By Hal McCoy
For the Cincinnati Reds, it was another big opportunity and another big swing-and-a-miss.
Given the chance to climb out of last place for the first time this season, the Reds lost a 2-1 10-inning game to the Cleveland Indians in Progressive Park.
Closer Raisel Iglesias, who hadn’t given up a run since May 5, gave up a walk-off single to rookie Oscar Mercado to end it abruptly.
With one out in the 10th, Iglesias walked No. 8 hitter Mike Freeman on four pitches. Then No. 9 hitter Leonys Martin singled sharply to center field, sending Freeman to third.
That brought up the Tribe’s best hitter, Francisco Lindor, who had doubled twice. Rather than face Lindor’s big bat, manager David Bell ordered him walked intentionally, filling the bases with one out.
Iglesias shook off a signal from catcher Tucker Barnhart, a fatal decision. Mercado ripped the pitch Iglesias chose into left field and it was over.
“We didn’t want to face Lindor and even tough that filled the bases, the only runner that counted that was the one on third,” manager David Bell said on his post-game media interview. “We had the infield in to cut off the run.”
But a run can’t be cut off when the batter crushed a line drive game-ending single to left field.
The Reds had runners on base in eight of the nine innings, but scored only once. That was in the fifth when Jose Iglesias reached on an infield single, took second on a ground ball and scored on Nick Senzel’s double off the center field wall.
That tied it, 1-1, because Cleveland’s Carlos Santana scorched a 417-foot home run off Reds starter Luis Castillo in the fourth, Santana’s 13th home run.
That was all the Tribe would get off Castillo. He pitched six innings and gave up one run and four hits, but needed 109 pitches to get that far, 39 pitches in his the sixth, his final inning.
Castillo’s record remains 6-and-1 and he lowered his earned run average to 2.20. But, amazingly, the Reds are 7-and-7 in his 14 starts, mainly because of games like Tuesday’s. His team doesn’t score runs for him.
They had a runner on base in the first, a runner on base in the second, a runner on base in the third, two runners on in the fourth, two runners on in the fifth, a runner on in the seventh, two runners on in the eighth and two runners on in the ninth.
And they scored one run.
The most frustrating was in the seventh against Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer, 0-and-5 over his previous seven starts.
Yasiel Puig led the inning with a double and Bauer walked two straight to fill the bases with one out. Nick Senzel grounded to Bauer and it was an inning-ending pitcher to catcher to first double play.
Castillo pulled a similar escape act in the sixth when he, too, loaded the bases with one out. But Castillo closed it off by striking out Jose Ramirez after he fouled off six 2-and-2 pitches and then struck out Jake Bauers. On that at bat, catcher Tucker Barnhart saved a run by blocking a Castillo pitch in the dirt.
Wasted was an outstanding two innings by David Hernandez, who struck out five of the six batters he faced in the eighth and ninth.
“We have to start winning,” said Hernandez. “We have to be the only team in baseball that hasn’t put together a winning streak. We need to do that and maybe we can start one tomorrow.”
After winning their previous game in Philadelphia, the Reds were presented a chance to win two in a row. Alas, they are 1-and-9 the last 10 times they had a chance to win two in a row, which is why they continue to fail in their quest to reach .500.
It was Cleveland’s first extra-inning victory after losing three. For the Reds, it was their 24th loss by two runs or less.