The Cincinnati Reds officially bowed out of the playoff race yesterday (along with the Phillies) though it has seemed a fait accompli for some time. They went out in an 11-3 loss to lowly Pittsburgh on only seven hits (2 for home runs) while committing 5 errors. Of the five errors, two were by vituperative manager Bob Boone's son Aaron at third and two were by late-inning, left-field replacement Adam Dunn, each a two-base error.
The game epitomized the Reds' season. It was all there in microcosm. The Reds jumped out to an early lead, 2-0 on Russell Branyan's 13th home run in 73 games with Cincy (21st for the year) and catcher Jason LaRue's 12th. Branyan then doubled home Jose Guillen in the fourth for a 3-0 lead. Meanwhile Brian Moehler was pitching well through the first three innings. He had allowed four hits and a walk and had thrown 51 pitches in three innings but had worked himself out of jams, not bad for his first outing in three weeks.
Then, like the Reds' season, the game all came apart. With one out, Adam Hyzdu reached first on Aaron Boone's first error after Moehler had worked a 3-0 count into a 3-2 one. Craig Wilson then drew a 7-pitch walk off of Moehler. Next up was the pitcher, Kris Benson, who bunted the 0-1 pitch right n front of the plate. LaRue pounced on the ball and threw to third to force the lead runner. The ball glanced off Boone's glove for his second error and traveled down the left field line. Remember that the runner at third was Adam Hyzdu who had reached on Boone's first error. Both runners scored and Benson advanced to second. Chris Reitsma was then summoned from the bullpen though I'm not sure that any of this besides the walk was Moehler's doing. These are the kind of decisions that the elder Boone makes as a manager.
Reitsma's second toss was a wild pitch; Benson to third. Reese singled on the next pitch (1-1 count) for the first hit of the inning and driving the third and tying run. Jack Wilson then reached on an error by ss Barry Larkin on a potential double-play ball, but the inning finished with no further incident.
In the fifth, Benson seemed to be laboring (15 pitches to retire the first two batters, a Walker first pitch single, and then a 4-pitch fly out by the moongazing Aaron Boone). Reitsma continued to struggle in the bottom of the fifth. After Aramis Ramirez kindly flied out on an 0-1 pitch, Rob Mackowiak received a 5-pitch walk and Adam Hyzdu stuck out on 4 pitches. Reitsma hit Craig Wilson on a 1-0 pitch and then walked the pinch-hitter for the pitcher on 4 pitches to load the bases. Again the former Red, Pokey Reese, came up with runners on and again he delivered the first hit of the inning to drive in some runs. He hit an 0-2 pitch to left to score 2 and the Pirates were ahead to stay.
The Reds then marched out a string of failed starters that they call a bullpen (Joey Hamilton, Bruce Chen, and Jose Silva). Chen came in in the eighth: Dunn dropped the ball in left on Chen's first pitch. Chen then walked two hitters on 9 combined pitches and called it a night (2 strikes in 10 pitches). All three later scored but were unearned because of the error. Jose Silva relieved Chen and induced the first batter to pop up, but then walked in a run on four pitches, allowed a first-pitch sac. fly (absolving Chen), and then walked a man on five pitches. Adrian Brown doubled on a 2-1 pitch for the first hit of the inning and driving in the third and fourth runs. Good night, Jose Silva. Again Pokey Reese was up with men on (first and third) and again the pitcher was up 1-2 to Reese, but he singled to center plating the fifth run and sixth runs of the inning. Dunn's second two-base error again on Jack Wilson was next but that was the end of the scoring.
In the ninth, the Reds went down quietly. The first two batters struck out on 6 total pitches (and yet Lloyd McClendon pulled Joe Beimel). Adam Dunn finished up with a weak 1-2 grounder to the first baseman.
Like this year's pennant race, the Reds jumped out to a lead, faltered allowing the opposition to tie things up, gave up the ghost while a slew of failed major-league starters were employed, and then quietly faded away. And still Boone cannot see the issues with the club. He'll probably blame Moehler just like he did Reitsma.
In a July 3 11-4 loss to Houston Retsma allowed 9 unearned runs (due to three errors, including one by Reitsma) for his 7th straight loss in eight starts. He shut out Milwaukee next, but then pitched poorly to get pulled from the rotation. Boone then used Reitsma as his own personal yo-yo: pitching him in the bullpen twice in short relief, allowing him to start once (5 earned runs in 5 innings), then pitching him in long relief once, then inserting him the rotation one last time (6 earned runs in 4.1), then using him for mop-up (Boone's version of the dog house), and finally inserting him into his current long-relief role. How is Reitsma supposed to succeed when he does not even know how he'll be used day-to-day.
So far, Boone has confirmed that Elmer Dessens is in his 2003 rotation, but the implication was that no one else is. That isn't fair to Jimmy Haynes who has pitched respectably and to Brian Moehler, Shawn Estes, and Ryan Dempster who pitched respectably before coming to the Reds and are being evaluated on part of a season. Also, why Chris Reitsma is not still in the rotation is beyond me-but his usefulness has unquestionably been reduced by Boone's approach with him.
Boone was a bit miffed after the game. Son Aaron said. "That was about as mad as I've ever seen him.'' Well, I don't blame him for being angry, but can he reasonably say that he has managed this team well enough to point fingers at this stage of the season? Why another major-league team with young talent (witness Dunn's two errors) would turn over the keys to Boone after his disastrous Royals tenure is something I cannot fathom.
"It's a long season," Dunn said. "But you've got to play for pride. You can't go out there and look like a Little League team."