Tucker Barnhart saves what bullpen can’t

By HAL McCOY

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds pulled one out Wednesday afternoon, one they shouldn’t have had to pull out if only the bullpen wasn’t a pigpen.

But that’s the way it is these days and it took a ninth-inning walk-off single by Tucker Barnhart to win it, 6-5, after the bullpen blew a three-run lead in the eighth inning.

With runners on first and third and one out, the Rockies used a five-man infield but Barnhart cleared it with a first-pitch game-ending single to right field.

IT MAY SOUND CRASS and it may sound harsh, but the truth is: ‘The Bullpen Blows.’

The bullpen blows leads and the bullpen blows tie games and it happens day after day after day, a baseball Groundhog Day.

And it nearly always happens after a starting pitcher has pitched a winnable game and turned his hopes and prayers over to the bullpen

ON WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON it was Cincinnati starter Raisel Iglesias turning a lead over to the bullpen and taking a swift kick in the seat of the pants.

After holding the Rockies to two runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings, Iglesias turned over a one-run lead to the bullpen. And the Reds added two more runs and led by three heading into the eighth inning.

But Blake Wood gave up a single and a walk to start the eighth, then Tony Cingrani gave up a walk, a ground ball for a run and a two-run bloop single to tie the game, 5-5.

Asked afterward if he is getting any clarity with his bullpen, manager Bryan Price smiled and said, “Well, you give me your clarity first, OK? What have you figured out?

“Right now, these guys are busting their tails and we know how much they want to really string together some good outings,” Price added. “It isn’t a lack of effort or preparation or character. We just aren’t hitting on all cylinders and I’m asking all those guys to pitch a lot.”

BASEBALL GAMES CAN be won or lost in so many ways it sometimes defies description or explanation, unless, of course, it involved the bullpen.

And such was the case Wednesday, before the Reds and Rockies bullpen decided it.

They say something never done before happens in baseball at least once a week and one of those may have happened in the seventh inning Wednesday in Great American Ball Park.

THE REDS LED, 3-2, with two outs when Rockies catcher Dustin Garneau doubled. Pinch-hitter Ryan Raburn chucked a bloop hit to right field and Garneau bolted for home.

As he rounded third, he appeared to stumbled over third base, but he regained balance and scored the tying run. Or did he?

At that point Reds manager Bryan Price removed Iglesias and replaced him with Blake Wood. As Wood warmed up, third baseman Eugenio Suarez said to Price, “I think he missed third base.” Price asked plate umpire Gary Cedarstrom if he could appeal the play even after removing pitcher Iglesias and Cedarstrom said yes.

So they had Wood throw to third base on appeal and umpire Adrian Johnson called Garneau out for missing third base. The Rockies appealed for a review and after three minutes and 20 seconds the folks back in New York permitted the out call to stick and the Reds still led, 3-2.

THEN CAME THE BOTTOM of the seventh and the Reds were gifted with two more runs. With two outs and nobody on Adam Duvall drove one to deep left center. Left fielder Ben Paulsen lost the ball in the excruciatingly bright sun and the ball glanced off his glove for a double.

Barnhart doubled for a run and Ivan DeJesus doubled for a run and a 5-2 Reds lead.

The early portion of the game was a pitcher’s war between Iglesias and Rockies starter Chad Bettis, who came into the game with a 2-0 record and a 2.95 earned run average.

The Reds scored three off Bettis in the second on a single by Brandon Phillips and back-to-back home runs by Jay Bruce and Duvall for a 3-0 Reds lead. After that Bettis retired the next 15 in a row before leaving after six. The only hits he gave up were the three in a row in the second.

The Rockies scored their only runs off Iglesias in the fourth on a run-scoring double by Carlos Gonzalez and a run-scoring single by Gerardo Parra.

Iglesias pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up two runs and five hits en route to a head-shaking no-decision.

“It was a strange one,” said Price. “But it was nice to see Tucker come through because he has been the unsung hero. He played a lot last year and he has picked up Devin Tesoro this year when I don’t have Devin in the lineup.”

WHILE MESORACO IS coming back slowly from his hip surgery last season, hitting .161, Barnhart is banging the ball at a .348 clip and had two hits, two RBI and a run scored Wednesday.

“He is doing a nice job handling the staff, too, and getting that big hit,” said Price. “They had that five-man infield and he had to find some acreage, some open grass, to get the job done and he did it.”

Said Barnhart, “I was just trying to get something to the outfield, really. I was facing a guy who likes to pitch inside (Christian Bergman), but I put a good swing on the ball and got it to the outfield.”

Of his contributions lately, Barnhart said, “I’m here to do whatever is asked of me to do.”

Obviously, on this day they asked him to punch a game-winning hit, so he punched a game-winning hit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.