CINCINNATI -- Wade Miley has been such an important pitcher to the Reds with many strong starts this season. But during a 5-4 loss to the Cardinals in Game 1 of a seven-inning day-night doubleheader, Miley was a better hitter than a pitcher on Wednesday at Great American Ball Park.
Miley gave himself a lead when he delivered a two-run double with his bat in the bottom of the second inning and was given another lead in the third inning. But he could not hold either one during a rough afternoon on the mound where he allowed five runs and 12 hits over four innings while throwing 66 pitches. The lefty walked one, struck out two and surrendered three home runs -- including a pair of booming drives by Paul Goldschmidt.
"Pitchers say it all the time -- shutdown innings are so important, and offenses feed off of that," said Miley, who is now 11-5 with a 2.97 ERA in 25 starts this season. "Obviously, I wasn’t able to have one today. It was unfortunate. Hopefully we can strap it back on, try to scratch out a win and get out of this little funk."
The pitch Miley really wanted back was the 3-2 fastball to Goldschmidt, who launched a titanic go-ahead two-run home run in the fourth inning. The projected 441-foot drive hit a sign on the smokestacks located in right-center field. Miley, who shook off the called pitch from catcher Tucker Barnhart ahead of the homer, was yelling at himself afterwards on the mound.
"I wish once I got to 3-2, I would have challenged him with a cutter on his hands," Miley lamented. "That’s what Tuck called and I shook back to fastball down-and-away, and obviously we’ve seen what happened."
It was Cincinnati's fourth consecutive loss -- and sixth in the last eight games -- at a time when the club can least afford it. Falling a half-game behind the Padres, it was the first time since Aug. 19 that the Reds (71-63) didn't have at least a share of the second National League Wild Card spot. Although the Reds drew back even for that second spot after San Diego lost Wednesday.
The Cardinals are now breathing down the Reds' neck at 1 1/2 games back and are in position to sweep the three-game series with another win in the nightcap.
"It has been a little tough, we’ve faced some good teams, one of those things that you just got to keep going and not get caught up too much in the Wild Card race or the playoff race or anything like that," Barnhart said. "If we’re playing the way we know we can play and the way we’ve been playing outside of this last week, I think everybody is confident that we’ll be where we want to be at the end of this thing."
Miley was down, 2-0, in the top of the second inning. In the top of the first, Goldschmidt hit a projected 439-foot solo homer off the batter's eye in center field. Harrison Bader led off the second inning with a first-pitch homer inside the left-field foul pole.
“Wade’s been having a great year, one of the best pitchers in the league, and he’s been doing it for a long time," Goldschmidt said. "Today we found some holes -- get runners on and get them in. He works fast, usually throws a lot of strikes. Today, it just kind of went our way.”
Even when he was getting ground balls, Miley was still giving up singles.
"They just got to him early in my opinion and the inconsistency of the cutter was one thing. We probably threw more fastballs than we did cutters is my guess," Barnhart said. "They made us go to plan B, C and D pretty quick. They got him today."
The Reds rallied for three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Two batters after Barnhart's RBI single against Miles Mikolas, Miley slapped a first pitch down the left-field line for a two-run double and 3-2 lead.
“It was a big hit, especially at that point in the game. It would have been nice to have it hold up," Reds manager David Bell said.
St. Louis tied the game in the third inning on an Edmundo Sosa sacrifice fly, but the Reds gave Miley another lead in the bottom half on Joey Votto's RBI double to right-center field. Nick Castellanos scored from first base with a brilliant slide around catcher Andrew Knizner's tag.
Despite Miley having allowed eight hits through three innings, Bell gave him the fourth inning instead of going to the bullpen.
"You look back and you wonder if it would have been somebody else’s inning," Bell said. "My thought process was I believe in Wade. I absolutely believed he could go out and get a couple of more scoreless innings."