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Jonathan India hits game-winning single against Cubs

CHICAGO – His single had barely reached the left field grass, but Jonathan India was already pumping his first towards the Reds’ dugout. India provided the go-ahead run in Thursday’s 4-3 win over the Cubs, and capped one of the harder fought victories Cincinnati has had in 2022 to take the series at Wrigley Field.

Chicago blew a 2-0 lead after six innings and a 3-2 lead after the eighth.

“Gritty win. We grinded it out and came out on top,” India said.

The Reds know they aren’t going to the playoffs this year, but manager David Bell still wants his younger roster to have outcomes like this.

“Having experiences like that where you find what it takes to win a game, you have to come back a couple of times from being behind, it can really carry over and really add to just knowing how to win games,” Bell said.

The day seemed loaded with misfortune throughout for the Reds despite starting pitcher Luis Cessa keeping the Cubs hitless through four innings while facing one batter over the minimum.

Leading off the bottom of the fifth inning, Nico Hoerner hit a drive to center field that TJ Friedl dropped near the warning track. The catch probability was 60 percent, but Hoerner was credited with a triple and later scored the game’s first run.

“[Catcher Austin] Romine told me, ‘Hey, you lost the no-hitter,’ but I didn’t know that,” said Cessa, who tied a career high with eight strikeouts. “That’s good. It’s a tough day for the outfield and center field, especially with the sun over there. It’s part of the game.”

In the sixth, Seiya Suzuki lifted a two-out fly ball — with a 90 percent catch probability — to right-center field that Friedl lost sight of before it dropped for a double and enbarrerded Cessa’s day. Suzuki scored on a Franmil Reyes’ single off Buck Farmer for a 2-0 Cubs lead.

It was a 2-2 game in the eighth when rookie reliever Alexis Díaz gave up a Suzuki homer to left-center field for only his third earned run allowed since returning from the IL on July 8.

In the top of the ninth against Cubs reliever Mark Leiter Jr., Alejo Lopez — who entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning — ripped a triple between two defenders in right-center field. As the ball rolled to the wall, Nick Senzel scored the tying run from first base.

A contact hitter who excels at getting the bat on the ball, Lopez hadn’t played in a game since Sunday. But he is known for doing a lot of in-game work inside the batting cage near the clubhouse tunnel. 

“I am just staying ready for any situation,” Lopez said. “I know that when I’m not starting, there’s a great chance to come in, in a big situation. It’s my priority to stay ready.”

With two outs, it was India’s turn. In the previous inning, he missed an opportunity to drive in the tying run with a lineout to the shortstop. 

In the ninth, India kept it simple and came through with the game-winning single.  

“That was my redemption,” India said. 

“He loves being up there in those situations,” Bell said. “He played so hard today and did everything he could to help win that game.”

India, who went 3-for-5, has hit safely in 18 of his last 20 games, including a 16-game hitting streak that ended on Sunday. 

Since he returned from being hit on the left shin by a pitch on Aug. 16, India is batting .333 with nine RBIs in those 20 games. In 40 games before the All-Star break, he was batting only .231 with a .636 OPS. He has raised his overall numbers to a .266 average and a .744 OPS.

“Especially the way I started, with an injury and not playing well after the injury. It’s been a tough year for me,” India said. “I’m not used to being off the field. I’m used to playing every day. I’m glad I’m doing this right now. I want to finish really strong, take it into the offseason, have a good offseason and be the guy playing every day next year. I’m excited.”

Before the Reds could celebrate a win, there was one more fly ball lofted into the sunny sky by Hoerner to open the bottom of the ninth. This time, shortstop Jose Barrero backpedaled to the left-field grass and made an over-the-shoulder catch as he fell down. Ian Gibaut finished the inning for his first save. 

“I don’t know how he caught it,” Bell said. “That’s a totally different inning if he doesn’t make that play.”

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