By HAL McCOY
It is uncanny, almost surreal, that it happens time after time after time. Almost like clockwork.
And it happened again Saturday night in San Diego’s Petco Park — and this one cost the Cincinnati Reds a crushing defeat.
For the 20th time this season, a Reds relief pitcher came into a game and gave up a home run to the first batter he faced. That borders on the incredulous.
THIS TIME IT WAS Jumbo Diaz in the 10th inning of a tie game.
Diaz gave up a walk-off home run to an unlikely source, former Reds infielder Adam Rosales, and the San Diego Padres scored a 2-1 win.
Not only was Rosales batting eighth in the order and batting .208, he wasn’t supposed to be in the lineup. He was a late insertion when the trade-happy Padres traded Matt Kemp just before the game.
ROSALES SOILED AND SPOILED incredibly good pitching performances by Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani and relief pitcher Raisel Iglesias.
Despite holding the Padres to one run and four hits over six innings, DeSclafani was deprived of his seventh straight win this season.
Iglesias, who hasn’t given up an earned run in 22 relief inning this year, pitched three innings of relief and retired 12 of the 13 batters he face, giving up no runs and one hit while striking out five.
But as good as Cincinnati pitching was, notwithstanding Diaz’s one-batter mishap, the Padres were better.
STARTER CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH, 4-and-6 with a 5.00 earned run average, hadn’t won a game since June and when the Reds saw him in June they scored six runs off him in 5 1/3 innings.
Not on this night.
Friedrich pitched six innings and gave up one run, five hits and one walk. And when he left, four San Diego relief pitchers retired 12 straight Reds.
THE REDS BROKE ON TOP in the third when Eugenio Suarez led the inning with a double, took third on DeSclafani’s fly to right and scored on Billy Hamilton’s two-out 0-and-2 single to center.
Joey Votto opened the fourth with a single to extend his hitting streak to 14 straight games and advanced to second on a fly ball, but Adam Duvall popped out and Brandon Phillips grounded to second. Phillips went 0 for 4, ending his hitting streak at 16 straight.
Zack Cozart pushed his hitting streak to 11 games when he singled with one out in the first, but Votto hit into an inning-ending double play.
DeSclafani retired the first seven Padres, four of them hard hit line drives that were caught, before Rosales blooped a double down the right field line with one out in the third.
IF THERE IS ONE THING DeSclafani had not done during his 6-and-0 start it was issue walks. He had walked only 11 over a 60-inning stretch when the sixth inning began.
But with one out he walked both Ryan Schimpf and Wil Myers. Brett Wallace lined to right for the second out but Alexi Amarista, who had three hits, singled to right field on a 2-and-2 count to tie it, 1-1.
Reds manager Bryan Price has taken a lot of unnecessary heat and criticism this year but he has to be given credit for his bullpen methodology since the All-Star break.
Price professes to be an old-school guy and he is showing it with the way he is using Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen for multiple innings, going against the grain of teams using relief pitchers one inning at a time.
IGLESIAS PITCHED HIS way out of a mess of his own making in his third inning, the bottom of the ninth.
With one out, Amarista singled. Iglesias tried to pick him off and threw the ball into right field and Amarista scampered to third base — the winning run 90 feet from home plate with out out.
But Iglesias struck out Jose Rondon for the second out. Rondon, called up from Double-A on Friday night, made his major league debut as a starter Saturday and earlier in the game punched his first major league hit.
After Rondon struck out, Iglesias induced an inning-concluding ground ball back to the mound.
And that took the game into the 10th and Rosales ended it quickly on a fat hit-me-and-hit-me-hard fastball. Heading into Friday’s game the Padres had hit home runs in 25 straight games, but the Reds shut them out, 6-0. Rosales started a new streak.
Homer Bailey makes his 2016 debut Sunday afternoon after undergoing two elbow surgeries and making six minor-league rehab appearances. Now it is for real and while his numbers at Class AAA Louisville were not good, he said, “I expect the adrenaline to kick in now.”