By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds began Sunday afternoon’s game like an F-16 and finished it like a Sopwith Camel.
Or, in short, live by the home run, die by the home run.
The offense began the day by hitting three home runs on three successive pitches in the first inning for a four-run lead against the San Francisco Giants.
Then the offense retreated to sit in the corner, hoping that four runs were enough for starting pitcher Luis Castillo.
It was. . .for five innings. He was throwing a no-hitter after five, but the Giants erupted for a walk and three hits in the sixth, including a three-run home run by Buster Posey to tie it. Within a stretch of five hitters, Castillo went from a no-hitter to a 4-4 tie.
Then pinch-hitter Brandon Crawford cranked a two-run home run in the top of the ninth off inconsistent closer Raisel Iglesias and the Giants prevailed, 6-5.
After getting back-to-back-to-back home runs on successive pitches in the first inning from Eugenio Suarez, Jesse Winker and Derek Dietrich — four runs on five hits — the Reds did not get another hit, not one, until pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer hit a two-out, two-strike home run that proved meaningless.
What is meaningful is that closer Raisel Iglesias does well in save situations (6), but not good in tie games. It isn’t good when your closer is 1-and-5.
Iglesias sat slumped in a corner after the game, feeling sorry not for himself but for his team.
“I threw a change-up up in the zone and he hit a home run,” said Iglesias. “I feel really bad right now, really, really bad. I am the closer, the one who comes into tight games and have giving up home runs and losing some games. I’m the one who comes into tie games late in the game and I’ve done really bad and it is really frustrating to me.”
Regardless of recent revolving results, Reds manager David Bell is backing away from Iglesias.
“I second-guess myself all the time just to make sure I am making the best decisions,” he said. “We are always going to throw out best guy into that situation. And Iggy has been doing this for a long time and pitches in the spots he pitches for a reason.”
Of the game, Bell said, “We didn’t get anything going after the first inning. Luis was outstanding. he gave up a couple of ground ball hits before the home run (to Posey). Other than that he was great.”
And Castillo aimed credit to Posey for a professional piece of hitting.
“I didn’t miss with that pitch,” he said. “It was a really good pitch, down and in, with action. He put a realy good swing on it and hit the home run the other way (right field).”
Castillo said he was unaware that he had a no-hitter until Sam Duggar rolled a ground ball just under the glove of diving shortstop Jose Iglesias with one out in the sixth inning.
“I didn’t do anything different that inning and I didn’t know I was throwing a no-hitter until that first hit and I looked at the scoreboard and said to myself, ‘Oh, I was throwing a no-hitter.’”
The Reds wore throwback uniforms, dark blue with red trim and white socks worn by the 1911 Reds in the Palace of the Fans.
For sure, the modern guys wearing those throwback uniforms Sunday bore no resemblance to the 1911 Band of Blue that was 70-and-83, finished sixth in an eight-team National League and hit 21 home runs all season.
A guy named Dick Hoblitzell hit 11 for the 1911 home nine and no other player on the team hit more than one.
Of course, that was the dead ball era when baseballs were as soft as pin cushions and one ball sometimes survived an entire game.
This is the live ball era and this season it seems extra-lively, one step below super balls.
And the current Reds, wearing their blue finery, hit three home runs on three pitches — biff, bam, boom — in the first inning.
It all happened against San Francisco’s Jeff Samardzija, Notre Dame football player turned pitcher. After Joey Votto led the bottom of the first with a single, Eugenio Suarez took a called third strike.
Then came mayhem. Samardzija’s next three pitches were hit into the great beyond by Eugenio Suarez, Jesse Winker and Derek Dietrich, each one a bit farther than the previous. Amazingly, all three home runs were the ninth hit this year by each player.
After that, though, it was if somebody turned off Cincinnati’s offensive spigot with a monkey wrench.