By HAL McCOY
Jay Bruce may have partaken of his last at bat in a Cincinnati Reds uniform in Great American Ball Park on a scorching Sunday afternoon against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
If it was, Bruce left with an exclamation point — a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth off Diamondbacks closer Tyler Clippard.
The Reds now leave on a road trip and the August 1 trade deadline arrives during the trip and it is odds-on that Bruce will be traded.
The three-run home run, though, left the Reds one-run short during a 9-8 loss to the Diamondbacks, after Bruce’s 21st home run and 73rd RBI.
Clippard walked the first two batters ahead of Bruce when he had a 9-5 lead. Then, after the home run he struck out Adam Duvall, then put the tying run on base when he walked Brandon Phillips.
But Ivan DeJesus Jr. took a called third strike on a change-up and Ramon Cabrera struck out to end it on an exciting note after a mostly dull afternoon, unless you love home runs and you are a Diamondbacks fan or a Jay Bruce fan.
EVEN THE WORST OF TEAMS in the worst of times can rise up and bite viciously.
And that’s what the Diamondbacks, occupants of last place in the National League West, did to the Reds and pitcher Brandon Finnegan for most of the frying pan hot afternoon.
The Reds were bidding for their first series sweep of the season since they won three straight from the Philadelphia Phillies the first week of the season.
But the Diamondbacks said no, stopping the Reds and Finnegan, who continues to be plagued by walks and home runs.
FOR THE FIFTH TIME in his last six starts Finnegan didn’t make it out of the fifth inning and gave up six runs, seven hits, two walks and three home runs.
In his 20 starts this season Finnegan has given up 23 home runs. His record dipped to 5-and-8 and his earned run average climbed to 4.93 as the talent-laden left hander continues to learn lessons in the big league school of hard knocks.
On Friday, the Diamondbacks scored two runs in the top of the first, but the Reds scored three in the bottom of the first. The D-Backs scored no more and the Reds won, 6-2.
On Saturday, the Diamondbacks scored one run in the top of the first, but the Reds scored three in the bottom of the first. The D-Backs scored no more and the Reds won, 6-1.
On Sunday, the Diamondbacks scored a run in the top of the first, but the Reds scored two in the bottom of the first for a 2-1 lead.
THIS TIME, THOUGH, the Diamondbacks kept scoring.Arizona’s Yasmany Tomas hit two home runs and his first came in the second inning to tie it, 2-2.
The D-Backs barged ahead, 5-2, in the third inning whe Wellington Castillo drilled a three-run home run.
The Reds, though, came right back with a three-run, five-hit bottom of the third. All five hits were singles, including a pair of two-out run-scoring singles by Ivan DeJesus Jr. and Ramon Cabrera.
So, at 5-5 the Reds stood a chance to record their 24th comeback win of the season — and they had only 21 comebacks in all of 2015. And they nearly accomplished it in the ninth.
BUT IT WASN’T To be this time as the Arizona bullpen, as bad statistically as the Cincinnati bullpen, shut down all Reds operations until Clippard put the fear of the baseball gods on manager Chip Hale and the D-Backs.
Paul Goldschmidt broke the 5-5 tie by leading off the fifth with his 17th home run, his only hit of the three-game series.
Arizona added two more in the sixth when catcher Ramon Cabrera was charged with a passed ball on a strikeout and a run scored and the second run of the inning crossed on Phil Gosselin’s two-out double off relief pitcher Ross Ohlendorf.
The second home by Tomas came in the eighth inning against relief pitcher Josh Smith to make it 9-5, a big, big home run, as it turned out.
The Reds put together 11 hits and all that was accomplished was that several Reds extended hitting streaks: Brandon Phillips 12, Joey Votto 9, Billy Hamilton 7 and Jay Bruce 5.
THE REDS FINISHED the home stand 6-and-3, taking two of three from Milwaukee, Atlanta and Arizona – two last place teams and one next-to-last team.
Now the degree of difficulty pendulum swings to high. The Reds play 15 of their next 18 games on the road, beginning Monday night in San Francisco. But they won’t face former teammate Johnny Cueto because he pitched Saturday.