By HAL McCOY
As former major league pitcher Joaquin Andujar once said when asked a question about baseball, “I’ll say it in one word. Youneverknow.”
It figured to be a pitcher’s batter, a low-scoring game when the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers took the Miller Park field Wednesday afternoon.
After all, two of the best pitchers in baseball were matched up — Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo (4-1, 1.90) and Milwaukee’s Zach Davies (5-0, 1.54).
But before this one was over, three hours and 48 minutes after it started, it was time to queue the monkey and the organ grinder because it was a three-ring circus.
Final score: Milwaukee 11, Cincinnati 9.
The Reds scored five runs in the second inning off Davies on a two-run bloop double by Josh VanMeter and a three-run monster mash home run by Tucker Barnhart.
A 5-0 lead for Castillo? That’s usually better than stock in Amazon. But not this day.
Castillo’s usually unhittable change-up was AWOL, perhaps left back in the Pfister Hotel. After the Reds gave him five runs, his first pitch in the bottom of the second wa launched over the center field fence by rookie Kenton Hiura.
The Reds quickly retrieved that run in the third on Derek Dietrich’s two-out home run, his 12th in only 199 at bats. And once again Castillo had a five-run lead, 6-1.
Castillo became completely unhinged in the third and didn’t make it out of the inning. Mike Moustakas led the inning with a home run, the second of the game off Castillo, who had given up only four all year.
Yasmani Grandal walked and Castillo appeared safe when he struck out the next two, his only strikeouts of the game. But he hit Ben Gamel with a pitch and gave up a single to Hernan Perez to fill the bases.
Orlando Arcia fouled off four 3-and-2 pitches then stroked a two-run single to cut the margin to 6-4 and end Castillo’s day — 2 2/3 innings, four runs, five hits, two walks, a hit batter and only two strikeouts.
Then the usually reliable Reds bulllpen imploded and exploded, giving up seven runs, mostly at the hands of Wandy Peralta.
It began in the fourth when relief pitcher Michael Lorenzen fielded an easy ground ball and threw it high, wide and ugly to first base, pulling Joey Votto off the bag, a throwing error.
He then gave up two hits, the last a two-run single by Orlando Arcia and it was 6-6.
The Reds fought back and took an 8-6 lead in the fifth on a two-run single by Jose Iglesias, who leads the league in batting average with runners in scoring position and is the Reds only .300 hitter.
Peralta took over in the sixth and the smoke never cleared until the Brewers had five runs and an 11-8 lead. He gave up a single to Mike Moustakas and former No. 1 draft pick Yasmani Grandal torched a two-run home run to tie it, 8-8.
It wasn’t over. Eric Thames singled and Peralta hit Ben Gamel, the second time he was hit in this game to go with two walks — four times on base without a hit. David Hernandez entered the game at this point and gave up a run-scoring go-ahead single Hernan Perez and a sacrifice fly to pinch-hitter Jesus Aguilar and it was 11-8.
The Reds filled the bases with one out in the seventh and scored a run when Curt Casali was hit by a pitch.
Then game a base-running gaffe that killed the rally. Phillip Ervin struck out on a pitch in the dirt that caromed off the brick wall behind home plate. Casali was caught off first base and retired in an inning-ending rundown.
Before Ervin struck out, he drove one down the right field line. It was called foul and the Reds asked for a review. Replays showed the ball hit about an inch outside the chalk line, a foul ball on what could have been a two-run double.
That was it. The Reds did put two on with one out in the eighth, but it was Josh Hader time and Milwaukee’s superb closer closed it off.
He retired Eugenio Suarez on a pop up and Jesse Winker lined hard to shortstop. Hader took care of business in the ninth by striking out Derek Dietrich and Jose Iglesias and ending it on a pop up by Curt Casali.
The bottom of the Milwaukee batting order, sixth, seventh and eighth, buried the Reds.
No. 6 hitter Gamel was on base four times and scored twice. No. 7 hitter Hernan Perez, who can’t hit against any team not wearing red with a wishbone ‘C’ on the caps but brutalizes the Reds, had three hits, scored a run and drove in a run. No. 8 hitter Orlando Arcia had two hits and drove in three runs.
As Fox broadcaster Thom Brennaman put it at game’s end, “It is going to be a long bus ride to Chicago and not because of the traffic.”
After a day off Thursday, the Reds start a three-game series Friday afternoon in Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs.