if I’m going to get beat, I’m going to get beat with my best pitch. We are going to make every team earn it and they have been doing a good job of that all year long.”
Mets’ starter Michel Otanez didn’t figure in the final decision despite exiting the game after four innings with eight strikeouts. Hector Rodriguez (1-2) was tagged with the loss as he gave up Warren’s bomb in the sixth.
Greeneville (11-15) travels to Kingsport (13-13) this evening to battle the Mets.