By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — The scouts came in bunches and they came early to Great American Ball Park Thursday night.
One scout asked another, “Are you here so early to watch batting practice?” And the other said, “You betcha.”
He was disappointed. There was no batting practice because Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price told his team to sleep in and not report to the ballpark until 5 p.m. after the Reds didn’t arrive from Dallas early Thursday morning until 3 a.m.
BUT THE SCOUNT STUCK around with the other scouts from Toronto, Kansas City, Los Angeles (Dodgers), Texas, Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cubs, among others, and one said, “You know why we are all here, right?”
Indeed, they gathered in solemn observation of Reds right fielder Jay Bruce, a dangling prize that several teams would like to acquire via trade, sooner better than later.
Bruce is the only reason for a convention of scouts in Great American because the series between the last-place San Diego Padres and the last-place Reds is a series only a mother could love.
THE TWO TEAMS WERE a combined 36 1/2 games out of first place with no hope of playing in October.
The scouts didn’t get to see much from Bruce, an off night of 0 for 4 (two strikeouts and two groundouts.
And the game they saw wasn’t anything to scribble notes about, either, a 7-4 San Diego victory during which the Reds squandered a 4-1 lead.
CINCINNATI STARTER JOHN LAMB was given a 4-1 lead after three innings, but neither he nor the Reds bullpen could sustain it.
The 4-1 lead was constructed in the bottom of the third on back-to-back doubles by Zack Mozart and Billy Hamilton and a three-run home run by Adam Duvall to the right field corner, his 20th home run of the season. Duvall was playing first base while Joey Votto took a third straight night off to recuperate from flu-like symptoms.
“That home run right down the right field line shows a lot of maturity, meaning he is not just trying to yank balls to left field,” said Price. “He isn’t getting caught up in all the stuff even though he is a ‘guy’ now, a guy people talk about and he’s is just going out there and playing baseball.
“And he did a real nice job at first base,” Price added. “He had mostly routine plays, nothing challenging, but he looks very comfortable over there. I can plug him in at first for a day, or at third, or either of the corner outfield spots and he’ll do very well defensively. That’s a real bonus for me.”
The scouts noticed all that, too, but Duvall does not have a ‘For Sale’ sign or a ‘For Rent’ sign dangling from his neck.
LAMB HAD GIVEN UP ONLY one run (a solo home run by Matt Kemp in the fourth) and three hits through the fifth inning, but it all came apart in the sixth. Lamb gave up a walk, a ground ball and a single for a run to cut his lead to 4-2.
He left the game at that juncture for J.C. Ramirez, who quickly gave up a single to Melvin Upton Jr., and a three-run home run to Derek Norris for a 6-4 Padres lead.
“Scanning the stats, it is the home runs and the timing,” said Price. “We’ve given up 40-plus home runs from the seventh inning on and they are a lot of multi-run home runs to either give up the lead or let teams extend the lead. And that’s tough. One swing of the bat and it is a completely different ballgame.
“It has been a bit of a nemesis for us this year, it has been a really big nemesis for us. Let me correct that — it has been a huge nemesis for us.”
OF LAMB’S PERFORMANCE, Price said, “He was a little hot and cold, threw some really good pitches and gave up five very competitive innings. In the sixth (Yangervis) Solarte’s at bat took a lot out of him. He did a real nice job of fighting off pitches until he was able to hit something out to left field for a base hit.
“At that point in time I pretty much was convinced it was time for Lamb to come out of the game and the end result was not very good,” said Price.
That’s when Ramirez gave up a single and the three-run home run to Norris.
The Padres added a run off Ross Ohlendorf in the ninth inning on a double by former Red Adam Rosales and a two-out single by Travis Jankowski.
THE REDS SCORED FOUR runs on six hits and four walks against Padres left hander Christian Friedrich. Before his previous start, he was 3-and-1 with a 2.12 earned run average. But he lost that start by giving up six runs and nine hits in only 3 2/3 innings, raising his ERA to 3.15.
Once the Reds got rid of Friedrich they could do nothing against the Padres bullpen — four innings, no runs, one hit, one walk, seven strikeouts and their 45th defeat of the season.
The defeat ended a streak of seven straight wins for the Reds in the first game of a series.