By HAL McCOY
Anybody familiar with hit-and-run and suicide squeeze in baseball knows that no lead in Coors Field is safe.
A three-run lead after the top of the third is the slimmest of leads in the park known as Hitter’s Paradise.
The Cincinnati Reds knew that going in against the Colorado Rockies Friday night and, sure enough, it wasn’t enough and they dropped a 5-4 decision.
The Reds came out swinging in the first three innings against Rockies starter Jon Gray, constructing a 4-1 lead in the top of the third for Reds starter Sal Romano.
Then the Reds quit swinging — or at least they quit hitting. After Eugenio Suarez hit a one-out, two-run in the third for that 4-1 lead, the Reds had three singles over the last 5 2/3 innings. For the Reds, Hitter’s Paradise became Paradise Lost.
The Reds had four runs and five his against Gray in the first three innings and it looked as if he would have a short night. But over his last three innings he gave up no runs and one hit.
It all added up to the Reds 35th loss in their last 53 games in Coors.
Three of the first four Reds singled in the top of the first — Tucker Barnhart, Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett to give the Reds a 1-0 lead. Eugenio Suarez was hit by a pitch to fill the bases with one out.
A big inning? Nope. Scott Schebler hit into a force play to drive in a run and Jose Peraza flied out and it was 2-0.
All-world third baseman Nolan Arenado hit a home run in the bottom of the first to cut the lead to 2-1.
Votto doubled to open the third and Suarez cracked a home run for his league-leading 40th RBI and the Reds led, 4-1.
Romano, though, gave up three runs in the bottom of the third. He walked Arenado to load the bases with one out and Gerardo Parra stroked a two-run single to center to make it 4-3.
Trevor Story was walked intentionally to fill the bases and the Reds got a force out at home for the second out. That brought up Rockies catcher Tony Walters, hitting .130. Romano walked him on a full count, forcing in the tying run.
“That’s unacceptable,” Romano told the media after the game. “That cost us the game.”
Well, that and the bats the Reds took to the plate with holes in the barrels after the third inning.
Romano walked Wolters again leading off the sixth inning. Pinch-hitter Noel Cuevas tripled into the right field corner for a 5-4 Rockies lead.
That walk to Wolters REALLY cost the Reds the game.
From there until the end both bullpens shut everything down. Wandy Peralta pitched a scoreless inning with a walk, Tanner Rainey faced one batter and got an inning-ending double play and Michael Lorenzen pitched a 1-2-3 inning.
But the Rockies are in first place in the National League West due in one respect to their shut down bullpen and the Reds saw three of their best.
Mike Dunn gave up a leadoff single to Tucker Barnhart in the seventh but Joey Votto, 1 for 13 against Dunn, hit into a double play.
Then came Adam Ottavino, owner of a 0.98 earned run average. Suarez opened the eighth with a single. He moved to second on Scott Schebler’s ground ball, putting the potential tying run on second with one out. But Jose Peraza flied to left and pinch-hitter Adam Duvall flied to center.
The Reds were then forced to face Wade Davis, one of baseball’s best closers. Billy Hamilton swung at the first pitch and flied to center. Davis then finished them off by striking out both Jesse Winker and Tucker Barnhart for his 18th save in 20 opportunities.
Barnhart, Votto and Suarez each had two hits, but the Reds were 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base.
Romano, now 2-and-6 with a 5.89 earned run average, pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up five runs, eight hits and four walks.