Sunk by the 6th: Reds' early lead evaporates

In club debut, Lavarnway socks pair of homers, drives in six

July 20th, 2019

CINCINNATI -- In the midst of Friday’s game against the Cardinals, the Reds announced that injured reliever Amir Garrett’s rehab assignment game for Triple-A Louisville was scratched because of travel issues flying to Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Normally, that wouldn’t be too significant, but any delay in Cincinnati getting its best reliever back in action is big right now.

A second-half plummet continued for the Reds, who surrendered 10 runs in a disastrous sixth inning of pitching and defense on the way to a 12-11 loss to St. Louis at Great American Ball Park. Because he was ejected before the second inning, all manager David Bell could do was watch helplessly from his office.

“Certainly when you’re on the field, when you’re in the dugout, watching it on TV or you’re in the stands, it’s tough to watch that,” Bell said. “As confident as you are as a Major League player, when things start going like that, it can really spiral on you … We could all see that happening and it was hard to watch for our guys.”

It was a devastating loss on multiple levels for Cincinnati, which has lost four in a row and eight of its last 10 games. The club is now a season-high nine games below .500 at 43-52, and has fallen to nine games out of first place in the National League Central, also a season high. The Reds were 4 1/2 games out of first on July 7, going into the All-Star break.

That type of deficit makes it seem less likely that the Reds could be buyers ahead of the July 31 Trade Deadline. 

The Reds initially appeared on their way to a smooth evening. Starting pitcher Tyler Mahle carried a 7-0 lead into the top of the sixth, with new catcher Ryan Lavarnway providing an RBI double and a three-run home run.

Related

“We can see that you can have a day at the plate and it doesn’t matter, because we’ve got to pitch the ball and take care of it on defense,” Lavarnway said. “We gave them a couple of extra outs in the sixth inning there. A good team like that is going to take advantage.”

Two Cardinals runs had already scored when reliever Matt Bowman took over for Mahle. Bowman’s first batter, pinch-hitter Yairo Munoz, hit a slow grounder to short. Jose Iglesias attempted a no-look glove flip of the ball for a force play at second base that was not in time, which loaded the bases.

Kolten Wong added a sacrifice fly to right field for the second out. Instead of throwing to the cut-off man, Yasiel Puig launched a throw to third base for a low-percentage attempt to get Tyler O’Neill trying to advance. O’Neill was easily safe, and trail runner Dexter Fowler was able to take second base. It cost the Reds a run when both runners scored on Paul DeJong’s double.

“Down 7-0 in Cincinnati, it would be easy to mail it in, but for us, we stayed confident,” DeJong said. “We were greedy and selfish at the plate, wanting to keep getting hits … Once things started happening, it was almost contagious. You could see it on their faces, how they were on their heels. First-pitch ball, second-pitch ball, just getting us in a better situation. Really just a snowball tonight.”

Another Reds reliever, Jared Hughes, induced a grounder to first baseman Joey Votto off the bat of Tommy Edman that should have meant the end of the inning. But Votto booted the ball for an error that scored the tying run. 

Jose Martinez was next and drew a full count before he slugged a Hughes four-seam fastball for a three-run homer to center field to give the Cardinals a 10-7 lead.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” said Hughes, who gave up four unearned runs. “I missed a couple of times in situations where I just have to make my pitch. They made me pay for it. You miss middle in the Major Leagues and they’ll make you pay for it.”

DeJong added a two-run homer in the seventh against Robert Stephenson, who gave up a game-deciding grand slam to Edman in the sixth inning Thursday, for which Stephenson earned the loss.

In their last 10 games, Reds relievers own a 7.83 ERA with 29 earned runs allowed over their last 33 1/3 innings. Closer Raisel Iglesias is due back from the paternity list Saturday. A decision of what’s next for Garrett isn’t known. He was expected to pitch Friday and to be activated from the injured list Sunday after being out with a left lat strain, having last pitched July 2.

In the bottom of the eighth, Lavarnway slugged a two-run homer for a career-high six-RBI night.

According to Elias Sports, Lavarnway became the first Reds player with more than three RBIs in his debut since the RBI became an official statistic in 1920.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth against Carlos Martinez, Jesse Winker delivered a two-out, two-run single into right field, which put the go-ahead run on first base. But Votto grounded out to first base to end the game as the rally fell short.

“We made a run there at the end, but we had a big lead. That was just a tough [sixth] inning,” Bell said. “What more can you say? A lot of things didn’t go right, and it’s unfortunate, because we had a nice lead. Like we’ve talked about, they’re all really big games. They can hurt a little more. … I know we’ll respond and come back and play tomorrow. It was a game that we felt like we should’ve won, for sure.”