By HAL McCOY
If what happened Thursday afternoon was a joke, Cincinnati Reds rookie pitcher Sal Romano was the butt of it.
But (butt?) it was no joke to the Reds, who lost for the 92nd time this season, a 4-3 decision to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Romano was pretty much holding the Brewers in place in the sixth inning, a 3-3 tie. He struck out Domingo Santana to start the inning and he retired the second hitter, too.
But the out was a line drive off the bat of Stephen Vogt that smacked Roman directly in the posterior. He walked around the mound a bit and was checked out by the athletic trainer and deemed himself able to continue.
For sure, he continued with the autograph of baseball commissioner Rob Manfred on his butt check.
But with two outs and nobody on, Romano walked Orlando Arcia on a full count and No. 8 hitter Brett Phillips doubled to deep center to score Arcia — the winning run.
And that was the end of Romano’s day. He pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up four runs (three earned), seven hits, walked two, struck out seven and used 113 pitches to get that far.
Romano finished the season 5-and-8 with a 4.45 earned run average. Coming into the game he was 3-and-2 with a 2.95 ERA in his previous seven starts.
The Reds were up against left hander and Cincinnati native Brent Suter and grabbed a 1-0 in the fourth. But it could have been 2-0.
Billy Hamilton singled to open the inning. He tried to steal second, but left too soon and Suter threw to first and Hamilton was nailed at second.
Patrick Kivlehan, playing third base for Eugenio Suarez, then homered, his ninth in limited playing time.
Milwaukee tied it, 1-1, in the bottom of the fourth when Romano hit Santana with a pitch, Fogt singled and Santana scored on Arcia’s sacrifice fly.
The Reds had a chance for a big inning in the fifth when they loaded the bases with one out. But both Romano and Hamilton struck out.
Milwaukee scored two in the fifth to grab a 3-1 lead. Aided by Hamilton’s error in center field. Eric Sogard singled. Neil Walker shot one to center field. The ball skipped past Hamilton and Sogard scored from first and Walker ended up on third. It was ruled a double and an error with no RBI. Walker then scored on Ryan Braun’s single.
The Reds tied it 3-3 with two runs in the sixth, yet missed a chance for a real big inning. They opened the inning with four straight hits for two runs. And they had the bases loaded with no outs.
They didn’t score another run. Adam Duvall struck out and catcher Stuart Turner hit into a double play.
After the Brewers grabbed the 4-3 lead in the sixth, Hamilton walked with one out in the seventh and stole second. He stayed there when Kivlehan struck out, Joey Votto was walked intentionally and Scooter Gennett flied to left.
The Reds were forced to face Milwaukee closer Corey Knebel in the ninth and the hard-throwing right hander, hitting 98 and 99 miles an hour, struck out pinch-hitter Scott Schebler on three pitches, struck out Hamilton and ended the game by getting Kivlehan to ground out.
The win enabled the Brewers to remain alive for the second wild card spot. They trail the Colorado Rockies by two games with three left. The Brewers play their final three in St. Louis while the Rockies have three with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Meanwhile, the Reds close the season with three meaningless games against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field.