By HAL McCOY
It is incredulous, inconceivable, incredible and any other ‘in’ one can fathom when it comes to what Cincinnati Reds relief pitchers have done this season.
Ross Ohlendorf walked in from the bullpen to start the bottom of the ninth inning, asked to protect a tie game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The first batter he faced, Sean Rodriguez, crushed a game-ending walk-off home run to give the Pirates a 3-2 victory in PNC Park.
AND WHAT IS SO INCREDULOUS, inconceivable and incredible about that? It is the 24th time this season that a Cincinnati relief pitcher has given up a home run to the first batter he faced.
It seems as if they couldn’t do that if they tried and they certainly aren’t trying to do it, but they keep doing it.
Rodriguez didn’t even start the game. He was part of a double-switch late in the game. He worked the count to 2-and-1 and Ohlendorf left a fast ball up and Rodriguez drilled it deep into the left center seats.
Asked after the game by FoxSportsOhio about the 24 first-batter home runs, manager Bryan Price said, “There is an answer I have to that but it wouldn’t be appropriate for TV. It’s a question I’ve dealt with a lot. Yes, it is frustrating and I’ll just leave it at that.”
IT WAS AN ABRUPT TURNAROUND after the Reds tied the game in the top of the ninth without a hit. With his team up 2-1, closer Tony Watson walked Eugenio Suarez to start the ninth.
Tucker Barnhart popped a bunt and Watson muffed it and the ball rolled into foul territory. But catcher Francisco Cervelli grabbed it and threw out Barnhart.
But Suarez reached second and then boldly stole third, enabling him to score the tying run on pinch-hitter Ramon Cabrera’s fly ball to left.
Neither starting pitcher figured in the decision, but both deserved to win, especially Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani.
He pitched six innings and gave up only two hits. But the Pirates scored two runs in the fifth, thanks to a review/replay.
DESCLAFANI WALKED DAVID Freese to open the inning. John Jaso drove one to deep center and Billy Hamilton banged the wall as the ball hit his glove. The ball popped up and Hamilton caught it with a second effort. Jaso was called out.
The Pirates asked for a review and it revealed that after the ball popped out of Hamilton’s glove it hit the wall before rebounding back into Hamilton’s glove.
So instead of an out Jason was awarded a double and Freese was placed on third. The Pirates tied it, 1-1, on Cervelli’s sacrifice fly to right as Jaso took third. He scored the go-ahead run on a perfectly played suicide squeeze bunt by Jordy Mercer.
THE REDS SCORED A RUN in the first against 24-year-old right hander Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh’s top pitching prospect.
The run scored on three dubious hits in a row with one out. Zack Cozart blooped one to short center, extending his hitting streak to 13 games. Joey Votto dropped a single in front of left fielder Starling Marte and Brandon Phillips dribbled one to short right to score Cozart.
And it stayed 2-1 until the ninth.
THE ONLY SAVING GRACE for DeSclafani was that he didn’t get the loss and hisrecord stays at 6-and-0 with a 2.94 earned run average. He gave up two runs, two hits, three walks and struck out six during his 106-pitch night.
Taillon worked his way out a few problems while giving up only one run, six hits, one walk and six strikeouts. The Reds stranded eight and were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
The struggling Pirates came into the game losers in five of their last six and hadn’t had more than five hits in any of their previous four games. They had six (same as the Reds) on this night, but the last one, Rodriguez’s home run, was the biggest of the night.