By HAL McCOY
Just when the young pitchers on the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff have found their groove, the offense has fallen out of the groove.
After beating two of baseball’s best pitchers — New York’s Jacob deGrom on Thursday and Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole on Friday, the Reds put their bats into hibernation.
They went 18 innings without scoring a run. They pushed across an unearned run in the ninth inning Sunday to avoid back-to-back shutouts.
Just as they wasted an excellent effort Saturday by Tyler Mahle in a 5-0 loss, they wasted an outstanding effort by Sal Romano Sunday in a 3-1 loss.
Romano gave up two runs (one earned) and four hits over 5 2/3 innings, but watched his teammates litter the bases with stranded baserunners.
Amazingly, the Reds put their leadoff batter on base in six of the nine innings and couldn’t dent home plate until the ninth against starter Trevor Williams and the Pittsburgh bullpen.
Williams shut the Reds down on no runs and eight hits over seven innings, walking one and striking out five.
Jordy Mercer, a light-hitting shortstop, cracked a leadoff home run against Romano in the third inning. The unearned run came in the sixth, an inning that started when Reds catcher Chad Wallach dropped foul pop by Max Moroff. Moroff singled on the next pitch and eventually scored on a single by rookie call-up Jordan Luplow.
The third run scored on a home run given up in the seventh inning by Starling Marte that made it 3-0.
But here is how it went offensively when they went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners.
FIRST INNING: Billy Hamilton led with a single, but got picked off base. Joey Votto doubled with two outs but Adam Duvall flied to right.
THIRD INNING: Sal Romano led with a double and was bunted to third. But Jose Peraza grounded to short and Joey Votto flied to center.
FOURTH INNING: Adam Duvall beat an infield single and Scooter Gennett beat out a bunt, to put runners on second and first with no outs. But Eugenio Suarez hit into a double play and Scott Schebler struck out.
SIXTH INNING: Joey Votto led with a single and Eugenio Suarez singled with two outs, but Scott Schebler struck out again.
EIGHTH INNING: Jose Peraza beat an infield single but Joey Votto hit into a double play.
NINTH INNING: Scotter Gennett walked, took second uncontested and moved to third on a balk against Pittsburgh closer Felipe Rivero. After Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schebler struck out (Schebler’s third whiff), pinch-hitter Zack Cozart blooped one to shallow right field that second baseman Max Moroff dropped for an error as Gennett scored.
Rivero then walked Billy Hamilton, loading the bases, putting the potential tying run on second base. But Phillip Ervin grounded to the mound for a game-ending force play.