By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — The 2017 baseball season for the Cincinnati Reds is fast deteriorating into a new TV game called ‘How Many?’
How many games can they lose? They reached 86 defeats Wednesday night in Great American Ball Park when they were punctured by the St. Louis Cardinals, 9-2.
How many home runs can they give up? After setting a major league record last year with 258, they gave up three Wednesday night to push their 2017 total to 240 with 10 games remaining.
How many pitchers can they use? When Keury Mella made his major league debut in relief Wednesday he was the 17th Reds player this year to make a debut and he was the 31st different pitcher to toe the rubber for the Reds this season.
How many leadoff home runs to start a game can they give up? When Matt Carpenter led the game with a home run off Rookie Davis, he was the fourth opponent to hit a game-leading home run off Cincinnati pitching.
How many back-to-back home runs can they give up? For the second straight night the Cardinals went back-to-back. When Dexter Fowler and Paul DeJong went back-to-back during a four-run third inning against Rookie Davis, it was the ninth time this year the opposition has hit back-to-backers against the Reds.
DAVIS SURVIVED ONLY THREE innings and gave up five runs and five hit, including Carpenter’s first-inning home run and the back-to-backers by Fowler and DeJong in the third.
Mella, a 23-year-old right hander from the Dominican Republic, went 1-2-3 in his first major league inning. But he issued a one-out walk, a double, an intentional walk and a two-run double to Yadier Molina in his second inning, the fifth, for a 7-0 Cardinals lead.
The Reds did nothing against St. Louis rookie Luke Weaver (7-1, 2.05 earned run average) until the fifth. Jose Peraza singled and scored on Patrick Kivlehan’s double. Kivlehan scored on Jesse Winker’s two-out double and it was 7-2.
St. Louis retrieved one of those runs in the sixth against Luke Farrell on Tommy Pham’s bases loaded bloop single to right to make it 8-2.
ON A LESS SOMBER NOTE, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth rookie catcher Chad Wallach singled to right field for his first major league — and the Reds sixth hit of the night.
It was just another hard-earned lesson for a Reds rookie, a real rookie in Rookie Davis.
“Just some deep counts for Rookie and the Cardinals got to see a lot of pitches and their hits were on the barrel and unfortunately in the air,” said manager Bryan Price.
IT STARTED – AND ENDED – with leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter. Davis went deep into the count, 3-and-2, and Carpenter barreled up the next pitch and put it high in the air and over the wall.
“They had a chance to see his stuff early and he is a work in progress,” Price added. During spring training and early in the season Davis was throwing 94 and 95 miles an hour. On Wednesday his best was at 91 and 92. A concern?
“Not for me,” said Price. “During spring training your arm is fresh and your outings are shorter. In September you’ve logged a lot of innings and this is a whole different environment.
“Everybody wants so badly to impress us,” Price added. “There is so much more on the line — the games count, the stats count. These guys want nothing more than to go out and pitch a great game for us. The only way to do that is to run them out there and let them pitch and let them learn. But you want to see some positive results for their benefit.”
AMAZINGLY, PRICE WATCHED Davis throw in the bullpen a couple of days ago between starts and said, “He could not have thrown the ball any better for command and. . .but, that’s the bullpen. I haven’t lost confidence but he just hasn’t made good so far on his opportunities.”
Davis agreed with his manager’s assessment and said, “Bottom line, I didn’t pitch a good enough ball game for us to win. There were some positive things, some quality pitches, but really I had fastball command. But against a good team like that you can’t throw your secondary pitches across for strikes.
“When I tried to get a chase with two strikes it was nowhere near the zone,” Davis added. “It’s tough when this happens because you want to throw a quality start so we can get a win. These guys (the Cardinals) are right in the thick of things so you want to beat them, especially at home.”