Some losses are tougher to take than others. I don’t exactly know where Wednesday night’s 5-4 loss at Atlanta ranks, but I’d say at least an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
The Reds had a few chances to score runs before they did some actual damage in the 8th. Their best chance came in the 5th when Aaron Harang began things with a lead-off double. Orlando Cabrera got him to 3rd on a ground out, but neither Brandon Phillips nor Joey Votto could get him in. There was also a two-out double by Scott Rolen with Phillips on first in the 3rd, but the ball hopped over the wall in left-center, and Phillips had to retreat by rule back to 3rd. Kawakami got Jay Bruce to fly out to center to end the threat.
Harang wasn’t bad Wednesday night, but he was touched up for three big consecutive extra-base hits in the 1st inning before he got into his rhythm. With one out, rookie sensation Jason Heyward doubled, future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones doubled Heyward in, and then Brian McCann blasted a homer to right-center for a 3-0 Braves lead.
The Reds were counting on their offense touching up Kenshin Kawakami, he of the 0-6 record and bloated ERA, but Kawakami was dealing and the Reds could do no damage. “Sometimes, you can’t figure it out,” said Dusty Baker. “We figured we’d score against Kawakami, and we didn’t. And their bullpen has been great, and we scored four runs off the bullpen.”
Scott Rolen delivered a key blow with a two-run double down the left field line in the 8th to get the Reds on the board at 4-2. Then Drew Stubbs singled in Rolen to make it 4-3. In the 9th, Chris Heisey delivered a pinch-hit leadoff homer to left off of closer Billy Wagner to tie the game up.
Cabrera followed with a single to center, Phillips bunted him into scoring position, and Cincinnati had Joey Votto at the plate with Rolen to follow. Wagner walked Votto on a high 3-2 fastball, but got Rolen on a 2-2 slider and then blew a 97 MPH 3-2 fastball past a swinging Jay Bruce. The game was tied at 4-4 to the bottom of the 9th.
Nick Masset got the first two Braves hitters out without a problem, but then Martin Prado singled to right and up came Heyward. This was Heyward’s night. He battled Masset like a veteran. Masset got ahead 1-2, but Heyward kept spoiling breaking pitches. Masset tried to pick off Prado, and it appeared he did. Watching my recording of the game in frame advance, Votto put the tag on Prado two frames before Prado’s hand hit the bag. It was a bang-bang play and no fault of the umpire, Lance Barksdale, to call it the way he did. It’s part of what makes baseball great, calls that could go either way. And, really, who could say that Atlanta wouldn’t have won in a long extra-inning game that would’ve taxed the bullpen?
Masset resumed his quest of Heyward, who already had a double and triple in the game. Breaking ball after breaking ball, and soon the count was 3-2. This meant that Prado would be running on the pitch with two out. Ramon Hernandez looked into the Reds dugout and it appeared they gave him an order to call a fastball, which seemed to play into Heyward’s strength. As Hernandez looked from the dugout to the mound, he clearly shook his head as if to say “no.” The pitch that followed was a 95 MPH fastball and Heyward drilled it close to the right field line and to the wall. Bruce got to it, but Prado’s head start allowed him to score easily with the winning run, and the Braves had survived the Reds comeback to win.
Then came the scoreboard watching and the Florida Marlins did the Reds a huge favor in knocking off St. Louis. So, the Reds stayed in first place for another day. And, man, are the Reds ever an exciting team to watch – win or lose.
They have Mike Leake to pitch on Thursday. The game will be televised nationally on MLB Network.
NOTES: Aroldis Chapman threw well against Lehigh Valley on Wednesday. Chapman threw five innings of three-hit, no-run ball. He also struck out seven and walked three before having to leave with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.
About the Author
Written by Dave Allen
I'm a lifelong Cincinnati sports fan who has been following the Reds and Bengals ever since I can remember. My first Reds game was Game 6 of the '72 World Series and my first Bengals game was an October 1975 clash with the Steelers. I've been involved in sports media since Junior High, when I assisted with scores for Bob Trumpy SportsTalk in 1979 on WLW Radio. My biggest Reds highlight came in 1998 when I was chosen to be the public address announcer at Riverfront Stadium (then called Cinergy Field) for Opening Day and the entire first homestand. I am thrilled to be involved with PSB and I hope you enjoy my entries!