By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — When the Milwaukee Brewers see Cincinnati Reds pitcher John Lamb the Brewers lick their chops. They should serve mint jelly in the ball park when Lamb is led to the slaughter by the Brewers.
—On May 27 in Milwaukee, Lamb pitched 3 2/3 innings and gave up six runs and seven hits in a 9-5 Reds defeat.
—On Saturday night in Great American Ball Park, he was even worse. He pitched only two-plus innings and gave up nine runs and nine hits in a 9-1 loss to the Brewers.
And the Brewers hadn’t scored as many as nine runs since, well, that game Lamb started in Milwaukee on May 27.
IN REALITY LAMB IS NOT much better against any team than he is against the Brewers. He is now 1-and-8 on the year with an ever-billowing 6.43 earned run average. The question is: ‘Why is he still in the rotation and where is Robert Stephenson?’
Lamb realizes his position is precarious, especially with Homer Bailey nearing a return and other options (Stephenson) awaiting a turn.
“It is obvious that at some point I have to execute,” said Lamb. “There are expectations and I’m not reaching them. I don’t come out here thinking I’m guaranteed a job every fifth day. I never have and hopes to never think that way.
“But just generally looking in the rear view mirror and knowing I haven’t been consistent, without a doubt there is a sense of urgency,” he said. “I have to continue to believe and I have my belief system.”
MANAGER BRYAN PRICE ACKNOWLEDGES that Lamb can’t continue to turn into a goat time after time.
“Why beat around the bush? Yes. He certainly has to pitch better,” said Price. “There is an element of performance that needs to be there. We’re not in an environment where we can say, ‘Anything goes.’ He knows that and this kid is busting his tail. He has the stuff to pitch here and be effective, but I don’t think he has found himself at this level yet.
“I believe in his stuff. He needs to make believers out of everybody that his stuff will play here,” Price added. “He has been vulnerable to the big inning and there have been some knockout punches early in games and those are hard to deal with.”
IT BEGAN QUICKLY AND not-so-quietly against Lamb, just four pitches into the game and it was Milwaukee 2, Cincinnati 0. Jonathan Villar singled on the game’s second pitch and Hernan Perez drilled the fourth pitch Lamb threw into the left field seats. Three more hits that inning produced two more runs and a 4-0 Milwaukee lead in the first.
Things got ugly and messy in the third when the Brewers sent 11 batters to the plate, scored five runs, and in the midst of it Reds manager Bryan Price was ejected.
Ryan Braun led the inning with a single. It appeared Lamb had Jonathan Lucroy struck out when he swung at a 1-and-2 pitch in the dirt. But umpire Quinn Walcott ruled that Lucroy foul-tipped it.
Price argued vigorously while replays showed over and over that Lucroy swung and missed for strike three and did not foul the ball. The play is not reviewable so the ‘foul tip’ stood.
LUCROY LINED THE NEXT pitch into the left field seats, a home run that pushed Milwaukee’s lead to 6-0. Lamb then gave up a walk, a single and another walk to fill the bases.
That’s when Price went out to remove Lamb and after doing that he continued his heated discussion at home plate with umpire Wolcott, but it wasn’t about the phantom foul tip. It was other issues involving the entire scenario. And he eventually was ordered to spend the rest of the night in his office, an ejection.
“It was not about the foul tip call, it was something that revolved around the play,” said Price. “There is no way you can ask an umpire to get that call right all the time. It is a non-reviewable play. And umpiring is an extremely difficult position. So I don’t try to give those guys flack. They’re human. No one gets every call right. We just had a disagreement the way the process went down.”
EVEN THOUGH LAMB GAVE up a home run to Lucroy on the next pitch after the swing-and-miss, he would not blame the umpire.
“We’re taught as players to continue to move forward, turn the page and make a pitch and hope good things happen,” said Lamb. “I left the ball up and he hit it out of the ball park. I saw the replay of the foul tip call in here (the clubhouse) and it is frustrating. Whether the umpire has an impact on the game in a positive or negative way that’s human error. It is part of this game and part of human life. It just sucks to be on my end of it, our end of it.”
Keyvius Sampson replaced Lamb and cleared the bases. Pitcher Jimmy Nelson faked a bunt and chopped a two-run single to right and Jonathan Villar singled home the ninth run of the game.
Lamb gave up two home runs in his two-plus innings that resulted in four runs. Reds pitchers have given up 157 home runs this season and are on course to give up 280 for the season. Uh, the major league record is 241 given up by the 1996 Detroit Tigers.
MEANWHILE, WHILE LAMB couldn’t get anybody out, the Reds couldn’t get many on against Milwaukee starter Jimmy Nelson (6-and-7). Over his seven shutout innings he gave up six single, three to Joey Votto, one to Jose Peraza, playing second base in place of injured Brandon Phillips, one to Adam Duvall and one to pinch-hitter Tyler Holt.
Over his seven innings, Nelson permitted only one Reds runner to reach third base while walking two and striking out seven.
The Reds broke through for a run in the eighth against relief pitcher Jacob Barnes and scored a run. Joey Votto led the inning with a double, his fourth hit, the 17th time in his career he has had four hits in a game, but the first time since April 15, 2014 — 2 1/2 seasons ago.
Pinch-hitter Ivan DeJesus Jr. followed Votto’s double with a single and Votto scored while Adam Duvall grounded into a fielder’s choice and the minor flare-up ended on Eugenio Suarez’s double play.
THE FANS? The 31,328 were mostly mum for most of the night after they entered the gates and received their Zack Cozart bobblehead doll. But when Reds pitchers had struck court 10 Brewers after seven innings they began chanting, “Pizza, pizza, pizza,” and, “We want pizza, we want pizza.”
LaRosa’s still gives out free pizza coupons on nights when Reds pitchers strike out 11 or more. And ht went down the final out in the top of the ninth when Jumbo Diaz struck out Will Middlebrows and the crowd let out its loudest roar of the night.
And that is what it has come down to in Great American Ball Park. For whatever it means, too, the FC Cincinnati soccer team drew 35,061 Saturday night into Nippert Stadium for its game, 4,000 more than the Reds.