By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — From the beginning it was evident that neither starting pitcher Wednesday in Great American Ball Park was fooling anybody, not even themselves.
It was going to be Survival of the Unfittest or baseball’s version of Last Man Standing. Neither starting pitcher stood for longer than five innings and when it became a bullpen battle the Reds were dead.
St. Louis 12, Cincinnati 7.
It was Cincinnati’s Alfredo Simon matched against St. Louis Cardinals left hander Jaime Garcia to start the game and neither pitched with valor or aplomb.
In fact, they pitched to their season’s numbers. Simon was 2-and-5 with an 8.94 earned run average and Garcia was 4-and-5 with a 3.48 earned run average. Just two starts ago Garcia gave up five runs and 10 hits in only 2 1/3 innings to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
BOTH MANAGERS GAVE THEIR starting pitchers a lengthy rope and both hanged themselves with it and were gone before the end of the fifth inning.
Simon gave up two walks and a three-run home run to Matt Adams to start the first inning and he was down, 4-1, after the top of there second. But Garcia was not in a guardian mood and the Reds tied it, 4-4, by the fourth inning, then fell behind, 6-4 on a two-run home run by Brandon Moss off Simon in the fifth.
Simon was gone after five innings — six runs, seven hits, five walks, two home runs and an ever-expanding ERA of 9.11.
Garcia was gone after 4 2/3 innings — five runs, 13 hits, one walk, two home runs.
SO IT BECAME A BATTLE of the Bullpens and as is well-documented the Reds are not well-armed for that type of warfare.
It was St. Louis 6, Cincinnati 5 when the bullpens assumed their positions. When the bullpens were finished it was St. Louis 12, Cincinnati 7.
The Reds bullpen gave up six runs, eight hits, three walks and two home runs in four innings. The Cardinals bullpen retired 10 straight until the Reds scored a couple of harmless runs on a couple of harmless hits in the ninth.
JOSH SMITH RETIRED THE first five Cardinals he saw, but Brandon Moss ended that by hitting his second home run of the game. Smith then gave up a walk and a single and was replaced by J.C. Ramirez. He quickly yielded a run-scoring single to pinch-hitter Greg Garcia and the Cardinals led, 8-5.
Ramirez gave up three straight singles to open the St. Louis eighth for a run and then Jhonny Peralta drilled a three-run homer, his first of the year and the fourth of the night for the Cardinals.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals bullpen of Matt Bowman, Dean Kiekhefer (spell that without looking it up), Seung Hwan Oh (South Korean)and Tyler Lyons stifled the Reds on two runs and two hits over the last 4 1/3 innings. Oh struck out the side in the seventh.
With Anthony DeSclafani returning to the rotation Friday Simon’s spot is in deep jeopardy after 11 starts and a 9.11 earned run average.
“We have to have some pressure from guys in Triple-A and the ability to bring them up,” said manager Bryan Price about Simon’s precarious perch. “The reason Simon has had so much rope is because he was with us for three years and was a terrific performer and always wanted to pitch.
“He just hasn’t gotten onto a roll and it has been a battle for him since the inception of the season,” Price added. “It has been a battle for him to lock in and make good pitches on a consistent basis. He is still spraying balls around and missing zones by a pretty wide margin. It is frustrating to see him not performing the way we know he can.”
OFFENSIVELY, THE REDS COLLECTED 15 hits, but only two over the last 4 2/3 innings. Zack Cozart had two hits, including a home run. Joey Votto had a pair of hits. Jay Bruce had two hits. Billy Hamilton had two hits. Tucker Barnhart had three hits, including a home run.
But with all those hits, they couldn’t deliver the knockout punch. They came back to within 4-3 by scoring two runs in the second. And they had the bases loaded with no outs. Brandon Phillips forced Simon at home and both Jay Bruce and Adam Duvall scorched smoking line drives that were snagged in the infield and no damage was done.
“The offense lately has been great, fun to watch,” said Price. “Votto has squared up a lot of balls, Bruce is on a great tear and Barnhart had three hits and a homer. Duvall has given us quality at bats all year. And then there is Cozart and Billy Hamilton doing well — it’s all up and down the lineup.”
Price said the offense is fun to watch. The bullpen? Bring blindfolds.