In what may be the bitterest loss to date in 2014, the Cincinnati Reds fell to the San Francisco Giants by a final score of 3-2 on Wednesday evening in front of a capacity crowd on Aroldis Chapman bobble head night.
Pitching in a critical contest to determine his place on the roster for the foreseeable future, much was expected out of Tony Cingrani on Wednesday—and for the first 5.2, it was all Cingrani. Then, the wheels fell off.
From the onset, the pressure was on Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong. Recognizing the situation he had allowed by having Billy Hamilton reach base, Vogelsong slowed the game down to a glacial pace. Whether that was the reason for escaping the inning unscathed or not, no runners crossed the plate in the first frame, after Hamilton found himself stranded at second.
To the behest of Reds fans, Devin Mesoraco’s lined smash that ended the inning did not even move Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval from his defensive alignment. Just a few extra inches in either direction, and an extra two runs could have been chalked up on the scoreboard.
With the scarcity of runs epidemic sweeping through Cincinnati of late, the club has had to improvise. Used to sitting around and waiting for the longball, the swiping of bases has been instilled at a vastly excessive clip compared to how the old regime ran things. Billy Hamilton may be the fastest player in baseball, but even he has to know when to slam on the breaks sometimes.
Even during a three-hit night where he advanced to second on two errors due to his speed, had Hamilton stayed put for the entirety of Todd Frazier’s at-bat in the bottom of the third inning, his presence would have meant another run—or, the difference in a one-run loss.
Hooking a home run just fair off the screen of the foul pole, Frazier clubbed his team-leading 11th big fly to put the Reds on the board. Back-to-back doubles from Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce would produce another run—the last of the evening for the Redlegs. With Ryan Vogelsong seemingly on the ropes, he bowed his head.
Slashing his third single of the game in the bottom of the fourth, with seemingly all of the momentum in their corner, it was impossible to guess that that would be the Reds final hit on the evening. Unfortunately, not only was it their final hit, but really their final well-hit ball.
In total cruise control up until two outs in the sixth inning, Cingrani’s effectiveness seemingly evaporated into thin air.
Michael Morse was 0-for-6 in the series heading into his at-bat, but clobbered an off-speed offering for a solo shot that got the Giants on the board. Things would get much worse for Cingrani from there.
Facing a hitter struggling to get to the Mendoza line, Brandon Hicks laced a single into left field to keep the inning alive. That brought to the plate Juan Perez, who possessed a .048 batting average heading into the game, with one hit all season long. Fittingly, he doubled in the second inning, then took Cingrani deep for his first home run of the season in the sixth, putting the Giants ahead 3-2.
After walking the final batter he would face, Cingrani was visibly peeved in his performance down the stretch. A kind of stunned silence overtook his facial features, causing him to leave his head in his hands in what may have been his last start as a member of the Reds rotation for the time being.
Opportunities were not plentiful down the stretch of the game, but the door was left ajar when normally sure-handed shortstop Brandon Crawford booted a ball to lead off the bottom of the eighth.
Jay Bruce went down flailing to left-handed specialist Javier Lopez. Then, Devin Mesoraco bounced into an easy, 6-4-3 double play to end the last legitimate threat the club would have.
With the way the club performed, a postponement may have been the better outcome.
The series will wrap up at 12:35 p.m. on Thursday afternoon with a dynamic pitching matchup, featuring two of the best in the National League.