By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Remember when the Cincinnati Reds had a trade in place that would have sent second baseman Brandon Phillips to the Washington Nationals for two trinkets and a couple of baubles?
Phillips tossed sugar into the tank of the deal, invoking his vested no-trade rights, and the deal was dead.
So the Nationals were left still looking for a second baseman and they found one even better than Brandon Phillips.
THEY SIGNED NEW YORK METS free agent second baseman Daniel Murphy to a three-year $37.5 million deal. And the deal has been a steal.
Murphy made his heavy-handed presence felt Sunday afternoon against Reds starter Homer Bailey in Great American Ball Park — two home runs, a single and five runs batted in to lead the Nationals to a 14-4 victory.
And he isn’t just making life miserable for the Reds and Bailey. He is pummeling everybody — .348 with 16 home runs and 71 runs batted in.
MURPHY WASN’T THE ONLY Nats batter swinging heavy timber. They hit five home runs — two off Bailey, one off Ariel Hernandez and two off Drew Storen.
It was Washington’s third straight win of the series and the second day in a row they scored 10 or more runs. They’ve done it 17 times this season, most in the majors. They’ve outscored the Reds 29-11 in the first three games of this four-game series.
WHILE MANAGER BRYAN PRICE believes it is a legitimate question about the rust and decay of Bailey’s arm while missing most of the last three years. he doesn’t want to make excuses for him every time a bad outing pops its ugly head.
And Bailey won’t do it, either.
“This is unique to this individual (Bailey),” said Price. “I don’t like ever to make excuses for performance. And I don’t think players like it, either.
“We can fall back on reasons why guys don’t perform and in the end players want to be judged by performance without excuses,” he added. “We don’t like to throw out all these caveats as to why they don’t perform. Homer has one (excuse) right there. He has pitched very little over the last three years. However, I don’t want this to be a talking point, even though it is a legitimate question. But I don’t want to come back to it to justify poor outings.”
Price feels that Bailey will splice together more good ones than bad ones and doesn’t want to dwell on the three elbow surgeries and the long rehab process when Bailey gets beat up.
“You have to talk about it as much as we have in the first five games,” said Price. “That’s because it is what I don’t like — and that’s excuses. Just go out there and perform better.”
THE THING IS, AFTER TWO hellaciously bad starts in his first two outings, Bailey was outstanding in his last two at Colorado and Arizona. This one was just a clinker.
“I just need to be a little more consistent on where I’m making my pitches,” said Bailey. “It is just about cleaning up the delivery. If you are off an inch at the mound it is going to four inches at the plate.
“I was erratic,” he said. “I’d make a good pitch and then make a horrible pitch and pay for it,” said Bailey. “That’s a really good hitting team and the numbers show it and they’ve had our number this year. We lost this game because of starting pitching. No excuses.”
WHEN THE GAME BEGAN, the Nationals had lost the last five games started right hander Tanner Roark. But they won this one with heavy offense and Roark holding the Reds to three runs, all unearned, and four hits over six innings.
Scooter Gennett drove in three of the Reds four runs with two singles and an infield out.
Bailey’s line was a not-so-handsome four innings, eight runs, eight hits and two walks.
Murphy’s first home run was a two-run rip in the top of the first. The Nats scored two more in the second and the Reds scored two in the third.
Bailey walked the first two in the fifth and Murphy unloaded again, a three-run smash to make it 7-2 and the Reds were overcooked.
“Aw, geez, Murphy is a wrecking crew,” said Price. “He’s a really good player, man. And it is not just the power. He killed us against Luis Castillo with a double to left center. He has hit some line shots over the shortstop, power to right, power to left center. He understands the strike zone and that’s a nice combination.”
ON THE SEMI-POSITIVE SIDE, right fielder Jesse Winker made his first major league start in the outfield (he has DHed) and reach base four of the five times he batted — a single and three walks.
But, since the resumption of play since the All-Star game the Reds are 0-and-3 and have played three of the ugliest games over a three-game span in three years.
Asked if that was deflating, Price quickly said, “ What do you think? Yeah, it is. It doesn’t mean w’ere going to deflate, but you’re darn right it is deflating right now.
“It certainly isn’t anything anybody envisioned,” he added. “Sure, it’s Washington and they’re atop their division. That doesn’t matter. We’ve played good clubs and we’ve won games. You can’t give up 14 runs. You can’t give up 10 runs (Saturday’s 10-7 loss). You are not going to win those games. We have to get to the point where we aren’t talking abut 14 and 10-run games as often as we have this year.”