By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Alex Wood, a poster guy for Doan’s Pills, is out of the Cincinnati Reds rotation again. And again it is back pain.
So the Reds used Tuesday night’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies as a Bullpen Day, with Lucas Sims appearing as The Opener.
It didn’t work. Sims, Amir Garrett and R.J. Alaniz were equal opportunity ineffectives as the first three of a six-pitcher night.
The Philadelphia Phillies, also using a pitchers-by-committee approach, seven of them, pinned a 6-2 defeat on the Reds.
It was Cincinnati’s sixth loss in the last seven games. Long gone is any chance to win the National League Central — 14 1/2 games out of first place.
Long gone is any chance of making the wild card — 11 games behind the second wild card spot with seven teams to climb over.
Nearly long gone is the chance to finish the season at .500 — 11 games under (64-75) and need to win 17 of the last 23 to go 81-81.
What the Reds really have to be concerned about, other than closet-sized crowds, is sinking back into last place. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been on their best winning behavior of late and lopped four games off their deficit behind the Reds in the last 10 games.
After Tuesday’s games, the last place Pirates are only 3 1/2 games behind the fourth place Reds.
Sims, who has pitched in relief all year and pitched in relief two days ago, was told Monday he would start Tuesday.
“We told him he would pitch somewhere between one and four innings,” said manager David Bell. “We didn’t know because he only had two days of rest. We weren’t sure, we just decided to see how it went. He has been a reliever, so we didn’t want to push him too far.”
Sims pitched two scoreless innings before giving up a run in the third. He had a runner on first with two outs when Bell came to get him. Bell wanted Amir Garrett to face Bryce Harper. And he struck him out.
“It was kind of like riding a bike for him to start because it is what I grew up doing,” said Sims. “I found out I was starting and I said, ‘That’’s fine, give me the ball and let’s roll.’
“I felt good and that situation came up in the third inning,” he said. “We had Amir coming in behind me to face Harper. Obviously, I’d love to face him. But I was confident that Amir would do his job.”
On Labor Day, the Reds lost, 7-1, with their only run coming on a home run by Aristides Aquino. Their first run and only run until the eighth Tuesday was a run-scoring single by Aquino.
The Reds gathered one run and four hits in the first three innings, then one run and two hits over the final six innings.
The Reds scored a run in the first when Josh VanMeter led with a single and scored on Aquino’s single.
Sims pitched two scoreless innings before giving up a leadoff double in the third to Adam Haseley that led to a run on a sacrifice fly by J.T. Realmuto that tied it, 1-1.
The Phillies scored a run on Amir Garrett in the fourth on pinch-hitter Jean Segura’s double and a single by Cesar Hernandez. That gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead.
R.J. Alaniz walked the first two he faced in the fifth and both came around to score on Bryce Harper’s single and Rhys Hoskins sacrifice fly.
That pushed the Phillies in front, 4-1, and it stayed that way until the eighth when the Reds finally scored another run.
Curt Casali led with a single, took third on Tucker Barnhart’s single and scored on Alex Blandino’s sacrifice fly and it was 4-2.
Wandy Peralta gave that run back and a bonus run in the ninth. The first batter he faced, Scott Kingery, homered for the second straight night. Adam Haseley and Corey Dickerson hit back-to-back doubles and it was 6-2.
The Reds went down feebly in the ninth, three strikeouts, and struck out 14 times against the endless parade of Phillies pitchers.
“Other than Aquino’s hit, Alex Blandino had a nice hit and Tucker Barnhart had a nice night (two hits), some good things, but not enough,” said Bell. “Not enough runs.
“It was a tough spot for our pitching staff and they did a nice job, gave us a chance to win,” Bell added. “But we did not score enough runs. Lucas did his part, plus Sal Romano had a nice inning and Matt Bowman three the ball really well. Some good things happened, but not enough runs.”
Once again, though, it was more bad things than good things.
“I do believe in our guys,” he said. “It’s a tough game. We put our best lineup out there every night and see what happens. The guys are competing and working at it. Those are the things I really look at.
“We are who we are and we have to get better,” Bell added. “I want to win and everybody in the clubhouse wants to win. When it doesn’t happen it is frustrating but you only have one option and that’s to keep working, get better, try to win. Me included. We all have to get better. It’s a great challenge.”
It was Satchel Paige who once said, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.” For the Reds, it is the Pittsburgh Pirates.