By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — What the Cincinnati Reds needed was a stopper and Anthony DeSclafani was as good as a patrolman stopping traffic at First & Main.
He did it with practically perfect pitching. He did it by holding on base the few runners that reached base. He did it by picking off a runner and he did it by preventing any member of the San Diego Padres from putting a foot on second base.
With the Reds spinning downward on a four-game losing streak, three straight to the last-place Padres, DeSclafani strode to the Great American Ball Park mound Sunday afternoon and stepped on the Padres’ necks.
PITCHING IN DIZZYING HEAT that sent many fans staggering to Cool Rooms, DeSclafani coolly shut down the Padres, scattering five singles over eight innings in a heat index over 100 for a 3-0 victory.
When Tony Cingrani pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, the Reds had their first pitched shutout of the season after they’ve been shut out seven times.
SO IS DeSCLAFANI A legitimate stopper?
“Yes, because he is mature for his age and because of his experience,” said manager Bryan Price. “He doesn’t beat himself and he holds himself to a very high standard. There is no quit in the kid and we have to make sure there never is.”
In addition to holding the Padres to five singles, DeSclafani didn’t walk anybody and struck out five. Of the five baserunners, DeSclafani picked one off first base and catcher Tucker Barnhart threw two out trying to swipe second. No Padre discovered second base on this day.
SO HOW DOES A 25-YEAR-OLD guy making only his fourth start of the season keep from becoming a puddle on the mound under the intense sun?
“I know, it was brutal out there,” he said. “I just tried to stay cool in the dugout with cold rags and I drank a lot of water. It is what it is and you can’t do anything about it.”
On these types of Amazonian days, many pitchers change jerseys, or at least undershirts between innings. Not DeSclafani.
“Naw, I don’t want to change anything on a day like this,” he said..
The Reds took a 1-0 lead in the second with two outs and nobody on, thanks to center fielder Jose Pedraza’s rapidity. His speed enabled him to beat out a ground ball to shortstop and his speed enabled him to score from first on Tucker Barnhart’s double into the right field corner.
Speed was not needed in the fourth. Jay Bruce scored with a slow trot after leading off the inning with his 17th homer, a shot into the right field seats that made it 2-0.
DeSCLAFANI HELPED HIMSELF in the sixth when he batted against San Diego starter Luis Perdomo with two outs and the bases loaded. He shot a run-scoring single to center, breaking a 0 for 47 slide-for-life by Reds pitchers, pushing his lead to 3-0.
“That was the best part of the day,” said DeSclafani about his hit, which is the way most pitchers feel about their bat work. “Hey, pitchers take hits whenever they can get them, especially with runners on. I get my first hit and first RBI of the season and I’ll definitely take it,” he said.
Price was all smiles during his post-game media session and said, “Eight shutout innings by your starting pitcher makes a manager really look good.
“The thing that impressed me most was the rapport DeSclafani had with catcher Tucker Barnhart,” Price added. “When they weren’t on the same page Tucker went out and talked to him about pitch selection and what the intentions of the pitches were. They came to some good conclusions after those meetings.
“It what you need,” he said “It’s a huge boost to get eight shutout innings from your starter, a big lift for the team.”