By HAL McCOY
The Cincinnati Reds ‘Apprentice Pitching Program’ continued Saturday afternoon and this time it was Lisalverto Bonilla making his starting debut.
Bonilla became the eighth different starting pitcher used by the Reds this season and the fourth to make his Reds debut.
And afterward, nobody said, “You’re fired.” In fact, Bonilla was stunningly good against the San Francisco Giants in AT&T Park.
UNFORTUNATELY FOR HIM AND the Reds, the offense was absent without leave again and Bonilla was charged with a 3-1 defeat.
Making his first Major League start since 2014 for the Texas Rangers, the soon-to-be 27-year-old right handed Dominican, was credited with a complete game. And a loss.
He pitched eight innings (the Giants didn’t bat in the bottom of the ninth) and gave up three runs, six hits, walked two and struck out five. It was only the sixth time in the last five years a Reds pitcher threw a complete game and lost.
Unfortunately for him and the Reds, two of the six hits he gave up were solo home runs, a bolt to right field by Brandon Belt in the first inning and a 420-foot blast by No. 8 hitter Justin Ruggiano in the second, his first of the season.
AND BOTH CAME TWO OUTS in the inning. The third run came in the seventh on Michael Morse’s leadoff single and Kelby Tomlinson’s infield hit to shortstop.
After tearing the Giants asunder last week in Great American Ball Park, winning three straight and outscoring the Giants 31-5, the Reds have scored six runs in the first three games this week in San Francisco.
And they’ve managed to win one of those games, 3-2, Thursday. But they lost, 3-2, in 17 innings Friday and 3-1 Saturday.
IT WASN’T AS IF THE Reds didn’t have chance after chance. They were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11. They left seven on base in the first three innings and didn’t score against Giants starter Matt Moore, 1-and-4 with a 6.52 earned run average when the day began.
—They had two on with one out in the first before Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez both flied out.
—They loaded the bases after the first two Reds made outs in the second, but Arismendy Alcantara struck out.
—They had two on with one out in the third before Scott Schebler lined to third and Patrick Kivlehan struck out.
After the two home runs against Bonilla in the first two innings it stayed 2-0 until Scott Schebler led the sixth with his 10th home run. That’s all the Reds would get, though.
BECAUSE THE TWO TEAMS went 17 innings Friday night, emptying their bullpens, they needed length from their starters and got it. Bonilla went eight and San Francisco’s Moore went 7 1/3 innings, giving up one run, eight hits, three walks and struck out seven in a gutty 120-pitch performance.
Moore pitched into the eighth and when he gave up a one-out double to Schebler he was replaced by Hunter Strickland, making his third straight appearance in the series. Kivlehan popped to shortstop on the first pitch and after Strickland balked Schebler to third Devin Mesoraco grounded to second.
Jose Peraza walked with one out in the ninth against Giants closer Derek Law. Alcantara lined hard to center field and Joey Votto popped to shortstop on the first pitch and that was that.
BILLY HAMILTON WAS NOT in the starting lineup and is nursing a strained calf he suffered swinging at a pitch in the 17th inning Friday. Manager Bryan Price said the day off was not injury-directed. It was a planned day off.
Because of the 17-inning game, Price did rest shortstop Zack Cozart. Jose Peraza moved from second to shortstop and Alcantara played second. To cover Hamilton, Schebler moved move right field to center and Kivlehan played right field.
Schebler had two hits, the only Cincinnati hitter with more than one hit, after he had three in the 17-inning game, the only Cincinnati hitter with more than two hits.
After winning the first four games of the year against the Giants, the Reds have lost two straight and the four-game series finishes Sunday afternoon in AT&T Park.