By Hal McCoy
For the Cincinnati Reds, the 2023 schedule is down to single digits, nine games remaining, so every defeat is magnified as they puruse an elusive wild card spot.
And the Reds suffered a bad one Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park, a 7-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
In addition, it was double jeopardy. The Miami Marlins scored a ninth-inning walk-off 4-3 win over the New York Mets and leap-frogged over the Reds into the number three wild card spot.
The Reds managed only four hits, two in the ninth inning, and struck out 14 times while suffering their 10th shutout defeat.
It was another bullpen night for the Reds and opener Fernando Cruz was the only effective pitcher among five used by manager David Bell.
Cruz retired five Twins, four via strikeouts, during his brief 1 2/3 innings.
Then it was a 76 trombones-type relief pitcher parade. Bell used four pitchers in the first 3 1/3 innings to get 10 outs.
After Cruz pitched a 1-2-3 first, the Twins put runners on base in each of the next seven innings against Buck Farmer. Daniel Duarte, Alex Young, Ben Lively and Derek Law.
Lively was the sacrificial lamb. He ate up four innings but gave up five runs, seven hits, four walks and a home run.
The Twins scored one in the second, one in the fourth, two in the sixth, two in the seventh and one in the eighth and stranded runners in each inning from the second to the eighth.
As part of Minnesota’s 11-hit assault, number eight batter Ryan Jeffers cracked a solo home run and Castro complemented hiis outstanding defensive effort with a two-run home run
Meanwhile, the Reds were helpless against 34-year-old Osaka-born Kenta Maeda and his nose-diving split-fingered pitch.
He retired the first 11 Reds before giving up a two-out double to former Twins farmhand Spencer Steer and a walk to Jake Fraley with two outs in the fourth.
That was one of only three opportunities for the Reds to score and Twins center fielder Willi Castro spoiled both. They trailed by only 2-0 in the fifth when Steer doubled with Fraley walked with two outs.
Steer and Fraley pulled off a double steal, putting runners on third and second. Tyler Stephenson drove a sinking line drive to center and Castro made a diving, rolling catch off the grass tops to prevent the Reds from tying it, 2-2.
Fraley walked to open the seventh and Castro did it to Stephenson again. Stephenson drove one to deep center and Castro vaulted above the wall to rob Stephenson of a two-run homer.
Maeda left after five innings and four Twins relief pitchers finished the project, ending the Reds stretch of six wins in their previous eight games.