By Hal McCoy
Graham Ashcraft discovered Wednesday afternoon what many major league pitchers have discovered — no lead is safe, no matter how big, in Coors Field, the world’s largest batting practice facility.
Ashcraft was breezing along with a 5-0 lead when the Colorado Rockies came to bat in the bottom of the fifth.
Then it was rocket’s red glare. The Rockies sent 19 batters to the plate in the fifth and sixth, scored five in the fifth and six in the sixth for an 11-6 victory over the stunned and shocked Cincinnati Reds.
The five-run blown lead was the largest of the season for the Reds. Their previous high was three.
And there is something about the Reds on getaway days. They finished 3-and-3 on a trip to Miami and Colorado and they lost both of the final games of the two series. For the year, the Reds are 4-and-10 in the last game of a series.
They lost two of three this week to the Rockies, which is old news. They haven’t won a series in Coors Field in 10 years, back to 2013. And the Rockies have not been that good.
Catcher Luke Maile’s two-run double in the second gave the Reds a 2-0 lead. Maile homered leading off the fourth and Stuart Fairchild doubled home two more.
That gave Ashcraft a 5-0 working margin entering the bottom of the fifth. He had held the Rockies to no runs and three hits, with the defense helping out with two double plays.
He retired the first batter in the sixth, but the next five batters reached base. The rest of the inning went single, single, single, walk, double, line out to short, single, fly ball. Jurickson Profar’s two-run double and Elias Diaz’s two-run single were the big blows.
So it was 5-5 after five and Ashcraft trudged back to the mound. It was a no-go. Harold Castro doubled and Michael Toglio singled. And Ashcraft’s dreary day was done.
Lucas Sims replaced him and the first pitch he threw was ripped for a two-run triple by rookie Brenton Doyle, the man who hit two home runs in Monday’s opener. Sim then walked Alan Trejo and hit Charlie Blackmon with a pitch to fill the bases.
One batter later, Kris Bryant doubled for two runs. Silvino Bracho replaced Sims and gave up a run-scoring single to Diaz and it was 11-5.
For some strange reason, Colorado manager Bud Bllack chose this moment to bring in rookie pitcher Riley Pint in the ninth-inning for his major-league debut. He came to Denver with a high earned run average at Triple-A Albuquerque and showed why.
He retired Jonathan India, then walked Nick Senzel, walked Spencer Steer and gave up a run-scoring double to Stuart Fairchild. When he walked Kevin Newman on four pitches, Black came to get him.
Pierce Johnson arrived and quickly ended it by getting Wil Myers on a pop-up and striking out Jose Barrero, who had reached base four straight times with two singles and two walks.
Colorado amassed 13 hits and the Reds had 12, but the Reds stranded 10 and were 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position. The Rockies were 7-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left five on base.
Ashcraft’s line was an ugly five-plus innings, seven runs, 10 hits, one walk, one strikeout. His earned run average expanded from 3.95 to 4.84.
The Reds collected five runs and eight hits off Colorado starter Austin Gomber in 4 1/3 innings, but couldn’t add on against Fernando Abad, Brent Suter and Jake Bird.
The Reds return home and open a three-game series Friday night against the New York Yankees and will wear their new black City Connect uniforms with Ben Lively on the mound.