Not even the most optimistic fan of the Cincinnati Reds expected to be playing meaningful baseball on September 20th. After losing 100 games a year ago expectations were not high. Then, multiple injuries occurred and a record number of rookies were asked to play major roles. Those rookies proved to be future stars and the Reds have remained in playoff contention all season long. That remains true, but Wednesday’s loss felt like a potential turning point. A 3-2 lead in the ninthth inning turned into a 5-3 loss which also flipped the series from the Reds to the Minnesota Twins. Cincinnati will still be within striking distance when they go to bed on Wednesday night. However, to blow a lead when you are three outs away this time of year certainly stings a little extra.
Scoreboard watching is a major part of September baseball. That will be even more true throughout the rest of the day on Wednesday after the Reds dropped two out of three games to the Twins. Now, fans turn their attention and cheer for the Giants, Mets, and Pirates. Cincinnati will be either one or two games out of the final National League Wild Card spot pending the outcome of those three games.
The Reds will take Thursday off before welcoming the Pittsburgh Pirates to Great American Ball Park for a three-game weekend series. Andrew Abbott is set to start on Friday evening with a first pitch schedule for 6:40 p.m. Eastern Time. Brandon Williamson will start on Saturday and Sunday is to be determined. With just eight games remaining, and a current 79-75 record, the Reds will likely need six wins to feel good about their playoff chances. Five would make it very, very close. However, as the cliche says, it will be one game at a time from here on out.
Connor Phillips Leads Reds to Series Opening Win
The Cincinnati Reds offense came through early and often on Monday night. However, the story of the game was Connor Phillips and his performance on the mound. Making just his third career start, the 22-year old turned in a masterful performance when the Reds needed it most. The bullpen has been mostly money of late, but it has also been vastly overworked due to a number of short starts. Phillips remedied that problem on Monday though going seven innings while allowing just two runs on three hits and striking out seven. The outing was enough to earn his first victory in the Major Leagues.
Behind Phillips, Derek Law needed just seven pitches to retire the Minnesota Twins in the eighth. Then, Alex Young allowed a run in the ninth but still shut the door to secure the 7-3 win.
At the plate, Noelvi Marte stayed hot and got Cincinnati on the board in the second inning. The 21-year old rookie delivered a RBI single up the middle making it 1-0. Then, with two runners on, Will Benson was robbed of a home run in dead centerfield. However, it still worked as a sacrifice fly as the Reds took a 2-0 advantage. In the fourth, Benson got all of one for a two-run shot extending the lead to 4-1. There was no robbing that 408-foot home run.
Cincinnati would add some insurance runs in the seventh inning to take the pressure off of the bullpen. Spencer Steer scored Jonathan India on a RBI single that made it a 5-2 game. Then, Joey Votto came through with a big two out hit platting a pair and making it 7-2. Minnesota tacked one on in the top of the ninth, but that is as close as they would come. Eventually, Alex Young closed the game out for a 7-3 win.
Offense Goes Cold in 7-0 Blowout Loss
It is hard to win when you can only produce four hits. That is what happened to the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night as they were shutout by the Minnesota Twins. There were very few opportunities even for the Reds to score as they finished just 0-2 with runners in scoring position and left only five runners on base. On the mound, manager David Bell tried to piece together a bullpen game. However, despite their recent success, it did not work out in this matchup.
The Reds bullpen had a recent streak of 21 scoreless innings and had nearly built another 10 inning streak prior to Alex Young’s run allowed on Monday night. Cincinnati’s relief pitchers were not nearly as sharp on Tuesday though. Fernando Cruz started the game and allowed a run in the top of the second inning. In the fourth, Young gave up his second run in as many appearances with a solo home run to Ryan Jeffers. Then, it was Ben Lively who was really hit around as the Twins would cruise to a 7-0 shutout victory.
Lively did the grunt work out of the pen to eat some innings, but allowed five runs on seven hits in four innings of work. He also walked four batters. The game started to get away from the Reds in the sixth inning and then Willi Castro hit a two-run home run in the seventh that extended their advantage to 6-0. They added one more via a Derek Law wild pitch in the eighth to set the eventual final score of 7-0.
Reds Bullpen Blows Late Lead in Costly Loss
A 162 game baseball season can feel like an eternity. Those April and May games have a hard time seeming as important with literally over 100 games still to play. However, circumstances like the Cincinnati Reds are currently in are proof that every game truly matters. There is a very good chance the final National League Wild Card, maybe even the final two, spots will be determined by one game. In fact, it could very well come down to a tiebreaker. The Reds bullpen blew a lead on Wednesday afternoon despite being three outs away from a win. They also blew a couple of games in the months of April and May. Wednesday’s loss feels a lot worse, but it doesn’t really matter more than that loss five months ago.
TJ Friedl got the Reds on the board in the bottom of the third with a RBI single. Christian Encarnacion-Strand then made it 2-0 with a home run in the next turn at bat. As Hunter Greene dominated on the mound that score would hold until Willi Castro connected on a home run to breakup the shutout. Greene would finish by striking out 14 batters and allowing just one run on three hits in seven innings of work. It was without a doubt one of his best performances of his career. However, he was left with nothing to show for it.
After Castro broke up the shutout in the seventh, the Cincinnati Reds quickly got it back to a two run lead as Luke Maile drove in Will Benson after a leadoff triple in the eighth. Minnesota answered making it 3-2 in the eighth before David Bell turned the ball over to closer Alexis Diaz to slam the door in the ninth inning. Castro reached base via a bunt single and proceeded to steal second before advancing to third on a throwing error by Maile behind the plate. Just like that, his speed put the tying run on third base with nobody out. Then, former Red Kyle Farmer drove him in to make it 3-3. Diaz recorded one out and issued a walk before being lifted in favor of Sam Moll.
The left-hander got out number two and then intentionally walked a batter to load the bases. Jorge Polanco came through though with a two-run single to put the Twins on top 5-3. That lead would hold and Minnesota escaped GABP with the series-clinching rubber match.