By Hal McCoy
The Cincinnati Reds good fortune with pitcher Luke Weaver ran out Saturday night in a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of 51,015 in raucous Dodger Stadium.
In Weaver’s previous 10 starts he pitched to a hideous 8.79 earned run average, but the Reds were 9-1 in those games.
The irony was that Weaver pitched his best game of the season, two hits over six innings.
But while eight Dodgers in the lineup went 0-for-24, Max Muncy hit two home runs, LA’s only hits of the game.
The Reds muffed a chance to claim first place in the National League Central when Milwaukee was mauled in Atlanta, 11-5, so they remain a half-game behind the Brewers.
The Dodgers scored two unearned runs off Weaver in the first. Reds third baseman Spencer Steer booted leadoff hitter David Peralta’s grounder for an error.
Weaver retired the next two before Muncy pulled one into the right field seats for a 2-0 lead.
The Reds were facing rookie Emmet Sheehan, owner of a 6.75 earned run average and a penchant for throwing pitches hither and yon.
But the Reds helped him out by consistently swinging at pitches high, wide, low, inside, mostly out of the strike zone.
The 23-year-old right-hander who was pitching in Class A ball last season, is one of several LA rookies rushed to the big leagues due to the Dodgers’ injury ravaged starting rotation.
He held the Reds to no runs and two hits over five innings. He averages nearly five walks per nine inning, but walked one and struck out five.
The Reds had two on with two outs in the second but Nick Senzel flied to center on the first pitch. Catcher Luke Maile led the third with a double over the center fielder’s head, but Elly De La Cruz flied out, TJ. Friedl flied out and Matt McLain struck out.
Those were the Reds’ only opportunities against Sheehan, but LA manager Dave Roberts took him down after five innings and only 82 pitches.
And the Reds jumped on relief pitcher Caleb Ferguson, a Columbus native, for two runs in the sixth to tie it, 2-2.
De La Cruz opened with a double and moved to third on Friedl’s infield hit.Pinch-hitter Kevin Newman, batting for the first time since July 9, lofted a sacrifice fly to right, scoring De La Cruz and sending Friedl to second. Steer’s two-out single scored Friedl to make it 2-2.
Joey Votto walked and Christian Encarnacion-Strand walked to fill the bases. Relief pitcher Joe Kelly, making his first appearance after being acquired in a trade this week with the Chicago White Sox, caught pinch-hitter Will Benson looking at strike three, leaving the bases loaded.
So it was 2-2. . .briefly.
Weaver retired the first two in the sixth. He fell behind Muncy 3-and-0 and Muncy ambushed the cripple pitch for a home run inside the right field foul pole for the eventual game-winner.
Pinch-hitter Tyler Stephenson singled with two outs in the ninth, the potential tying run, but Dodger closer Evan Phillips induced a weak game-ending fly ball to left from De La Cruz.
The Reds continue to hang on and win games despite several players struggling at the plate. Joey Votto is 5 for 49, De La Cruz is 10 for 58, Friedl is 2 for 20, Tyler Stephenson is 5 for 41 and Nick Senzel is 1 for 14.
It was Cincinnati’s 44th one-run game and they are 23-21, while the Dodgers are 11-12. But LA is 31-18 in Dodger Stadium while the Reds fell to 29-20 on the road.
The Reds lead the season series three gsmes to two, but have split the first two games in Dodger Stadium with the third game scheduled for Sunday afternoon.