By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — As benefitting for two teams entrenched in the depths of the coal cellar of their respective divisions, the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland A’s put on a display of offensive ineptitude Friday night in Great American Ball Park.
The Reds had no hits for 5 1/3 innings, five for the game, and scored the winning run on a wild pitch for a 2-1 victory.
As a man said once or twice, “At this point, we’ll take them any way we can get them.”
And manager Bryan Price said with a broad smile, “A 2-1 win is better than a 1-0 loss, right?” Right.
IT WAS ANTHONY DeSCLAFANI’S coming out party, his first appearance of 2016 and he held the A’s to one run in his six innings, but the A’s had runners on base in every inning against him and he wriggled out of every danger zone.
His only misstep was a pitch to Stephen Vogt with two outs in the third inning and Vogt knocked it over the right field wall for a home run. DeSclafani gave up eight hits and three walks, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch among his 102 pitches. The A’s stranded eight runners in the six innings DeSclafani worked.
WAS THERE A RUST factor? DeSclafani admitted Rustoleum might have been helpful.
“Yeah, I’m sure I did (have some rust),” he said. “It was my first start back in a big league setting and that makes a difference for sure. Hopefully I get better from here on out.
“I didn’t make it easy on myself, but I was super-anxious to be out there,” he added. “I felt really good, maybe too good if there is such a thing. Sometimes when you feel real good it’s tough to mix in other pitches, but later in the game I was able to mix in some curveball and changeups. It all comes down to me executing pitches. A lot of them came back over the plate and they put good swings on them.”
AS For HIS LONG-DELAYED return to the mound he said, “I was everything — nervous, anxious and a lot of adrenaline I had to try to control.”
Meanwhile, Oakland starter Sonny Gray took a no-hitter into the sixth inning until catcher Tucker Barnhart poked a one-out single into left field. At the point the only other base runner was Joey Votto, who walked with one out in the fourth. Brandon Phillips then hit into a double play.
Gray, a 14-game winner in both 2014 and 2015, has fought through injuries this season and was making just his second start after coming off the disabled list, toting the heavy baggage of a 3-and-5 season and a 5.77 earned run average.
IT WASN’T EXACTLY FIFTY Shades of Gray, but the Reds finally got to Gray for a couple of runs in the seventh inning.
With one out, Gray walked Brandon Phillips and with two outs Adam Duvall doubled him home to tie it, 1-1. Duvall took third on Eugenio Suarez’s infield hit and Duvall scored on Gray’s wild pitch to make it 2-1.
Of Duvall, Price said, “Adam always find a way to create a run whether it is with a ringing double, a home run, an RBI base hit or scoring on a wild pitch.”
Price knows DeSclafani can, and will, get better as he mixes in his pitches more adroitly.
“It was a battle for DeSclafani tonight because he threw a lot of fastballs and sliders, not a lot of separation in velocity, and they put a lot of balls in play hard. That was probably the hardest hitting 2-1 game I’ve seen in a while,” said Price. “Most importantly, he felt great, his arm looked great and he was able to make it work and battle through six.”
Price knows there is more inside DeSclafani and it is only a matter of extraction.
“The way he worked out of things tonight had a lot to do with his stuff and his competitiveness,” said Price. “When he has that curveball and change-up he can work hard-soft, hard-soft. It was a lot of hard stuff tonight, 87-plus sliders and 92 to 96 miles an hour fastballs. When he creates the separation with the change-up and the curveball it will be special.”