By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — The raw news is that Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Blake Wood gave up a two-out run-scoring single to J.J. Hardy in the 10th inning Thursday night to give the Baltimore Orioles a 2-1 victory.
Hardy shattered his bat on the previous pitch, fetched a new one, and lobbed a shallow single to left center to score Mark Trumbo from second base. Wood had walked Trumbo.
That’s the raw, uncensored news.
THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES news covers the last two games, both of which the Reds lost (2-1, 2-0) and both during which they had only two hits.
What is so apparent, though, is what is happening at the top of the order — or, more accurately, what is not happening at the top of the order.
Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza, the first two batters in the order, are the guys who are supposed to be on base so Joey Votto, Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez can drive them home.
But. . .after Thursday’s game, Hamilton is batting .241 with a .285 on-base percentage. Peraza is hitting .228 with a .267 on-base percentage. Hamilton has walked three times all year and Peraza has walked once.
DURING THE LAST TWO GAMES, neither Hamilton nor Peraza was on base, not once, not a sniff.
Cincinnati starter Scott Feldman, feeding the potent Orioles batting order off-the-plate fastballs and tantalizing cutters, pitched seven innings and gave up one run and four hits. His one miscue was a second-inning two-out home run to Jonathan Schoop.
Feldman, though, was outdone by Baltimore starter Wade Miley. He pitched eight innings and gave up one run, two hits, walked none and struck out 11. His one miscue was a two-out home run to Joey Votto in the fourth — after Hamilton grounded out and Peraza struck out.
One run in 18 innings and four hits in 18 inning won’t cut it even against the Bad News Bears. And it begins with Hamilton and Peraza.
MANAGER BRYAN PRICE GAVE both a hall pass before Thursday’s game by saying, “Well, we are 9-and-6. It was an anomaly the other day against Milwaukee when neither got on base in 10 at bats and we scored seven runs. However, when we beat the Orioles in the first game of the series (9-3) they were on base quite a bit (three times each) and set the table, particularly their first two at bats when we scored nine runs in the first three innings.
“We are obviously going to be a much better team when they get on base. We’ll be a more a productive team when they are on base. Pitchers make more mistakes and they will steal their way into scoring position. The negative stuff is more I would be talking about if we were 6-and-9 instead of 9-and-6. The wins keep anybody from looking too deep into those kinds of statistics.”
Well, now, the Reds are 9-and-7 and have lost two straight series at home, three of four to Milwaukee and two of three to Baltimore.
“The big thing (for Hamilton and Peraza) is swinging at strikes,” said Price. “Billy has greatly improved in that from where he was in 2014. He got off to a good start, getting on base, and then he hit a rough spot in the second half. I believe he has really refined his strike zone.”
Price believes Peraza is where Hamilton was before 2014.
“I think Jose will continue to improve getting get pitches through the course of at bats, getting into a cripple count and sit on a good pitch to hit, instead of swinging simply at a strike,” Price added.
“He hasn’t even turned 23 yet, so there is certainly time for his development into the type of a player we expect,” said Price.
About the walks — or lack thereof?
“Certainly those guys who are at the top of the order, especially if they’re not hitting home runs, on-base percentages are important,” said Price. “That’s where we’re looking for Billy to take the biggest step, which we saw last year in the second half. And we’d certainly like to see Peraza head in that direction as he matures.”
“The main thing is that at 22 we have to have some flexibility and let Peraza grow into that role, as we have with Billy,” said Price. “By the time the year is over I think Jose is going to have some really good numbers in average, runs scored, stolen bases and range of defense at second base.”
BALTIMORE’S MILEY WAS A carbon copy of Cincinnati’s Amir Garrett Wednesday night. Garrett pitched seven innings and struck out 12 but gave up two runs and received zero in support. Miley struck out 11 in eight innings, but gave up only two hits.
The Reds second hit came with one out in the eighth on Zack Cozart’s double, but Miley struck out both Scott Schebler and Stuart Turner en route to the last eight Reds making outs.
Reds starter Scott Feldman gave up one run and four hits and struck out only four in seven innings. But Raisel Iglesias followed him by striking out five in two innings to keep it 1-1 heading into the 10th.
AFTER THE GAME, PRICE said that relief pitcher Tony Cingrani is headed for the 10-day disabled list with a sore oblique, an injury he suffered on the last pitch of his last appearance.
The Reds will make a move to replace Cingrani before the start Friday night of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs in Great American Ball Park.