By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — As Lou Brown, mythical manager of the Cleveland Indians said in the movie Major League II, “We won a game yesterday so if we win one today that’s two in a row. If we win one tomorrow that’s called a winning streak. It has happened before.”
It hasn’t happened yet for the Cincinnati Reds this season.
The Reds won a game Monday and won a game Tuesday, one win away from Lou Brown’s definition of a winning streak.
They couldn’t make it three, though, because the Atlanta Braves scored a run in the top of the ninth to score a 5-4 victory in front of another barroom-sized gathering in Great American Ball Park.
Recent habits resurfaced in this one when the Reds had the bases loaded with no outs in the first and didn’t score, had the bases loaded with one out in the seventh and didn’t score. And they had two on with one out in the third and didn’t score.
“We made things a little tough for (starting pitcher) Brandon Finnegan a little bit early,” said manager Jim Riggleman. “We missed some opportunities. But we did put four up late (all four runs they scored came in the fifth), even though we missed a couple of chances earlier.”
Finnegan pitched five innings and gave up three runs, seven hits, walked one and struck out four.
A 12-inning game Tuesday forced Reds Riggleman to use up the best in his bullpen.
“After they pitched Tuesday, I was staying away from Amir Garrett and Jared Hughes for sure,” said Riggleman. “I wanted to do all I could to stay away from Wandy Peralta and Raisel Iglesias. With the meat of the Atlanta order coming up (in the ninth), to use Iglesias a third straight day might be wasted effort and then I definitely wouldn’t have him tomorrow.”
So the bullpen was bare when it came to the eighth inning and the Reds were trying to protect a 4-3 lead.
Kevin Shackelford, fresh off the disabled list, was first up in the eighth and he gave up the tying run. And when he hit a batter and gave up a single to start the ninth, his night was done.
It was a tough assignment for recently called up Dylan Floro and he almost worked out of it. But he gave up what was called a double, a bad hop chopper that glanced off shortstop Cliff Pennington’s glove into left field, hit by Johan Camargo, that drove in the winning run.
Adam Duvall came about five centimeters shy of tying the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. His long, hard and big drive to right center was caught by Ender Inciarte with his butt against the wall.
“I sure thought I got enough of it,” said Duvall. “I don’t know, I thought I got it good enough. Yeah, just the way things are going.”
Said Riggleman, “With the weather a little warmer the ball is carrying better. Duvall hit it OK, but when he really gets ‘em they go a long way.”
The game marked the major league debut of super stud Ronald Acuna, rated the top prospect in baseball. The Braves called him up Wednesday and planted him directly into the lineup, batting sixth and playing left field.
“I am going to approach it like a minor league game at the major league level,” Acuna said before the game. And when he gazed into the stands and saw an ocean of empty red seats he probably felt as if he was just off the bus in some Triple-A town.
He swung at the first major league pitch he saw from Cincinnati’s Brandon Finnegan and nearly hit a three-run home run. The ball was caught at the base of the wall. He swung at the first pitch he saw in his second at bat and lined out hard to right field, stranding two more runners. After striking out in his third at bat, he banged his first major league hit, a single up the middle off Kevin Shackleford in the eighth inning and scored a run that tied the game, 4-4.
The Braves scored a run in the first when Atlanta leadoff hitter Ender Inciarte singled to left off Finnegan. Inciarte stole second and scored when second baseman Scooter Gennett threw wildly to first on Ozzie Albies grounder.
The first three batters in the bottom of the first singled off Atlanta starter Matt Wisler — bingle, bangle, bungle. Jesse Winker singled on the first pitch and Jose Peraza single on the second pitch. Joey Votto tried to hold up his swing and chinked a single to left field, filling the bases with no outs.
And, alas, no runs. Scooter Gennett flied to shallow center field and Adam Duvall hit into a double play.
The Braves pushed it to 2-0 in the third on another single by Inciarte, a bloop single by Freddie Freeman and a run-scoring double into the left field corner by Johan Camargo.
Singles by Winker and Votto put runners on second and first with one out in the third. Again, no runs. Gennett popped to second and Duvall also popped to second. Through three innings the Reds had six singles and no runs, stranding five.
The score climbed to 3-0 in the fifth on the seventh home run of the season hit by Ozzie Albies, this one off the left field foul pole.
Joey Votto hit his first home run of the season Tuesday night and made it back-to-back nights when he followed a walk to Winker with a home run to left field, cutting his team’s deficit to 3-2. And there was more excitement that inning, a four-run outburst that tied the game.
Wisler walked Duvall on a full count and Scott Schebler shot a double up the left center gap. Duvall tried to score from first and was called out, ending the inning.
But a replay-review that took 2 minutes and six seconds revealed that Duvall slide under the tag and he was ruled safe, tying it 3-3. Tucker Barnhart followed with another run-scoring double and the Reds led, 4-3.
The Reds missed a chance to break it open in the seventh when they again left the bases loaded. They were filled with one out but Tucker Barnhart and Alex Blandino both struck out.
And the Braves immediately tied it, 4-4, in the top of the eighth against Shackelford on three singles, the last a run-scoring shot up by middle to Kurt Suzuki.