By HAL McCOY
Not even Mother Nature cooperated to try to help the Cincinnati Reds extricate the anvil they carry on their backs against the San Diego Padres.
With the Reds trailing the Padres, 7-5, in the sixth inning Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park, a loud and heavy thunderstorm attacked the area.
After waiting nearly an hour, the game was called and the Padres were declared 7-5 winners.
Not even four runs in the first inning could lift the weight off their backs.
Not even a three-run home run by Nick Castellanos and a home run by Joey Votto for his 1,000th career RBI could remove the burden.
Not even a 5-3 lead after four innings could lighten the heavy load.
With thunder rumbling around Great American, the Padres furnished even more thunder with four home runs to overtake the Reds for the storm-shortened 7-5 win.
The big blast was a grand slam home run in the fifth inning by Trent Grisham, his second homer of the night, ensuring that the Reds would lose their sixth straight game to the Padres this season.
“We really thought we were going to get into a position to win that game, but there is nothing you can do about the weather,” said manager David Bell.
“The Padres have shown, it’s clear, that they are a really good team with a great lineup,” he added. “They’ve done well against us. They’ve hit us and played every part of the game well against us.”
Of more immediacy, the Reds fell a season-high eight games behind the first place Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central.
It looked as if some positive omens showed up for the Reds in the bottom of the first.
Jonathan India opened with a walk when it appeared that not only was the 3-and-2 pitch a strike, but India swung. But it was ruled ball four.
Jesse Winker then fought off an inside pitch and parachuted a bloop single into center field.
Nick Castellanos then unloaded his 16th home run, a three-run rip and a 3-0 lead before Padres starter Joe Musgrove retired a batter. And the Reds didn’t stop there. Joey Votto doubled, took third on a ground ball by Alejo Lopez and scored on Kyle Farmer’s sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.
Gutierrez, though, was not up to the challenge of protecting the lead. He gave up back-to-back home runs to Trent Grisham and Wil Myers to open the second.
Another home run, an explosion ignited by Fernando Tatis Jr on the first pitch of the third drew the Padres to within 4-3.
Votto pushed Cincinnati’s lead to 5-3 when he led the Reds’ third with a home run, his 1,000th RBI. He joined only four other 1,000 RBI players in Reds history — Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Frank Robinson and Bid McPhee.
“It’s amazing,” Bell said of Votto’s 1,000 RBI. “He is one of the best players in the history of this franchise and in the history of baseball. We get used to things like that with Joey, but we shouldn’t. It just signifies in one more way that he is one of the best hitters all-time.”
After Votto’s home run came the fateful fifth.
Gutierrez gave up back-to-back singles to Tommy Pham and Tatis. When he walked Manny Machado to fill the bases, left hander Josh Osich was brought in to face left hander Grisham.
The Padres, who earned the nickname the Slam Diego Padres for the all the grand slams they’ve hit the past two years, left the bases loaded in four different innings Tuesday night.
Not this time. Grisham lofted one over the right field wall, his second home run of the game, this one a grand slam that turned Cincinnati’s 5-3 lead into a 7-5 deficit.
Then with one out in the top of the sixth, a heavy lightning-laced thunderstorm struck and the tarpaulin was pulled over the infield and after the wait, festivities were ended.
The Reds couldn’t win this one even though they knocked San Diego starter Joe Musgrove out of the game after four innings.
He entered the game with a 2.22 earned run average, hitters were batting .171 against him and he hadn’t given up more than three runs in a game since early May and pitched the only no-hitter in Padres history earlier this season.
The Reds, though, raked him for five runs on four hits and three walks. But Gutierrez failed to take advantage, giving up six runs and six hits that included three home runs in only 4 1/3 innings.
“Gutierrez never really got comfortable on the mound,” said Bell. “He was searching to get comfortable. It wasn’t his stuff. It was just that I felt like it looked to me he was very uncomfortable from the beginning of the game. He was trying to find a groove but was unable to do it.”
Due to the weather forecast, the game’s start was delayed 37 minutes, but it didn’t rain. Then when it was stopped the forecast said the game probably couldn’t be resumed until 1 a.m., so crew chief Hunter Wendelstedt called it.