3 takeaways as comeback falls short in finale

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CINCINNATI -- For two-thirds of Wednesday night’s game at Great American Ball Park, the Reds were quiet against the Royals. But the offense powered to life and manager David Bell was making all sorts of strategic decisions to try and complete the comeback.

Cincinnati fell short with a 5-4 loss after it trailed Kansas City, 5-0, through six innings. There was a four-run rally in the seventh inning on home runs by Jesse Winker, Freddy Galvis and Josh VanMeter. But rallies were unsuccessful during the final two innings.

Box score

Here are three takeaways from the game.

Why did Bell pinch-run for Votto?
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Joey Votto drew a leadoff walk against reliever Josh Staumont to represent the tying run. Bell decided to pull the slower-footed Votto for pinch-runner Travis Jankowski, one of the club’s fastest players. Bell knew that Votto’s spot in the order could come up again, but he took the gamble anyway.

Notes: Balancing arms; Sims steps up

“We’re at that point in the game [that] we’re doing absolutely everything we can do to tie the game,” Bell explained. “Eighth inning, middle of our lineup. Their closer is in the next inning.”

Staumont allowed a one-out single to Winker to put runners on the corners with a chance to take the lead. But Staumont, whose fastball hovers in the mid-to-high 90s, struck out the side by getting Eugenio Suárez, Nick Senzel and Galvis to look at nasty strike-three curveballs.

“Obviously it didn’t work out, but that’s the way we’re going to approach it, really, any time,” Bell said. “It’s not easy taking Joey’s bat out of the game, don’t get me wrong. We want him up there in every situation. But the situation in the game, we have to do everything we can to try to tie it. First things, first.”

Rare sac-bunt attempt
Bell is averse to sacrifice bunting and giving away outs, but he made a pivotal decision to try it against Royals closer Trevor Rosenthal in the bottom of the ninth inning. VanMeter led off with a walk and reliever Michael Lorenzen was summoned from the bullpen to pinch-run for his speed.

The next hitter up, Tucker Barnhart, is one of Bell’s better bunters, but the challenge was getting one down against Rosenthal. On a first-pitch changeup, Barnhart couldn’t do it. On a 1-1 count, Rosenthal threw a 97 mph fastball for a ball. Barnhart squared again on a 2-1, 97 mph heater and got the bunt down. But charging third baseman Maikel Franco gloved it and fired to second base for the force out.

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After back-to-back walks loaded the bases with one out, the game ended when Christian Colón -- batting in Votto’s spot in the order -- grounded into a 5-4-3 double play.

“Tough pitcher,” Bell said. “Obviously, we have a fast runner on first base. Again, we really loved our chances if we can tie the game. We don’t [call for a sacrifice bunt] a lot in that situation. I just felt like that was our best chance, to bunt Michael over to second base and get the tying run around. We would have been willing to do anything to be able to tie the game.”

Short night for Miley
Signed to a two-year, $15 million contract in December to bolster an already strong rotation, Wade Miley's returns have been this: two starts, each lasting 1 2/3 innings, sandwiched around a stint on the injured list with a left groin strain. Miley was activated ahead of Wednesday’s start.

“The ball felt like it was coming out of my hand a lot better,” Miley said. “Obviously [during] the long first inning, I was trying to find some crispness. I kind of got through it; managed. Only gave up one there. I felt a lot better in the second, but I guess I got to a number they had in mind for me and they got me out of there.”

During a 33-pitch first inning, Whit Merrifield opened the game with a double and advanced to third on a passed ball. With one out, Salvador Perez grounded to the left side and Freddy Galvis’ wild desperation throw to the plate had no chance to get Merrifield as he scored. Miley faced seven batters in the frame, but he escaped with the bases loaded and no further damage.

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As Nicky Lopez grounded to first base with one out in the second inning, Miley sprinted to cover Votto’s toss to the bag but appeared to take an awkward step. He was OK, however. Next was Merrifield, who walked on five pitches, and that was it for Miley, who allowed one run on two hits and two walks with two strikeouts.

“I didn’t want to come out like that, finishing on that note,” Miley said. “David made the decision. Tyler came in and did a good job. He’s been throwing the ball great. Got us deep in the ball game.”

Tyler Mahle relieved Miley and allowed three runs and two hits over 3 1/3 innings. He then gave way to another starter-turned-reliever in Tejay Antone, who allowed one run in the sixth to stake Kansas City to a 5-0 lead.

“Given everything that we were seeing, we thought it would be good to pass it on to Tyler, who [had] up to 100 pitches in the tank,” Bell said. “We also had Tejay Antone. Let Wade get this one under his belt and come back next time.”

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