Cincinnati Reds Rally Comes up Just Short


Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Coming up just short of a comeback, the Cincinnati Reds fell 5-4 at the hands of the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Baseball is a game of inches.  You know this after countless instances that have proven it, time and time again.  Thankfully, we now have the almighty “eye in the sky,” to help us rectify any slights the human eye may perceive.  Or do we?

Many angry fans took to Twitter after the game to proclaim that the umpires missed a call at the end of the contest, where Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman had his foot in the vicinity of the first base bag, making it nearly impossible to determine if it was actually on the bag.  In that instance, replay has been consistent in showing that they will stand behind the call made on the field, barring an obvious missed call.  Fans will be in a rage about this slight, yet will miss the fact that the game never had to be so close.

The streak of Homer Bailey not bringing his best stuff to the ballpark continues.  Although he did not allow a run last Sunday against the Cubs, he was the furthest thing from dominant in his performance.  Once again, Bailey incurred some hard hit balls.

What jumps off the page is Bailey’s either lack of confidence, or lack of willingness to throw his fastball.  When he’s at his best, Bailey’s fastball sits at 94-96 MPH, and he can work off the change in speed that creates. 

Coming back to bite him tonight was his inability to obtain damage control.  Justin Upton cranked a three-run moonshot in the first inning off a splitter/slider mix that didn’t fool anyone.  But, the following two innings, he allowed RBI singles from both Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis, to balloon the Braves lead to 5-0 before the Reds could get their offense going.  Thankfully, this club thrives on playing from behind.

“We got ‘em right where we want ‘em.”  It’s been said in countless dugouts at varying levels of all sports, but it seemed to fit the Reds to a tee on this night.

Entering the sixth inning, they trailed the Braves 5-0 and were being neutralized by their newest hired gun in Ervin Santana.  Jay Bruce drove in a run, and Neftali Soto bounced into a double play while Brandon Phillips crossed the plate.  Two runs had come in to cut the deficit to three, but a statement had been made.

It was more of the same in the top of the seventh.  Getting his hitting streak going again, Devin Mesoraco began the rally with a leadoff single.  After a Billy Hamilton double, which would have been a single for every other player in baseball, Mesoraco blew out a tire rounding third.  Taking a tumble to the ground below, he more than likely only scored due to Hamilton zooming into second and distracting everyone else on the field.  Barely hobbling home, the inning stayed alive.  (More on Mesoraco in just a bit.)

Going under the radar, Hamilton’s dash to second proved vital as Joey Votto promptly hammered a line drive off “left-handed specialist” Luis Avilan, bringing home Billy and cut the lead down to just a single run.  The RBI was Votto’s first on the entire road trip, an astounding stat.

Were the Reds to complete the comeback, one would assume it would have had to have been in the eighth inning off setup man Jordan Walden, who while still intimidating in his own right, does not possess the stuff of the most complete closer in the game, Craig Kimbrel.  Never one to shy away from a challenge, the Reds figured it would increase the drama to try to do it against Kimbrel.

After countless double switches, Roger Bernadina found himself leading off the inning with a single, and advancing to second on the walk to Zack Cozart.  In order to beat the mighty Kimbrel, teams have to take advantage when he is susceptible; by not executing a bunt, it was all but over. 

Sitting at home, you could almost feel the energy in the building–and more importantly, Kimbrel’s right arm—surge as soon as Brayan Pena was unable to drop the bunt down.  Fanning both Pena and Heisey (with the benefit of some rather interesting strike calls to the latter of the two men) before facing Votto, Kimbrel was a train rolling down the tracks.

He may not agree with it, but these are the situations that the big money man (Votto) needs to drive in the game-tying run.  Stockpiled in the obscure sections of my mind where Joey Votto moments wonder, I harkened back to Mother’s Day of 2012, when in the bottom of the ninth, trailing by a run with the bases loaded, Votto cranked a walk-off Grand Slam to centerfield for his third home run of the day, winning the game single-handedly.  This at-bat against Kimbrel was a test of wits: the great flamethrower against the batting icon; a duel was surely to follow. 

Until, Votto tapped the first pitch to the third baseman.  By all means, Chris Johnson should have made a routine throw to first to retire Votto, who has never been one to bust it full speed down the line, and end the game harmlessly.  Then, the throw sailed.  Freddie Freeman, a fantastic defensive first baseman, went sprawling to save the ball from going down the right field line, and in the same instance kept his toe on the bag just long enough for an out to be called.  At the time, Reds Country collectively yelled, “Replay!” before it was ultimately taken under advisement.

In a scenario of “what if’s,” it would have been interesting to see where the umpires would have placed Roger Bernadina should they have ruled Votto safe.  Was Bernadina to be awarded the run he would have obviously scored had Votto been ruled safe, or would he have been relegated back to third?  All was for naught, as the play stood, much to the dismay of an unhappy Brandon Phillips who sent his bat flying in the on-deck circle following the decision.

While the initial sting of the loss hurts for the time being, the collective breath of Reds fans everywhere is being held as Mesoraco’s verdict awaits.  It is a positive sign he was able to get up, finish the play, and limp back to the dugout, rather than screaming in agony, unable to get up.  Another positive is that Mesoraco returned to the dugout for the conclusion of the game, insinuating that it wasn’t anything knee related or potentially extremely damaging to his leg. 

A hamstring injury can be tricky.  If he’s lucky, Mesoraco will be placed on the 15-day DL and only miss about two weeks of time.  Although, a pulled hamstring landed Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli on the 60-day DL earlier this season, a none too reassuring tidbit for the hottest hitter on the planet.  It really is quite unfortunate for a player who is in the midst of such a blistering hot stretch to have peel back the reigns and watch from the sidelines.

Mesoraco was not the only player to be removed earlier tonight, as Todd Frazier left with left leg tightness.  He had the training staff examine him in the middle of the second inning after his leadoff double, but remained in until the bottom of the fifth when Neftali Soto took over for him.  Up until today, Frazier was the only member of the Reds to play every inning of action, besides Joey Votto. 

Even with all the dread and despair surrounding the club after a tough loss, there is a rainbow full of silver linings.  Still not having lost a game in which they were truly blown off the field, the Reds have gone nearly a month without playing in an uncompetitive game from the losing side.  (Let’s hope that wasn’t a jinx.)

Looking to get back to winning on Saturday night, Mike Leake may be throwing to rookie Tucker Barnhart, who was summoned down to Georgia at a moment’s notice.  The Braves send David Hale to the mound, an inexperienced, but efficient pitcher.  Getting underway at 7:15 p.m., the Reds will once again be featured on the MLB Network.