The road trip from hell finally concluded for the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday. Losers to the St. Louis Cardinals by a final of 7-3, rain delays, ineffective pitching and a lack of timely hitting all contributed to what would eventually be the Reds’ fifth consecutive loss.
Although a series win was not possible due to coming out on the wrong end of each of the first two contests, the Reds sent Johnny Cueto to the hill to attempt to squelch any negative momentum that may have been built since his last start. Unable to overcome the curse of the 20th day of the month, Cueto was tattooed by the Cardinals offense.
Surely, this concept of a “20th day curse” is nothing but a coincidence. With this being Cueto’s 15th start on the road this year, only two starts prior had been of the “non-quality” variety. One came on May 20 at Washington and the other on July 20 at New York. By going only five innings tonight, while surrendering five runs on seven hits and four walks, add August 20 to the list of non-quality starts.
(The Reds do indeed play on the road September 20, against these very same St. Louis Cardinals. Although, should the rotation remain the same, Cueto would not be making the start.)
In a lineup full of perennial All-Stars from Matt Carpenter to Matt Holliday to Matt Adams, it was Jon Jay who had done the most damage in his career against Cueto entering the contest. Slicing up the Cy Young candidate for a career average of .455, Jay would get hit by a pitch in the first and then slice two singles in his other two at-bats. Factor in his run-scoring single late in the contest and during a 3-for-4 night with two runs scored, Jay may have been the player of the game.
Also making a strong case for player of the game was Cardinals starting pitcher Lance Lynn. Before the 56-minute rain delay at the conclusion of the seventh inning cut his outing short, Lynn was cruising along to what could arguably have been his best outing of the season. Only once did a runner even so much as reach second base (first inning), with not a single inning producing multiple base runners.
Throwing seven strong innings in which he allowed only four hits and two walks, Lynn coasted to his 13th victory of the season—aiding his already astronomical winning percentage at home.
The combination of Logan Ondrusek and J.J. Hoover made it through their two innings of relief work unscathed, but the same could not be said for Carlos Contreras who entered in the bottom of the eighth for the ultimate “mop-up” duty.
Contreras would record only two outs, while allowing two hits and two walks before being removed due to what appeared to be an injury. Sam LeCure would be thrust into duty long after he figured his night would be through.
Trailing 7-0 entering the top of the ninth inning, facing the hard-throwing Carlos Martinez, no one would have blamed the Reds if they took their final three outs for granted and rushed to catch their ride back to Cincinnati after what has been an atrocious road trip.
In the oddest surge of optimism and energy the club has produced all year long, they just would not stop hitting. Manager Bryan Price was attempting to get his bench players an at-bat, while resting his starters at the same time, but no matter who came to the plate, they kept on swinging.
Aided by two defensive errors, after a run-scoring infield single from Kristopher Negron and a double by Devin Mesoraco, the tying-run stood in the on-deck circle in the form of Jay Bruce with only an out in the inning. Clearly not in the mood to press his luck, Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny summoned his own scuffling closer.
Trevor Rosenthal would get Billy Hamilton to bounce out, but would walk Jay Bruce to load the bases for Todd Frazier. After a tough at-bat, Frazier would bounce out to short, slamming the door on what was a heartbreaking week away from Cincinnati.
In a trip that consisted of everything from bullpen meltdowns and a lack of offense, to water main meltdowns and rain delays, the Reds may have seen their hearse roll by them. Now five games under the .500 mark; the words “division crown” are nowhere to be heard. In order to catch any of the five clubs in front of them for one of the Wild Card spots, they would need to go on a run that baseball has never seen before.
They will get their opportunity to immediately make up some ground this weekend as they welcome the Atlanta Braves into town. Rookie left-hander David Holmberg will take to the mound on Thursday night opposite Braves ace Julio Teheran at 7:10 p.m. down at Great American Ball Park.