Battling back to a .500 record, the Cincinnati Reds needed a spark to get them closer to the top of the National League Central standings.
On Tuesday in Pittsburgh, the Reds held a commanding lead over the Pirates before the home team rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to reach a tie at five runs.
The breaking blow to the Bucs came in the ninth inning — off the bat of Todd Frazier.
With Pittsburgh closer Jason Grilli in the game, Frazier belted a solo home run over the centerfield fence to break the tie and ultimately win the game.
''I know he didn't want to walk me and put a guy on base,'' Frazier told the Associated Press. ''I was looking to get a fastball I could handle and, fortunately, I was able to connect.''
The blast was his 16th of the year, which leads the Reds. The third baseman also leads the team in strikeouts with 62. But the power tradeoff is well worth it for the club and its 28-year old third baseman.
Frazier has been getting on base at an effective rate with a .276 batting average (fourth on the team) and an .872 on-base plus slugging percentage (second on the team).
"He's very confident now that he can be a major league player," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said of the four-year veteran. "He has been able to put home runs, RBIs, run production and stolen bases into one package."
In his last four games, Frazier has three multi-hit performances. On Tuesday, he also reached base on a single. The Point Pleasant, N.J. native is batting .308 over his last ten games.
Easily having the best start to his career since busting onto the Major League scene in 2010, Frazier still doesn't quite have the national following he may deserve.
He trails Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies, Aramis Ramirez of the Milwaukee Brewers, David Wright of the New York Mets, Juan Uribe of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants in the National League All-Star fan voting at third base.
He can still be selected to the All-Star Game, which will be played on July 15 in Minneapolis as a managerial or fellow player selection. His statistical qualifications could land him on the Final Man vote, too.
Frazier was the hero on Monday as the Reds improved to 34-35, but it wasn't the first time he's been heralded by his teammates.
In fact, it was another home run that lifted him into the limelight. Though that blast may have been more special.
On March 17, 2013, Frazier hit a home run in the sixth inning of an eventual 11-1 win over the Miami Marlins. The home run and 11-run scoring output came at the request of the Cincinnati bat boy, Ted Kremer, who suffered from a developmental disability.
Kremer was there to greet Frazier at home plate after he fulfilled his request and helped completed his prediction.
"It was great how excited — that look,” Frazier told Cincinnati.com. “I started smiling even before I hit home plate because I knew it. They said he forgot to pick the bat up, so the umpire was yelling at him. It was such a great guy. You can’t get mad — even if you have a terrible day. How can you be mad when you’ve got a guy like that around?”
Frazier finished the 2013 season with 19 home runs and a .234 batting average. He's on pace to shatter both of those marks in 2014.
And maybe make some more memorable moments in the process.
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