By Hal McCoy
Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Lucas Sims discovered in Great American Ball Park Tuesday night that a pitcher can go from baseball hero to baseball hobo with one pitch.
Asked to trudge in from the bullpen and protect a one-run lead over the Miami Marlins in the seventh inning with two outs and a runner on first, his first pitch to Jorge Soler, a fastball, nestled into the right field seats, a two-run home run.
And that was the difference, that was the game, a 3-2 Marlins victory.
The Chicago Cubs slipped past the New York Mets, 3-2, to move into a virtual tie for second place in the National League Central.
And the Marlins drew within a half-game of the Reds and Cubs for the third wild-card spot.
The Marlins began the night with a whole bunch of negatives — 14 losses in their last 15 road games, five straight losses overall and losers in six of their last seven games.
The Reds, though, are fighting their own negatives, losses now in seven of their last eight.
Cincinnati received strong starting pitching from much-maligned Luke Weaver, but on this night he held the Marlins to one run, five hits, one walk and six strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings.
Weaver’s misery aways arrives in the first inning, 24 runs, most for any MLB starter.
And Soler, who finished with three hits, opened the game with single. Weaver then retired the next three.
His only problem surface in the second when he retired the first two, then gave up a double to Jake Burger, a run-scoring double to Joey Wendle, who was 1-for-30, and an infield hit to Nick Fortes.
Weaver then walked Soler to fill the bases, but squirmed free by coaxing a full count ground ball from Luis Arreaz, leaving it at 1-0 for the Marlins.
Arreaz, MLB top average hitter by far (.370) is enduring a rough series. He didn’t start Monday’s game, but hit into a game-ending double play as a pinch-hitter. On Tuesday he was 0 for 4 and hit into another double play.
The Reds tied the game in the second, 1-1. against Marlins left-hander Braxton Garrett. Spencer Steer opened with a single and Kevin Newman forced him at secod. Newman took second on a wild pitch and scored on TJ Friedl’s double.
Friedl then committed a baseball cardinal sin by making the third out at third base when he tried to steal it.
The Little League World Series qualifying tournaments are in play throughout the country and Stuart Fairchilld pay homage to it.
He hit a Little League home run leading off the fifth. He blooped one down the right field line and Soler missed making a long running catch. The ball rolled to the wall.
Fairchild sprinted to third and circled toward home, then hesitated. But when the star-crossed Arraez made a wild throw home, Fairchild continued home — a Little League home run thoat was scored as a triple and an error.
That gave the Reds a 2-1 lead that stood until the fateful seventh. Buck Farmer retired the first two Marlins, then hit number nine hitter Nick Fortes with a pitch.
Manager David Bell decided to bring in Sims and his first pitch to Soler decided the game, Soler’s 28th home run and second of the series.
After Fairchild’s triple-error run, a bevy of Miami relief pitchers retired 14 in a row until there were two outs in the ninth inning.
The pitcher was 38-year-old, 15-year veteran David Robertson, acquired from the New York Mets at the trade deadline.
Using a cutter he learned from New York Yankee Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, Roberston retired Matt McLain on a fly ball and struck out Steer.
Bell sent up Joey Votto to pinch-hit for Kevin Newman. With the crowd chanting, “Joey, Joey, Joey,” he drew a full-count walk, the potential tying run.
But the veteran Robertson struck out Christian Encarnacion-Strand to end it.
It was the Reds’ 46tth one-run game and they are 24-22. The Marlins have been one-run speciasts all season and are 25-10.