Having dipped three games below .500 for the first time since June 15, the Cincinnati Reds fell in extra innings to the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-5.
With the offense finally beginning to cooperate in accordance to the starting pitching, the club has found a new Achilles heel: the backend of the bullpen. Aroldis Chapman was unavailable once again due to mysterious ailments, leaving the job to the rest of the crew that has performed less than admirably in 2014.
Making his second start of the season in St. Louis, Mike Leake was tagged for two runs immediately after not allowing any in his first time around. Matt Adams and Jhonny Peralta—who would both go on to have three-hit games—would deliver the blows in the first to stake the Cardinals to a 2-0 lead.
Breaking out of a weeklong slump in the third inning, Matt Holliday continued his mauling of Leake for his career with an RBI single that would chase home Reds killer Matt Carpenter. Giving Justin Masterson three runs of support seemed as if it would be plenty through the front four innings in which the former Cleveland Indian chewed up Reds bats.
Coming as no surprise, the Reds’ fifth inning was sparked by the leadoff man reaching base in the form of Brayan Pena. Following that was an opposite-field RBI double from Zack Cozart, which got Cincinnati on the board.
Having nearly gone deep into the Reds bullpen back in the third inning, Leake took his hacks once again the fifth, opting not to bunt. He would instead work the count and eventually receive a fastball that neither sank nor cut right in between the numbers to earn his way onto first.
After Billy Hamilton could not drive in a run on an infield groundout, Jay Bruce took care of the heavy lifting with a Bruceian shot deep into the Missouri night. While it may have only been his third career hit off the stingy Masterson, it was his second round-tripper.
Leading 4-3 heading into the seventh inning, the Reds had the opportunity to shut down the opposition over the final nine outs and get themselves a win. It would not take long for the single run lead to evaporate.
With an exasperated, downtrodden bullpen out beyond the left field wall, it was Mike Leake’s game in the seventh. After a base hit to Jon Jay and an opposite field double from Daniel Descalso that would plate the former Miami Hurricane, it was no longer Leake’s lead to protect.
Entering a tie game in the eighth inning was Jumbo Diaz, which signified the lack of a presence Aroldis Chapman would ultimately have on the opening contest of the series, one way or the other. Diaz would retire the first two batters he would face before allowing a double to Jhonny Peralta and a go-ahead RBI single from new Cardinal backstop A.J. Pierzynski. Even with Yadier Molina out of the lineup, the Cardinals’ catchers still found a way to drive a nail through the heart of Reds pitching.
Against scuffling closer Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth, the combination of Billy Hamilton and Jay Bruce breathed some life back into what seemed to be a comatose Reds club. Hamilton would walk, steal second, and then advance to third on the errant throw. Bruce would follow by stinging a run-scoring double down the right field line to knot the game at five and finish his night with two extra-base hits and four runs driven in.
Even after being on the mound during the second meltdown against the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, Manny Parra took back to the hill against St. Louis. He would record four outs and plunk a batter, but he ultimately did his job, turning the game over to Logan Ondrusek for the heart of the Cardinals’ order.
Fresh off the disabled list, the Cardinals welcomed back the mountainous right-hander by smashing three straight singles off him to send those in attendance at Busch Stadium into a celebration. It would be Jhonny Peralta who would send the folks home happy on the walk-off, clinching the 6-5 win.
In his return to the lineup, Brandon Phillips was batted sixth and obviously penciled in at second base. There seemed to be some obvious anxiety of wanting to help the club as Phillips swung at multiple pitches that bounced in front of home plate. He would end the night 0-for-4 with a walk before being double-switched out in the 10th inning. There will be more to come on Phillips tomorrow morning as we examine his decision to return early from injury.
It has been a dreadful 48 hours to be a Reds fan with three consecutive heart-breaking losses, which each one seemingly worse than the next.
There really is nothing left to be said, but rather just games to be played, as Alfredo Simon takes the ball on Tuesday night against the other Cardinals Trade Deadline acquisition, John Lackey. Scheduled for an 8:15 p.m. start time, the Redlegs will need Simon to return to his first half form should they desire a chance to create a rubber game for Wednesday.