By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — An MLB Network segment of MLB Tonight Monday featured the return off the disabled list of San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner and St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez.
There was no mention of Anthony Desclafani, who has spent more time on the disabled list the last two years than Bumgarner and Martinez combined.
Maybe it was because Bumgarner and Martinez are pitching for contenders and Desclafani is pitching for a team with squatter’s rights on last place.
Disco, as his teammates calls him, hadn’t danced on a major league pitching mound since September 28, 2016 in St. Louis.
And for two innings the rust cascaded off him like a summer rain and the Colorado Rockies scored four runs, two in the first and two in the second. Then the mound became as comfortable to him as an old recliner for the final three innings of his night — no runs, one bunt hit, no walks, four strikeouts and he retired 10 of the last 11 he faced.
The Reds never rebounded from the early deficit, although they made some late noise before surrendering, 9-6, after scoring five runs in the seventh and ninth innings.
Manager Jim Riggleman was asked before the game about The Grand Plan for Disco and he said, “I hate to put limitations on players. We’ll put him out there and let him go as far as he can and we’ll see how it goes. This guy was on his way to a good career before injuries.”
His teammates, though, couldn’t help him out enough and scored only one run off left hander Kyle Freeland while Desclafani was on the mound. That was a bases empty home run in the fifth by Scott Schebler when the Reds were down four runs.
Desclafani’s start was ominous and the first four runners reached base with two crossing home plate. D.J. LeMahieu led the game with a single and scored on Charlie Blackmon’s triple into the right field corner. After Nolan Arenado walked, Carlo Gonzalez grounded to first and beat Joey Votto to the bag as Blackmon scored to make it 2-0.
It quickly became 4-0 in the second when Ian Desmond singled and No. 8 hitter and catcher Chris Ianetta reached the right field bleachers with a two-run homer. Desclafani retired 12 of the last 13 he faced but needed 91 pitches to cover those five innings.
“The rehab starts (for Desclafani) went well so we just hope he goes out there and takes us into the middle of the game and we’ll go from there,” said Riggleman.
Desclafani, after his shaky, wobbly start, took them through five innings and the Reds, though down three runs, were still in it.
“He has missed so much time I’m sure he’ll be excited, but he has thrown a lot,” Riggleman said before the game. “He has been in Double-A and Triple-A throwing a lot. After the initial few pitches and the jitters, I think he’ll be fine. His performance will dictate how long he goes. He is fine physically. We’ll go by what we see and react to that.”
And that’s exactly what happened. But bullpenners Austin Brice and Wandy Peralta let it slip away.
Disco left with a 4-1 deficit after five and another arm fresh off the disabled list, Austin Brice, took over. He looked a lot like Desclafani in his inning. He gave up two straight singles, record an out, then gave up a run-scoring single to Gerarado Parra.
With two outs and runners on third and second, No. 8 hitter Chris Ianetta was walked intentionally to load the bases so Brice could face opposing pitcher Kyle Freeland, he of the ,110 batting average. Brice fell behind 3-and-0, leveled the count at 3-and-2, then walked Freeland to force in a run and push Colorado’s lead to 6-1.
It got loose like one of the dogs in the right field stands on Bark in the Park night when Peralta took over in the seventh. A single, a walk and a long, long three-run home run to center field by Carlos Gonzalez, a long-time Reds slayer, made it 9-1.
“The first two innings were definitely not the way I wanted them to go,” said Desclafani. “But I was able to make an adjustment after the second inning. (Catcher) Tucker Barnhart told me to stay closed with my shoulder instead of flying open and that gave me better results.
“It felt great to be back out there competing and helping the guys,” he said. “I wish things had gone differently today. No question, I had adrenaline. I was excited to be back out there. I’’m glad I’m competing, but at the same time this isn’t spring training, it is not a rehab start, these games count. To go down 4-0 after two innings is not acceptable. I have to start off better and not get in the hole early.”
Riggleman gave Disco a free pass for the two innings of struggles.
“He did fine after the first couple of innings and maybe a little rust on him,” said Riggleman. “He left a breaking ball up in the first inning with two strikes on Blackmon and he hit into the right field corner. Then the home run — then he settled down. The ball was coming out of his hand good and we are very pleased with the results after the first couple of innings. He minimized his pitches the last three innings and looked like his old self.”
The Reds scored two in the seventh and chased Freeland, but the inning ended curiously. With two outs and two on, Joey Votto singled to left field. Two outs. Ball hit to left field. Jesse Winker, not fleet of foot, running from second.
Shouldn’t he be stopped at third? He wasn’t. He tried to score and was called out at home. After a replay/review challenge by the Reds the out call stood and the inning was over and the Reds were six runs down 9-3.
Newly acquired catcher Chirs Casali led the ninth with a pinch-hit double that led to three runs to make it 9-6. What was once a 9-1 Rockies lead was 9-6 in the ninth with two outs and two on and Scott Schebler, the potential tying at the plate. That forced the Rockies to bring in their closer, Wade Davis, and he struck out Schebler on three pitches for his 19th save.
The Reds got eight hits from the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the batting order — three by Tucker Barnhart, three by Joey Votto and two by Eugenio Suarez, They had 17 hits, 14 singles, but still lost by three runs.