Bullpen Collapse Undermines Cincinnati Reds


Befallen by their shaky bullpen, the Cincinnati Reds dropped the middle game of the series against the Milwaukee Brewers by a final of 4-2.

In his first start of the 2014 season, it was as if Mat Latos did not miss a beat. Pitching as spectacularly as he has in the past, Latos’ dominating six innings of work came as a shock, but there was no reason for such awe based on past performance from the ace.

Arguably, the most exciting play in baseball is the inside-the-park home run, and just a batter into the game, it seemed Billy Hamilton would be putting on a show for fans on national television. Driving a ball deep into the left centerfield gap, the hop it took skimmed just over the fence, limiting Hamilton who had already reached second by the time the ball touched down to a ground-rule double.

Neither Todd Frazier nor Joey Votto could bring Hamilton home, but Brandon Phillips stayed hot, bringing in the Reds first run. For the majority of the contest, it appeared that single run would hold up. As the game wore on, Yovani Gallardo completely shut down the Redlegs offense from that point on.

The Brewers invested the big bucks in Gallardo’s right arm for a reason, and on Saturday night, he showed the nation why. Stifling the Reds bats over his seven innings of work, Gallardo would strike out eight and not allow a run beyond the first inning.

For Cincinnati, Mat Latos would show zero effects of rust in his first outing of the new calendar year. Striking out Scooter Gennett and Ryan Braun to begin the game, Latos used his full arsenal of fastball, slider and curveball to devastate the powerful Milwaukee lineup.

As was noted on the television broadcast, the at-bat to Gennett in the sixth proved to be the difference between a potential win for Latos, and the no decision he received. Totaling 13 pitches in all, Scooter would not go quietly, spoiling everything Latos had to offer. Finally, he slashed a double down the left field line, and even though he would not score in that instance, he virtually ended Latos’ night via the pitch count.

With a taxed bullpen, it was up to the likes of Logan Ondrusek, Manny Parra and J.J. Hoover to lock down the one run lead over the remaining three innings. That would not exactly go as to plan.

Immediately walking the first batter he would face, Ondrusek dug himself a hole he would not even get the opportunity to get out of. He watched from the mound as the leadoff walk came around to score, and then from the dugout as his other run trotted home, this time via an RBI single from Rickie Weeks off Manny Parra.

Much in the way that Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman have been unhittable at the backend of the Reds bullpen, Will Smith and Francisco Rodriguez have been the same for the Brewers.

Of all people to connect with a game-tying home run, Billy Hamilton waited for quite the appropriate time to drill his first Major League round-tripper from the right side of the plate off Smith, who had not allowed a home run all year prior. Out of nowhere, the Reds had a new lease on life with a tie ballgame in the eighth inning.

That tied score would not last very long. With at least Chapman guaranteed to be unavailable, J.J. Hoover was thrust into a tie game in the bottom of the eighth. It was not a favorable omen when Scooter Gennett dropped a ball in between Hamilton and Zack Cozart for a double, and just a pitch later, Ryan Braun hammered a two-run home run to right field that put Milwaukee ahead 4-2.

Just a year and a day after Hoover began his impressive scoreless inning streak last season, he was tagged with his fifth loss of the season.

After letting a crucial division matchup slip through their fingertips, the Reds look to escape Milwaukee with a series victory.

At 2:10 p.m., Mike Leake gets the ball opposite Marco Estrada, as both will attempt to follow in the footsteps of the starters that came before them and win the rubber match for their squad.