By Hal McCoy
CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds keep finding things while they are losing things. They find starting pitchers and they lose games.
For the second straight day the Reds found a useable piece for their fluid starting rotation but lost the game.
On Sunday in St. Louis it was Jon Moscot coming off the disabled list to pitch 5 2/3 strong innings — three runs six hits — but the Reds lost, 4-3.
On Monday at home against Colorado it was even better when Dan Straily was plucked from the bullpen and started the game against the Rockies. He went five innings and gave up one run and only two hits — but the Reds lost, 5-1.
AND BOTH DAYS it was relief pitcher Ross Ohlendorf losing the game. On Sunday he gave up a run-scoring double in the eighth inning to back-up catcher Eric Fryer for the winning run.
On Monday Ohlendorf gave up a two-out home run to rookie megastar Trevor Story in the eighth inning for the winning run. It was Story’s eighth home run and quite a story it is because he is replacing departed Rockies rock star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
After Story’s home run, Ohlendorf gave up a single to Carlos Gonzalez and walked Nolan Arenando. Jumbo Diaz was brought onto the scene and his second pitch landed on the grass beyond the center field wall, a three-run home run by Ben Paulsen that nailed this one down conclusively.
OHLSDORF IS perplexed.
“The last two days my stuff was as good as it has ever been,” he said. “The results weren’t there, but sometimes that happens. If I keep pitching this way there will be good results, but it is frustrating that I got the loss in both the games, in close games, and couldn’t help the team out.”
He couldn’t help out either Moscot or Straily, both of whom deserved much better.
“Pitching is contagious and were not all contagious yet, we’re not infected,” said manager Bryan Price of his bullpen. “But to get Moscot and Straily out there and really working the zone is a positive. So much of pitching is working ahead so you can control the count and control the zone. Those were a couple of guys who worked ahead effectively. It doesn’t guarantee victory (as both discovered) but it increased your odds of having a good ballgame.”
STRAILY WAS PITCH-EFFICIENT and pounded and peppered the strike zone, especially early in the count. And he did that knowingly, knowing that since he pitched three innings just three days ago out of the bullpen that his time was limited.
He only threw 76 pitches (52 for strikes) over his five innings.
“That was the goal for today because I knew they would limit my pitch count based on the way we got to where we are (Straily starting after pitching in relief two days ago),” he said. “I was trying to get hitters out on three pitches or less, the stuff you always try to do but that was the main focus tonight.”
Straily most likely insured himself of at least two more starts until disabled pitchers Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani return.
“That’s good because that’s what I’ve done my whole career,” said Straily. “I was embracing being the long man out of the bullpen, trying to be the best long man I could be. But I’d by lying if I didn’t say I wanted to start games.”
PRICE WAS DEFINITELY impressed with what he saw from Straily, a guy the Reds picked up off the waivers wire late in the spring and a guy who immediately told Price, “I have a rubber arm. You can use me every day.”
Of his first start, Price said, “He was terrific. Five innings of one-run ball after being two days removed from three innings in St. Louis. And he pitched a couple of innings in Chicago. He has been very efficient for us out of the bullpen and very durable. He gave us five very nice innings and a chance to win.”
The Reds were duct-taped for seven innings by Colorado pitcher Jordan Lyles, who came into the game with a 23-and-38 career record over 99 major league starts and a 5.18 earned run average.
But he held the Reds to one unearned run over seven innings and four hits as the Reds lost for the sixth time in their last seven games. And the Rockies have won five of their last six, including two of three in Chicago against the Cubs over the weekend.
“LYLES GAVE US trouble and this was a guy we’ve seen for a long time because I think he was 20 when the Houston Astros brought him up,” said Price. “He is a good-armed pitcher with a real good feel for pitching and tonight he was on.”
Straily only strayed once and it cost him a run in the second when he gave up a leadoff single to Nolan Arenado and walked Paulsen with no outs. But he bowed his back and only one run scored, that on a ground ball.
Colorado guarded that 1-0 like the entrance to a silver mine. Jay Bruce led the fifth with a line drive to left center and tried for a triple and was called out. The Reds challenged the out call and the call was upheld.
“He beat it, but it was just that his foot came off the bag,” said Price. “He came above the bag with his right foot. He is safe until his foot came up over the bag instead of on the bag.”
THLE REDS TIED IT the next inning with an unearned run against Lyles. Zack Cozart extended his hitting streak to nine game with a two-out single in the sixth. Jordan Pacheco doubled to left and when left fielder Gerrado Parra’s throw eluded the cutoff man for an error Cozart scored to tie it, 1-1.
Then came the eighth with Ohlendorf and Diaz and disaster.
Fortunately for the Reds, paid attendance at Great American Ball Park on a gorgeous spring night was only 12,777, smallest in Cincinnati since 1986.