By HAL McCOY
If the Los Angeles Dodgers don’t win the National League West and don’t snag one of the two wild card spots they can only slap themselves on the forehead and ask themselves, “Why in the name of Abner Doubleday couldn’t we beat the last place Cincinnati Reds?”
The Dodgers, just a sniff out of first place in the NL West, lost to the Reds Tuesday night for the sixth straight time this season.
A superb start by Luis Castillo and sterling bullpen work by Sal Romano, David Hernandez and Raisel Iglesias turned the potent LA bats to soaked balsam wood in a 3-1 victory at Great American Ball Park.
Castillo gave up two hits in the first inning, but pitched out of it. He then retired 15 straight until he had one out in the sixth inning.
He gave up a one-out home run to Joc Pederson, the 19th straight game in which the Dodgers have hit a home run, a Los Angeles franchise record.
When he took the mound in the seventh, Castillo was the first Reds starter in seven games to make it beyond the sixth inning.
But when he gave up a one-out double to Yasmani Grandal and a four-pitch walk to Alex Verdugo, his only walk, manager Jim Riggleman decided to put a tourniquet on the bleeding right then and there.
He removed Castillo, who was leading, 3-1, and replaced him with Sal Romano. He retired ever-dangerous Chris Taylor on a fly ball, but walked Yasiel Puig on a full count to load the bases with two outs.
With the game in jeopardy, Riggleman brought in David Hernandez and he ended the inning by inducing a ground ball from pinch-hitter Justin Turner.
Hernandez pitched a spotless eighth and Iglesias issued a one out walk before Reds first baseman Brandon Dixon fielded a ground ball, tagged the runner moving from first toward second and flipped to Iglesias covering first, a game-ending double play.
Amazingly, the Reds won this one with Joey Votto, Tucker Barnhart and Billy Hamilton all sitting on the bench with left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu pitching for LA.
And to totally flabbergast the Dodgers, three players they traded in one deal to the Reds made their presence felt.
Brandon Dixon, Scott Schebler and Jose Peraza all came to the Reds from the Dodgers in the three-team deal that sent Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox.
With one out in the second inning, Dixon, playing his fourth different position in four games, launched a down-range home run that threatened to become its own star. But the ball came down, halfway up the upper deck, a 436-foot home run.
Dixon hit the top of the scale on one of those new-fangled statistics baseball keeps. The exit velocity on his home run was clocked at 112 miles an hour, the hardest hit home run by a Reds hitter this year — for whatever that means. It still counted as one run and gave the Reds a 1-0 lead.
In the last four games, Dixon started at second base, third base, right field and first base. Elias Sports reported that Dixon is the first Reds player to start at four different positions in four game since Jerry Hairston played second base, shortstop, center field and right field in late September of 2008.
“Dixon isn’t a second baseman or a third baseman, he is a baseball player,” said manager Jim Riggleman during his post-game press conference with Fox TV and baseball writers.
An inning later, the third, Schebler lined a home run into the right field moon deck to make it 2-0.
Of his home run, Schebler told writers in the post-game clubhouse, “I don’t know what Dixon told you guys but, yeah, you definitely have a chip on your shoulder when you play the team that traded you.”
Before those two home runs, Peraza doubled with one out in the first and was 11 for his previous 22 after that at bat. But he didn’t score.
The Reds made it 3-0 in the fifth with Schebler and Peraza in the middle of it. Schebler led the inning with an infield hit and Peraza singled to left.
Scooter Gennett, the league’s leading hitter at .321, singled to right field to score Schebler. Gennett had two hits and during the six straight wins over LA he is 16 for 22.
Castillo was absolutely awesome with a 98 miles an hour fastball and a change-up that had the Dodgers swinging at dead air. He had nine strikeouts, all nine on change-ups. For his 6 1/3 innings he gave up one run, four hits, struck out nine and walked one — the last batter he faced on four pitches.
But Romano, Hernandez and Iglesias came to his rescue after ex-Dodgers Dixon, Schebler and Peraza put him in the driver’s seat.