By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — There is little on a baseball field at which Joey Votto doesn’t excel, all the metrics reveal that.
Base running, though, is not something he does with success because his instincts on the base paths are suspect and he is the second slowest runner on the Cincinnati Reds behind Tucker Barnhart.
It all surfaced clearly in the 12th inning Wednesday night in Great American Ball Park, a 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
After the Reds bullpen pitched six scoreless innings, the Pirates broke through in the top of the 12th for a run on Cincinnati native Josh Harrison’s run-scoring two-out triple, his fourth hit, to push the Pirates in front, 5-4.
Then came the bottom of the 12th and Votto’s Great Misadventure. This isn’t to lay blame at Votto’s spikes because so many things happened in this game — 14 stranded base runners by the Reds to 15 for the Pirates. But Votto’s three-fourths trip around the bases was glaring and came at game-deciding time.
—Votto was 0 for 5 when he came to bat in the 12th and pulled a ball into the right field corner, where it kicked around. A fleet man, a Billy Hamilton, would have roared into third standing up. Votto is not fleet, but he probably should have turned the hit into a triple. Instead he stopped at second for a double.
—Scooter Gennett lobbed a single to center. If Votto had been on third, he would have tied the game. As it was, from second base he probably could have made it close at home if he tried to score. But he stopped at third.
—The Reds had runners at third and first with no outs, down a run. Eugenio Suarez lined one hard to left field. Corey Dickson charged hard and made the catch with his momentum carrying him toward home plate.
Should Votto have tagged up and tried to score the tying run? Maybe. Maybe not. The major problem was what was coming up to bat.
Manager Jim Riggleman was out of pinch-hitters so pitcher Dylan Floro had to bat for only the fourth time in his major league career. Of course he struck out. The Pirates intentionally walked Eugenio Suarez to load the bases, but they knew a raw rookie was batting behind him.
Brandon Dixon was making only his fourth plate appearance on the second night of his major league career. He grounded out to shortstop to end the game.
The Mystery Ride of Homer Bailey continued and it’s a Lonesome Road this Texas horseman is riding.
Bailey started his 11th game this season and for the 10th time the Reds lost. He didn’t get a personal ‘L’ on his 1-and-6 record because after he fell behind, 4-0, in the sixth inning, the Reds came back to tie it and wipe away his loss.
As so often has happened in this troubled season for Bailey, the first inning put him into an immediate ditch. And, yes, a home run was involved.
He walked Gregory Blanco with one out in the first and gave up a home run to Francisco Cervelli, the 13th home run he has given up in his 11 starts.
He also gave up a run in the fifth and a run in the sixth when he didn’t retire a batter before leaving with a 4-0 deficit to the surprisingly good Pirates. His day’s work was five-plus innings, four runs, seven hits, three walks, three strikeouts.
Bailey, though, remains upbeat about where he is headed.
“A hanging slider in the first inning (to Cervelli) beat us,” he said. “Outside of that, I felt things were pretty good. It was just a good baseball game and they got the better of us on this one.
“The funny thing is this one and the one before this, when I got to the tapes and look at the execution rate they are actually fairly high,” Bailey added. “We’re doing everything necessary to change what’s happening. We’re executing pitches, the numbers show that we are, we’re just not getting the results that we want.”
The Reds were stymied by Pittsburgh’s 25-year-old Chad Kuhl, a right hander whose Twitter handle is @KuhlWhhip_11 and he, indeed, coolly whipped the Reds.
He held them to one run and five hits over six-plus innings. By the time Scooter Gennett connected for a solo home run in the sixth inning the Pirates were already up four and Scooter’s ninth home run just made it 4-1.
When Reds closer Raisel Iglesias was placed on the 10-day disabled list before the game, the Reds called up Tanner Rainey from Class AAA Louisville and manager Jim Riggleman quickly placed him into service.
Bailey gave up three straight hits to open the sixth, including a bunt by pitcher Kuhl that rolled past third baseman Eugenio Suarez that enabled Austin Meadows to score from second base.
Rainey walked the first batter he faced, filling the bases with no outs. Then, methodically, he struck out Gregory Blanco, struck out Francisco Cervelli and finished the inning by coaxing a tapper back to the mound from Josh Bell.
He walked Corey Dickerson to open the sixth, but retired the next three without Dickerson budging off first base.
Rainey gave the Reds two scoreless innings, followed by one inning each by Jackson Stephens, Jared Hughes, Michael Lorenzen and one inning from Floro until the fateful 12th.
The Reds scored three runs in the eighth against Pittsburgh set-up man Michael Feliz, who had not allowed a run in the eighth inning in five appearances.
They filled the bases with one out and scored one run on a long, hard line drive to left center by Eugenio Suarez that was caught, giving Suarez a sacrifice fly. Pinch-hitter Alex Blandino then looped a two-strike run-scoring single top to left, cutting Pittsburgh’s lead to 4-3.
Then with the potential tying run on second and the potential lead run on first, Jose Peraza drilled a game-tying single to center field and it was 4-4. With runners on third and second pinch-hitter Brandon Dixon struck out.
And that’s where is stuck until the 12th.
Manager Jim Riggleman was happy with the spunk and combativeness of his team that scratched back from four runs down to take it into three extra innings before losing.
“We were in trouble all night,” he said. “Bailey was in some jams and got out of them. Our bullpen were in trouble throughout the night and pitched out of it — just really did a nice job.
“That was a great ball game, a great effort by everybody involved. Unfortunately we have to say that in a losing cause but I’m proud of the way our guys got after it, especially being down 4-0 midway through the game.”