By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds wore their olive green-trimmed uniforms to honor the military Friday night in Great American Ball Park and played with military-like precision.
And the drill instructor was Reds starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, perfection personified while pitching the Reds to a 3-0 victory over the first place Arizona Diamondbacks.
DeSclafani held the D-Backs to no runs and three lonely singles over seven-plus innings and the longer he pitched the stronger he got.
There is a secret to DeSclafani’s successful modus operandi. During his career, if he can pitch seven or more innings without walking a batter, he wins. And he did it Friday night, pushing his record to 8-1 for the nine starts during which he issued no walks and stuck around for seven-plus innings. As a bonus he struck out nine.
“No, I didn’t know that,” he said about his 8-and-1 record when he goes seven or more innings with no walks. “I’ll try to do that more often then. That’s something I try not to give up a lot of. I ran into a couple of three-ball counts but was able to wiggle out of.
“I had everything working and this game was put together pretty well for me,” he added. “I felt pretty good about it.”
And what else? He didn’t give up a home run, something he has had difficulty ducking this season — 15 home runs in 59 2/3 inning when the night began.
“DeSclafani set the tone for this one because he was outstanding,” said manager Jim Riggleman. Just great pitching, old-fashioned baseball, two guys locked up in a good ball game.”
The Diamondbacks wore those plug-ugly dark cloud gray road uniforms, a uniform that is as comfortable for D-Backs pitcher Clay Buchholz as a pair of old pajamas.
In fact, any old road uniform feels good on Buchholz’s back because he is the ultimate road warrior.
Since 2009, his third year in the majors, he leads baseball in road percentage at .685 (48-22), but even though he pitched admirably Friday he lost this one despite shutting down the Reds with only one run over six innings.
That run came in the in sixth on singles by Jose Peraza and Joey Votto and a sacrifice fly by Eugenio Suarez to make it 1-0.
That’s all DeSclafani needed on this night.
“For all the years I’ve been here his last couple of starts are the best I’ve seen from him with good velocity and finishing his breaking pitches,” said Riggleman. “He was really good and that’s a good lineup he faced, a first-place team coming in here knowing they have to win games. They have a lot of good, professional hitters and Anthony was up to the task.”
Some Billy Hamilton excitement led to two runs in the seventh after Tucker Barnhart doubled and Anthony DeSclafani singled. Manager Jim Riggleman put on the suicide squeeze. With Barnhart running on the pitch, Hamilton dragged a perfect bunt up the first base line. And when pitcher Buchhholz panicked and threw the ball into right field, DeSclafani also scored all the way from first to make it 3-0.
“My hit and going first to third to home was probably the most exciting part of the night,” said DeSclafani. “That was the first time I was ever a part of a squeeze play so I just waited until Tucker broke from third, then waited for Billy to get the ball down and it was perfect.
“The ball went into right field, so I was just hauling and there was (third base coach) Billy Hatcher waving his arm and I’m saying, ‘This is kind of fun, just don’t miss the bags,’ that’s what I was trying not to do, miss the bags.”
Hamilton allowed as how he finally learned something about bunting. Instead of running as he bunted, as he tries to do when bunting for a hit, he squared and waiting for the pitch, put down the bunt and then ran.”
And everything worked perfectly.
“That’s what has been missing for me my whole career,” said Hamilton. “I guess I don’t realize how really fast I am and that’s why I’ve tried to bunt the ball and run at the same time. That’s why I’m always fouling the ball on bunts off or not getting the bunt down.
“I rush it. Not tonight, though,” he said. “I knew I had to get the bunt down and I wasn’t trying to get a hit. I stayed in there and bunt the ball, get it down. With Barnhart coming down the line I had to get it down no matter where it is pitched. I stayed in there and waited and got a good bunt down.
“Now I know I can do that, this is what I can do,” he added. “I’m going to practice bunting and then running.”
Not only did he get it down, he got it down perfectly, a roller right up and inside the first base line.
“I thought the ball was going to cut to the right and go foul, but it stayed right there. . .so thank the grounds crew.”
When DeSclafani gave up a leadoff single in the eighth, only the third hit, he was replaced by Jared Hughes and DeSclafani was given a rousing standing ovation as the trudged to the dugout.
Hughes gave up a one-out single but then did what Hughes does — he coaxed an inning-ending double play out of Alex Avila.