By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Matt Harvey may or may not have made his final start for the Cincinnati Reds Tuesday night when he started against the 102-loss Kansas City Royals in the relative solitude of the near-empty Great American Ball Park echo chamber.
He did, though, make his final start of 2018 for anybody.
A few barks could he beard from the canines participating in the last Bark in the Park event, but not much else as Harvey pitched five rain-interrupted innings and gave up three runs and six hits, walking none and striking out six.
The Reds? Another Bark in the Dark. They filled the bases with no outs in the eighth inning and didn’t score, then closer Raisel Iglesias gave up a home run in the top of the ninth to Hunter Dozier and the Reds lost, 4-3.
The Reds also put two runners aboard with one out in the bottom of the ninth, had the bases loaded with two outs, but true to their DNA, they didn’t score. Joey Votto grounded out weakly and meekly to end it.
Harvey, of course, is a free agent after the season and it remains to be seen if the Reds dangle a competitive offer and, if they do, does Harvey want to sign with the Reds. And, yes, the Reds realize that priority A, B and C this off-season is pitching, pitching and more pitching.
And the higher-authorities in the Reds front office are aware and ready to make a solid attempt to fix the situation, including President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams.
“We know that pitching is a priority for us and, in fact, tomorrow (Wednesday) our pro scouting meetings will be going on and we have most of our staff in town,” said Williams. “We are discussing every free agent player, starting with pitching, by design. We’ll also talk about trade targets. There are a lot of possibilities out there.
“It is hard to say where Matt fits into that perspective. But he certainly has made a favorable impression on us while he has been here. Everybody has been really impressed by the way he has conducted himself,” said Williams. “We will definitely stack Matt up against all the options. The fact that he has been here and how he has interacted with our coaches and our players will certainly work in his favor.”
Interim manager Jim Riggleman has been more than impressed by Harvey’s on-the-field and off-the-field activities, even after doing his own background check on Harvey after the Reds acquired him in a trade with the New York Mets for catcher Devin Mesoraco. His New York reputation was shaky, filled with reports of too much night life and not enough attention to the pitching mound.
“You know, I think it was exaggerated,” said Riggleman. “I talked to (Mets manager) Terry Collins and (Mets coach) Danny Warthen and I talked to some of his teammates that I knew. They all said, ‘Hey, he is a good guy.’ Stuff gets said and blown out of proportion. We never had anything but positive stuff from Matt in the clubhouse and on the field.”
Harvey’s turn pops up again Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the season’s last game. But Riggleman is shutting him down and Michael Lorenzen will make that start.
“”Harvey had 150 innings going into today and I don’t think we want him to go any further, even though he feels great,” said Riggleman. “He is probably maxed out on innings. If he had gone along the last couple of years the way he had been (no injuries) with the Mets, well, we wouldn’t have him here.
“After all the injuries, he is here,” Riggleman added. “But with all the injuries the last couple of years he has been around 100 innings.”
Asked if he is happy with the Harvey returns, Riggleman said, “Very much so. He has been great with the less-experienced pitchers, he has fit in great in the clubhouse, been a real pleasure. And he has given up some real good ball games.”
His start Tuesday was not in his Top Ten. He gave up three hits and a run in the second inning. He sat out a 51-minute rain delay and when he came back he promptly gave up a single and a home run.
Salvador Perez led the second with a single, Ryan O’Hearn doubled and Brian Goodwin beat an infield hit up the middle that scored a run.
Perez and O’Hearn pestered Harvey again after the rain delay. It was Perez who singled and O’Hearn who homered, his 12th, to give the Royals a 3-0 lead.
Kansas City starter Eric Skoglund pitched 2 1/3 innings before it rained and he couldn’t come back. His replacement, left hander Brian Flynn, retired the first six Reds he faced before giving up a one-out single to Phillip Ervin and a two-out home run to pinch-hitter Dilson Herrera, batting for Harvey.
It was Herrera’s fourth home run, third as a pinch-hitter, and drew the Reds to within 3-2.
The Reds tied it in the seventh against Brandon Maurer, KC’s fourth pitcher, when Scooter Gennett tripled with one out and Phillip Ervin drove a run-scoring single to left. Ervin stole second and pinch-hitter Mason Williams was walked intentionally so the Royals could face Billy Hamilton. It worked. Hamilton struck out on three pitches to leave it at 3-3 and Hamilton at 1 for his last 27.
The Reds loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth against Kevin McCarthy, the Royals’ fifth pitcher. And, as has happened too frequently lately, the Reds did not score.
Scott Schebler walked, Jose Peraza singled and Joey Votto dribbled an excuse-him infield hit up the third base line to fill the bases with no outs.
That brought up Eugenio Suarez, owner one of RBI in his last 20 games. He hit into a force play at the plate, leaving the bases loaded with one out for Scooter Gennett. He struck out on a 0-and-2 pitch.
That brought up Ervin with the bases loaded and two outs, owner of hits his previous two at bats. He hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice.
Riggleman brought in closer Raisel Iglesias for the ninth and he didn’t close the deal, he opened it wide. His second pitch to third baseman Hunter Dozier was dispatched with alacrity into the left field seats, a home run to push KC back in front, 4-3.