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After late comeback, Reds can't put away Bucs

Gennett homers as Cincy erases 4-run deficit, but missed opportunities prove costly
May 23, 2018

CINCINNATI -- The Reds seemed poised to have what might have been a memorable comeback win Wednesday over a contending Pirates club amid a rough season. Not only was Cincinnati burned in extras by the rulebook during a 5-4 loss in 12 innings at Great American Ball Park, it also

CINCINNATI -- The Reds seemed poised to have what might have been a memorable comeback win Wednesday over a contending Pirates club amid a rough season. Not only was Cincinnati burned in extras by the rulebook during a 5-4 loss in 12 innings at Great American Ball Park, it also couldn't take advantage of some wide-open chances.
A two-out RBI triple by Cincinnati native Josh Harrison in the top of the 12th inning proved to be the difference, and it foiled the Reds after they battled back from a four-run deficit.
"That was a great ballgame, a great effort by everybody involved. Unfortunately, we have to say that in a losing cause," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said.
Controversy arose in the bottom of the 11th inning. With Jose Peraza on first base following a leadoff walk against Steven Brault in a 4-4 game, Brandon Dixon dropped a perfect bunt in front of the plate. Catcher Francisco Cervelli's throw hit Dixon on the back and Peraza went to third base on what appeared to be an error. However, Dixon was called out for interference, as the umpires ruled he didn't stay in the runner's lane to first base, instead running inside the baseline when he was hit by the throw.

"In my head, I was just running down the line like normal. I wasn't trying to stay inside. I wasn't trying to stay outside," Dixon said. "The ball actually hit me on the right shoulder so it wasn't even close. They called it. It's part of the rules."
Peraza was sent back to first base. Instead of a good chance to win with runners on the corners and no outs, the Reds had a man on first and one out. Jesse Winker was hit by a Brault pitch with two outs to put Peraza in scoring position, but Tucker Barnhart struck out to end the rally.

The Reds didn't think they were wronged by a bad call, but they felt they were wronged by the rule itself.
"It's a bad rule, but it's always been the rule," Riggleman said. "When you bunt the ball, you've got to get yourself inside that lane there. It's just almost impossible for the baserunner to do that. When you take a swing and/or bunt, you come out in that direction, and you're automatically inside the line. They got the rule right, but it's unfortunate. That one didn't go our way."
There was a chance to overcome the missed opportunity. Leading off the bottom of the 12th against Kyle Crick, Joey Votto hit a double to the right-field corner. Scooter Gennett followed with a lined single to center that put runners on the corners. Eugenio Suarez then lined out to left field, not deep enough for Votto to tag up and score.
"Suarez hit the ball very well, but [it was] a low line drive," Riggleman said. "The outfielder got in good position and was relatively close there. It was unfortunate. Suarez hit it on the barrel and had nothing to show for it."
Peraza drew a two-out walk to load the bases for the rookie Dixon, who grounded out to shortstop to end the game, snapping the Pirates' four-game losing streak.
Trailing, 4-0, in the sixth, the Reds scraped back into the game. Against Pirates starter Chad Kuhl, Gennett hit a first-pitch fastball for a two-out home run to right field.
Good bullpen work from Tanner Rainey and Jackson Stephens enabled Cincinnati to stay in striking distance. In the bottom of the eighth, after Gennett's one-out walk loaded the bases against Michael Feliz, Suarez lifted a sacrifice fly to left field. When Pittsburgh turned to lefty closer Felipe Vazquez for the four-out save, pinch-hitter Alex Blandino added a two-out RBI single that scored Barnhart.

Peraza then battled Vazquez before hitting the game-tying RBI single to center field.

Reliever Dylan Floro gave the Reds a scoreless top of the 11th after a two-out double. In the 12th, Austin Meadows hit a leadoff double but was erased by a fielder's-choice comebacker to Floro off the bat of Jordy Mercer. With two outs, Harrison hit his triple to right field, and Mercer chugged around the bases. He scored just ahead of Gennett's throw with a slide that narrowly evaded catcher Barnhart's tag attempt.

Rainey escapes jam: Rainey, who was recalled from Triple-A Louisville earlier in the day, turned in two scoreless innings. It included Rainey working out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth in relief of starter Homer Bailey after he walked Harrison as his first batter. Rainey struck out Gregory Polanco and Cervelli before getting a comebacker from Josh Bell.

According to Statcast™, Bailey came into the night as one of the hardest-hit pitchers in baseball. Of 61 starters who had faced at least 150 batted balls in play, Bailey's 46.3 hard-hit rate (a 95-mph exit velocity or higher) was the third highest. But the Pirates did not clobber the ball against him Wednesday. Their average exit velocity on contact against him was 81 mph, which is tied for the best he has had since last season. There were five hits of soft contact (less than 95 mph), and the only extra-base hit he allowed was Cervelli's two-run homer to left field in the top of the first inning.

"I got a few strikeouts when I wanted them, and for the most part, that is just kind of the way it goes," said Bailey, who allowed four earned runs on 10 hits in five-plus innings. "A hanging slider beat us in the first. Outside of that, we had few walks, and we were really trying to pitch around a few guys in a few situations. That was just a good baseball game, and they got the better of us in this one."
None of the Pirates hits vs. Bailey were softer than the bunt single by Kuhl that scored Meadows -- from second base -- in the top of the sixth. Suarez charged aggressively from third base and the ball got past him to no man's land in the infield. Before Bailey could retrieve the ball behind Suarez, Meadows scored to make it a 4-0 game.

"He bunted it right there between me and Eugenio," Bailey said. "I could kind of see it out of the corner of my eye. I thought he had it, and he was really close to getting it. It was just one of those weird plays."
"I wasn't going to pitch him any further, but to have his bat in there was certainly a consideration. I wanted to get him in and out of there one time tonight, not swinging the bat or anything to tweak something. I was glad he was able to give us a clean inning there in the 10th." -- Riggleman, on his decision to have his last bench player, Tony Cruz, pinch-hit for good-hitting reliever Michael Lorenzen in the bottom of 10th inning and flying out. Lorenzen made his season debut in the top of the 10th.
The Reds will close out a seven-game homestand with the series finale against Pittsburgh at 12:35 p.m. ET on Thursday. Luis Castillo will take the mound for Cincinnati. In his last start, Castillo pitched five innings against the Cubs and gave up one run on six hits, but did not factor in the decision in the Reds' walk-off win in extra innings. Ivan Nova (2-4, 4.79 ERA) will get the ball for the Pirates. The game will be televised on MLB Network.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.