A demoralizing series came to an end Wednesday afternoon with the Cincinnati Reds dropping the rubber game of a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks by a final of 5-4.
The loss not only slips the Reds back under .500 with just 55 games remaining on the schedule, but also ensured them a loss in a series to a team that was 15 games below the .500 mark and was not hitting a lick coming into Monday.
Once again, the starting pitching was surely not to blame. Alfredo Simon would go seven extremely strong innings, his first quality start of the second half. His only miscue would come on a 2-0 sinker that drifted back over the plate to Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt who clobbered the pitch over the scoreboard and put Arizona ahead 2-0 in the top of the sixth.
Sticking to his status quo, Simon would strike out only two batters during his afternoon, forcing the Diamondbacks to make contact right at his fielders. Simon would roll up nine groundouts, utilizing the rock solid infield defense.
There would be only one inning all day that the Reds would not at least put a runner on base. The men left on base statistic can sometimes be misleading depending on how many runs said team pushes across the plate, but on Wednesday, the 10 men left, when coupled with going 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position (the only hit came off Devin Mesoraco’s bat with two outs in the bottom of the ninth) served as the glaring explanation for yet another disappointing loss.
Finally reaching the double digit mark in hits, the Redlegs were still shutout through the front 7.2, unable to score a run on Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley who had a 4.34 ERA entering the game. On only one other occasion all season long did Miley make it through a start without allowing a run—today, his 6.2 innings of scoreless work were good enough to get him his seventh win of the season.
Seemingly, what would a Reds loss be without some baserunning blunders? Chris Heisey began the display by attempting to turn a single into a double to lead off the third inning before being gunned down at second base by left fielder Mark Trumbo. Ramon Santiago would follow that up with a single, and then Todd Frazier would draw a walk, leaving to the imagination what may have been.
Inexplicably, with Devin Mesoraco at the plate with men in scoring position, Santiago took over for third base and was thrown out by such a wide margin; there was almost no need for him to slide. Mesoraco would fly out to end the inning during the at-bat.
Trailing by three runs in the bottom of the eighth, the bats finally got working as Skip Schumaker went to the opposite field for a run-scoring double off stingy sidewinder Brad Ziegler of the Arizona bullpen.
As a last ditch effort in the bottom of the ninth, Devin Mesoraco connected on his 18th home run of the year, a no doubter deep into the left field seats off Diamondbacks’ closer Addison Reed. Reed would slam down the victory on the very next batter, striking out Ryan Ludwick on a high fastball.
The club would collect 11 hits as a unit, an impressive number, although there would be only one member to have multiple hits: Devin Mesoraco. Catching the entire series, including 15 innings Monday night and a day game after a night game on Wednesday, Mesoraco continued to be the Reds’ best offensive player. He would also gun down a speedy David Peralta to lead off the top of the sixth to save the Reds another run before Goldschmidt’s blast.
Attempting to instill some kind of confidence in J.J. Hoover, Bryan Price turned to him in a two-run game in the eighth inning. Hoover would allow a run and watch as his ERA continued to ascend north, up to 5.40. Once again with a two-run deficit heading to the ninth, Price turned to Carlos Contreras (opposed to a rested Jumbo Diaz or Sam LeCure), and for the first time in his big league career, he was smacked around. Walking three batters, Contreras would record only one out before hitting the showers.
In hindsight, it may be easy to proclaim that higher profile relievers should have been utilized in those situations, but had runs actually been driven in earlier in the game, those situations would not have existed in the first place.
With a Milwaukee Brewers victory, the Reds have now fallen six games back of first place. They will begin a series in Miami on Thursday night with Johnny Cueto taking to the mound against Tom Koehler for a scheduled 7:10 p.m. start.
There is just a single day remaining before the Trade Deadline, the last chance the Reds will have to make a move to their roster without having to acquire a player who has passed through waivers. The likelihood of an impact move being made seems slim, but the same holds true for shipping off a veteran presence. It may ultimately be an extremely quiet 24 hours in the Queen City.