CINCINNATI — Cincinnati is known as a gritty town of hard-working, blue-collar people who appreciate effort.
Maybe that's why Reds fans have continued showing up to Great American Ballpark even as the team has all but faded from contention the last two weeks. Fans who adored Pete Rose for his hustle have been treated to hard, if not particularly good, play this season.
Catcher Juan Graterol, 30 and a journeyman brought up from Triple-A on Wednesday as a replacement for injured catchers Tucker Barnhart, Curt Casali and Kyle Farmer, made two impressive plays Thursday night in a 7-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Graterol laid out for a foul pop and caught it, drawing huge applause from the stunned crowd. Two innings later, Graterol hustled to the stands, covering considerable ground, to make a difficult play on a pop-up look routine.
Such play endeared Graterol to Reds fans, despite a less than stellar .249/.301/.325 batting line at Triple-A Louisville.
"There's still a lot of season left," Reds center fielder Nick Senzel said, noting that he and his teammates think they can overcome what was a nine-game deficit in the National League Central Division and 6 1/2-game shortfall in the wildcard standings before play began on Saturday. "We can't get down."
Graterol wasn't the only player to make a hustle play Thursday. First baseman Joey Votto pounced on a bunt by pitcher Dakota Hudson in the third inning and threw the runner out at second as part of a bang-bang double play.
But hustle, as appreciated as it is in Cincinnati, goes only so far. With injuries to three catchers, utility man Derek Dietrich, relievers Amir Garrett and David Hernandez and starter Alex Wood, combined with relief ace Raisel Iglesias being on paternity leave, the Reds have patched together a lineup that has stumbled mightily in falling well behind the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis.
"It's about how you respond to things, how you react," Reds manager David Bell said. "You can make excuses or see it as a challenge to get better. You keep going."
Bell said he is pleased with how hard his players have performed in spite of the spate of injuries.
"You keep going and get through tough times," Bell said.