By Hal McCoy
As the saying goes, “You can’t win ‘em all,” but at this late stage of the season the Cincinnati Reds need to win ‘em all.
It didn’t happen Thursday afternoon in Comerica Park, an 8-2 beating by the Detroit Tigers that ended the Reds modest three-game winning streak.
With the bulk of the Reds’ starting rotation shelved on the injured list, manager David Bell went to a bullpen day.
It didn’t work.
Derek Law was the opener on his 33rd birthday and gave up a run in the first. Ben Lively followed him and gave up three runs in his 4 1/3 innings.
When he gave up a two-run home run to Akil Baddoo in the fourth inning, it concluded 23 consecutive scoreless innings by the Reds bullpen.
Until the home run off Lively, the Tigers had put runners on base in 14 of the last 15 innings in the series and stranded 17 with only six scoring.
Bell, observing his 51st birthday, concocted a strange batting order for this important game.
He had Nick Martini batting second for the first time, he had TJ Friedl batting clean-up for the first time in his career and he dropped Elly De La Cruz all the way to eighth.
Rookie right-hander Reese Olson started for the Tigers and held the Reds hitless for five innings until Jake Fraley singled leading off the sixth.
Martini hit into a double play and Spencer Steer launched his team-leading 21st home run, the 55th hit by a Reds rookie this season, a club record.
Martini’s double play was a bad harbinger. Joey Votto hit into a double play in the seventh and pinch-hitter Christian Encarnacion-Strand hit into one in the eighth — three double plays in three innings when the Reds trailed by three.
When it was 4-1, the Tigers sent in left-hander Tyler Holton in the eighth and Bell sent up four straight right-handed pinch-hitters.
It was a 50/50 situation.
Nick Senzel, batting for De La Cruz, singled. For five innings, De La Cruz was the only Cincinnati hitter to reach base, twice via walks.
After his second walk, he stole second but was picked off second base.
Noelvi Marte, batting for Will Benson, singled to put runners on second and first with no outs, the Reds still down, 4-1.
Hunter Renfroe, batting for Fraley, struck out. CES, batting for Martini, hit into the double play.
Then it got away. Buck Farmer gave up a grand slam home run in the home eighth to Detroit leadoff hitter Matt Vierling, a 448-foot crusher deep into the left field seats and 4-1 became 8-1 with one whip of the bat.
Friedl hit a solo home run in the ninth, but it was nothing more than cosmetic on this day.
Law hit Vierling with a pitch to open the bottom of the first. He retired the next two, but Vierling stole second, moved to third on a fly ball and scored on Kerry Carpenter’s two-out single.
Lively gave up a leadoff single in the fourth to Tyler Nevin, who began the game hitting .136 and struck out his first at bat.
Baddoo, 1 for 19 when the series began, homered and collected four hits in the last two games and the Tigers led, 3-0.
Parker Meadows was 0 for 28 when he led the seventh with a single and came around to score on Spencer Torkelson’s single.
In the fatal eighth, Farmer hit Nevin (.136) with a pitch, gave up an infield single to Baddoo and walked Meadows (1-for-29), loading the bases fpr Vierling’s grand slam.
With the usage of three relief pitchers, Cincinnati’s bullpen has been called to the mound 549 times this season. No other MLB team has used its bullpen more than 500 times.
The Reds departed after the game for New York, where the Mets await with two left-handed starters for the three-game series. The Reds are 17-29 against left-handed starts.
And they had to wait to see if they maintained a tie for the third wild card spot. Arizona, San Francisco and Miami all played later games.