By HAL McCOY
The Cincinnati Reds staged their own version of Home Run Derby Tuesday night in San Francisco’s AT&T Park — two by Adam Duvall, one by Joey Votto and one by Jay Bruce, his fifth home run in the last four games.
It wasn’t enough. They lost by two runs, 9-7, to the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants hit only one home run, but it was a dagger and it came from the most unlikely of sources — pitcher Matt Cain.
IT WAS A THREE-RUN RIP off Reds starter Cody Reed and it was the margin of victory. At the time, Cain was 1 for 19 on the season.
And it cost Reed his fifth straight major-league defeat and he is still searching for his first victory.
The big left hander fell behind, 5-0, in the first three innings. And try as they might with the long ball, the Reds couldn’t recover.
Three of the Reds four home runs cam with the bases empty and one hit by Duvall was a two-run blast.
REED GAVE UP FOUR RUNS in a wild second inning. It began with a single by Brandon Crawford. Brandon Belt drove one to deep left center and it glanced off left fielder Adam Duvall’s glove for an error, putting runners on third and second with no outs.
With one out, Ramiro Pena grounded to deep short and Zack Cozart threw to third and Belt was called out as Crawford scored.
The Giants challenged the call at third base and it was reversed — third baseman Eugenio Suarez was late with the tag and Belt was called safe.
Pitcher Cain then hit a no-doubter, deep into the left field seats, the 10th home run given up by Reed this year and the Giants led, 4-0.
THE GIANTS MADE IT 5-0 in the third when three of the first four Giants singled, loading the bases. With one out, Grant Green grounded to second. Brandon Phillips tried to tag the runner moving toward second, Brandon Belt, and threw to first, what was thought to be an inning-ending double play. Once again the Giants challenged, believing Phillips missed the tag on Belt. The challenge was upheld — Phillips missed the tag.
Instead of an inning-ending double play, only the out at first was recorded and a run scored.
THAT’S WHEN THE REDS began playing long ball.
Votto extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his 18th home run leading off the fourth. Billy Hamilton pushed his hitting streak to nine games with a run-scoring single in the fifth to make it 5-2. Hamilton stole second (he was called out but this time a Reds challenge was upheld and he was safe). Then he stole third, but was left there.
The Giants made it 6-2 in the fifth on a sacrifice fly and after the inning Reed was done — five innings, nine hits, six runs (five earned), two walks, three strikeouts and an earned run average of 7.07.
THE REDS GOT BACK INTO the game in the sixth when Votto singled and Duvall homered to slice the Giants led to 6-4.
But the Reds bullpen failed for the first time sicne the All-Star break. Blake Wood gave up three runs on four hits in the seventh. The first four Giants reached base and Brandon Crawford hit a two-run triple and pinch-hitter Conor Gillaspie poked a run-scoring single.
So the Reds were down by four runs, 9-4.
They jumped right back into it in the eighth against Sergio Romo on back-to-back home runs to start the inning by Bruce and Duvall. Bruce tied Duvall for team leadership with his 24th, then Duvall delivered his to retake the lead with 24. And it was 9-6.
The Reds, though, didn’t die quietly. They put up a fuss in the ninth.
WITH ONE OUT, BILLY HAMILTON walked and Zack Cozart extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single that sent Hamilton to third.
Votto was at the plate, representing the tying run. But he flied to center, scoring Hamilton. Now the Reds were two runs down and Bruce was at the plate, the tying run.
But Bruce went down swinging to end the game.
Umpire Joe West struggled all night with the strike zone. His strike zone on this night was wider than a four-lane highway. Late in the game he called out San Francisco’s Angel Pagan on a ball wide of home plate. Pagan protested loudly and was ejected.
The umpires had three calls reversed on challenges and West’s idea of the strike zone wasn’t in the rulebook.