By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — When the Cleveland Indians came to town, the Cincinnati Reds actually had something to play for, a reachable goal.
They could have won the not-so-coveted Ohio Cup, a nearly secret trinket dangled in front of the Tribe and the Reds.
Whichever team wins the season series gets possession of the Ohio Cup. By winning two of three in Cleveland earlier this season all the Reds needed was to take two of three from the Tribe this weekend in Great American Ball Park and the O-Cup was theirs.
Hey, little things mean a lot.
It was not to be. For the second straight night the Reds took a terrible thrashing from the Tribe, 8-1, after losing Monday night, 10-3.
Link those two losses with Sunday’s 9-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Reds have lost three straight and were outscored 27-6 and outhit 38-22.
By winning the first two games the Indians can keep the cup because they lead the series three games to two with one game remaining. And since the Indians already possess the cup, the Reds have to win the season series. A tie goes to the cup’s current possessor.
They even came up with a gimmick name that went over like a rain cloud at a picnic. They called the series The ‘Nati vs. The Land.
Well, for certain in the first two games The Land knocked the ‘Cincin’ out of Cincinnati, leaving only the ‘Nati.’
The Indians had four runs before Reds starter Sal Romano coerced an out in the top of the first inning. Giving Cleveland starter and 14-game winner Corey Kluber a 4-0 running start before he throws his first pitch is like giving a raw steak to a mongrel dog — it ain’t coming back.
Kluber was as advertised and promised — seven innings, one run, five hits, two walks, seven strikeouts and one very easy victory. Kluber held the first four batters in the Reds order to 0 for 12 with five strikeouts. Jose Peraza, Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett all went 0 for 3 and Votto struck out twice. For the game, that quartet went 0 for 16 with six strikeouts
“We know how good Kluber is, but that was really some good pitching,” said manager Jim Riggleman. “We’re running into a buzz saw and we are going to come out of it. You go through this and we have to come out of it sooner than later.”
And just to make it more difficult, Romano gave up two more runs in the second to give the Tribe a 6-0 lead. Romano lasted only 1 2/3 innings and gave up six runs, seven hits and two walks. He retired five batters and nine reached base.
This came just one start after Romano held the New York Mets to one run and two hits over six innings. But the first place Indians are not the struggling Mets.
“They found the holes, but I fell behind every single hitter I faced,” said Romano. “That’s unacceptable. I was on a pretty good run then this kind of ruins that. Back to work tomorrow.”
Asked if there was anything positive he could take out of this night other than he didn’t get hurt, Romano said, “No. There is nothing I can take out of this game. Yes, there was some soft contact and a lot of singles. But there is no excuse. I have to get ahead of guys and make pitches. I’m not going to get away with that kind of stuff against a team like that.”
Manager Jim Riggleman was more forgiving about Big Sally’s short-lived evening.
“We want Sal to get ground balls and he got ground balls, but they all found holes and there wasn’t much we could do about it,” said Riggleman. “He was fighting an uphill battle. A couple of them were sharply hit, good hitting, but of some of them a foot or two the other way might have been a double play ball.”
Francisco Lindor opened the game with a single and Romano walked Michael Brantley. Jose Ramirez singled to make it 1-0 and Yonder Alonso singled for two runs and a 3-0 lead. After Melky Cabrera singled, Jason Kipnis hit into a fielder’s choice as a fourth run scored.
Brantley singled with one out in the second and took third on a double by Ramirez. Brantley scored on Alonso’s sacrifice fly and Ramirez scored on Cabrera’s single. It was 6-0 and Romano was making a very early trudge to the dugout for a seat the rest of the night.
Michael Lorenzen somewhat put a plug in it by holding the Indians to two runs and three hits over 4 1/3 innings, one of the runs a home run by Jose Ramirez, his league-leading 36th. Ramirez had three hits, scored three times and drove in two runs.