By Hal McCoy
The pitching-thin Cincinnati Reds could not have placed a pitcher making his major-league debut in a more difficult and precarious situation.
“Hey, kid. We’re calling you up and you’re pitching in Coors Field.”
Yes, Coors Field, where baseballs fly great distances and the ball bounces around the outfield expanse like a berserk pinball machine.
Brandon Willliamson, who pitched with moderate success this season at Class AAA Louisville, flicked that all aside.
The 6-foot-6 left-hander was nearly perfect in his debut Tuesday night in a 3-1 Reds victory over the Colorado Rockies.
And with the Reds win a Chicago Cubs loss, the Reds moved into a third-place tie with the Cubs in the National League Central, both at 19-and-23.
Williamson held the Rockies to no runs and one hit for 5 1/3 innings before giving up a one-out home run in the sixth inning, a homer hit by number nine hitter Ezequiel Tovar, who had struck out his five at bats of the series.
Unfortunately for Williamson, Colorado starter Chase Anderson was even more efficient in his first start for the Rockies.
He pitched five innings and gave up no runs and one hit. Anderson was with the Reds in spring training and was sold to the Tampa Bay Rays.
He made two relief appearances — five innings, no runs, two hits and his first career save. But Tampa Bay released him and pitching-thin Rockies signed him.
And since he hadn’t pitched much, Colorado manager Bud Black excused him after the five spotless innings and the Reds took advantage of the Rockies bullpen.
They grabbed a 2-1 lead in the seventh against Peter Lambert. He walked Tyler Stephenson on four pitches with two outs. Nick Senzel picked on the first pitch and whistled over the left-center wall, a two-run home run.
The Reds added a run in the eighth when Curt Casali walked, pinch-runner Kevin Newman took second on a ground ball and scored on Matt McLain’s single for his first major-league RBI. He had struck outg his first three at bats.
After Williamson left, the Reds bullpen kept the Rockies quiet. Derek Law replaced Williamson in the sixth and gave up a double to put runners on third and second with twoj outs, then struck out Randal Grichuk, whose 14-game hitting streak came to an 0-for-4 end.
Alex Young pitched a perfect seventh with two strikeouts, Ian Gibaut pitched a scoreless, one-hit eighth and Alexis Diaz went 1-2-3 in the ninth for his 10th save in ten opportunities.
Williamson encountered early difficulty in the first when Colorado leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon singled on an 0-and-2 pitch. Jurickson Profar hit into a double play and Williamson walked Elias Diaz on a full count. But he retired Grichuk on a fly to center field.
From there, Williamson, using pin-point precision on all his pitches, retired 14 straight, six on strikeouts, until Tovar homered in the sixth.
Anderson retired the first six Reds until Wil Myers singled to open the third. He took second on Stuart Fairchild’s sacrifice bunt, moved to third on a fly ball, but died there when Jonathan India grounded to shortstop.
Anderson retired nine of the last 10 he faced and the only base-runner was a one-out walk to Jake Fraley he in fouth. He stole second, but Spencer Steer and Stephenson both flied out.
While the Reds made good use of Colorado’s bullpen, the Rockies were shut down by Cincinnati’s bullpen, enablling the Reds to even the series at one win each. The series concludes Wednesday afternoon at 3:10.