By HAL McCOY
What started out as a profitable project in Atlanta with two victories against baseball’s worst team ended up in a dull stalemate for the enigmatic Cincinnati Reds.
After losing in 13 innings Wednesday night, the Reds followed that up Thursday with a 7-2 defeat in which they appeared to be sleepwalking.
So after the 2-2 split with the 46-loss Braves, the Reds limped out of town and headed for Houston lugging a 20-46 record.
WHEN MATT WISLER TOOK the mound as Atlanta’s starter Thursday he took a 2-and-7 record with him and a 4.36 earned run average, a Whistler’s Mother type of record.
And when the first three Reds of the game reached base, one scoring on a Brandon Phillips single, and the Reds added a second run in the third inning on Adam Duvall’s 19th home run, the 2-0 early lead looked promising.
That was it, though. Over the final six innings the Reds scored no more and had only four more hits, two by Joey Votto (he had three for the game).
THE BNEFICIAR OF THE early lead was Reds starter Dan Straily, 4-and-2 with a 3.18 earned run average coming in and so far this season the best and most consistent Reds starter.
It looked as if the Reds found something in the bargain basement white elephant counter when they signed the 27-year-old right hander a few days prior to Opening Day.
The Reds signed him on April 1 (And it wasn’t an April Fool’s Day joke) after the San Diego Padres dumped him. Amazingly, he was with the Houston Astros and they traded him to San Diego on March 28. Three days later the Padres released him and the pitch-thin Reds quickly signed him.
Hey, why not? He is from Redlands, California, and wouldn’t somebody from REDlands fit in with the Reds, even if he was a 24th round draft pick in 2009 by the Oakland A’s, the 732nd player picked that year?
And in his last start, against another last place team, the A’s, he held Oakland to one run and five hits over seven innings in a 2-1 victory. His start before that he held the first place Washington Nationals to two runs and two hits over seven innings and received a no-decision in the Reds 6-3 win.
This time, though, he couldn’t hold down the lowly Braves. He gave up three runs in the bottom of the third, two coming on Freddie Freman’s two-run home run to give the Braves a 3-2 lead they never relinquished.
FREEMAN ENDED UP WITH three hits. He went 0 for 2 in the Reds 3-1 win Tuesday, but in the other three games Freeman collected 10 hits with three home runs. And in the 13-inning 9-8 Braves win Wednesday he hit for the cycle.
Meanwhile, Wisler who was 0-and-2 in his previous two starts, giving up 13 hits and six home runs in seven innings, wrapped the Reds up in electrician’s tape — 6 2/3 innings, two runs, eight hits, five walks and six strikeouts.
Straitly pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up six runs and seven hits, plus five walks. And two of those walks were particularly painful.
WIT THE REDS TRAILING 3-2 in the fifth, Straily walked the first two batters. Nick Markakis doubled to the right field corner to score both of those runners and Jace Peterson’s sacrifice fly made it 6-2.
After Wisler left, the Reds had no runs and no hits (two walks) against Ian Krol and Arodys Vizcaino.
Reds relief pitcher A.J. Watson, who left Wednesday’s game with a slight shoulder strain, was placed on the disabled list and replaced with Dayan Diaz, who pitched 2 2/3 innings and gave up two hits and one unearned run.