CINCINNATI – Sam LeCure has been on a roll this season for the Reds. It’s not out of whack to give the right-handed reliever serious consideration as an All-Star even if he’s not in the glamour set of closers.
Tuesday night was a bad night for LeCure and it showed how fickle the baseball gods can be.
LeCure gave up a two-run home run to Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki with two outs in the eighth inning that sent the Rockies to a 5-4 victory at Great American Ball Park. It was the second eighth-inning collapse for the bullpen in three days; Jonathan Broxton gave up a two-out, two-run homer to Pittsburgh’s Garrett Jones on Sunday that tied a game the Pirates would go on to win 5-4 in 11 innings.
LeCure hadn’t allowed a run in his last 10 outings and just three runs in 21 previous outings this season. During the month of May, LeCure gave up just three hits and four walks in 11 1/3 innings.
One swing of Tulowitzki’s bat, a quick umpire’s video review and, my, how outlooks can change. What was a 4-3 lead was no longer.
“That was unfortunate,” said LeCure. “We battled our butts off to scratch that run across in the seventh. As a reliever you’re thinking the later you’re pitching the better. I’ve wanted that opportunity to go out there and try to lock it down there late. Today wasn’t the day.”
The eighth inning started the like it was the same day LeCure has been having this season. He got Dexter Fowler to fly out to left field and then struck out DJ LeMahieu looking. He had Carlos Gonzalez with two strikes but couldn’t get that third one past the Rockies’ No. 3 hitter. His 2-2 pitch was close but called outside. Ball four wasn’t as debatable.
Up stepped Tulowitzki, who had gone 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Reds’ starter Homer Bailey. LeCure fell behind 3-0 but got back to 3-2 before giving Tulowitzki a pitch up in the zone that he hit on a line towards the left field wall. It got over, regardless of a fan interfering with the ruling by reaching out and catching the ball before it reached the seats.
The eighth inning role as set-up man for closer Aroldis Chapman has been Broxton’s but he’s lived on the edge while getting the job done. LeCure was warmed up and ready to go in the seventh inning before Bailey pitched out of a first-and-third, one-out jam by getting pinch hitter Jordan Pacheco to hit into a double play.
When the Reds scored a run in the seventh inning to take the lead, LeCure was ready to pitch. He hadn’t pitched since Saturday night in Pittsburgh.
“Sam was already loose,” said manager Dusty Baker. “You hate to keep getting those guys up. You don’t understand that as well as an appearance that takes it out of them. They don’t get in the game but the times they don’t get in the game is just as hard on them as when they get in the game. It’s like getting in the game. When a guy gets hot I count that as an appearance.”
LeCure’s performances this season warranted him being in that spot.
“The guy has been unbelievable,” said Baker. “It happened to Broxton the other day so it was like ‘whoa, boy.’ You go back to your original plan.
“It teaches us all that you can’t lose faith in the people that you have. It’s an up-and-down season. It’s a long year. I’ve just got to give my guys some love and make sure that they know I’m behind them if not everybody else.”
Broxton and LeCure and going to be back in these situations sooner than later.
“I’ve been aware that I’ve been throwing the ball well for awhile and people remind of that and I’m always like ‘It’s unfortunate because some day it’s going to end.’ Some day it’s going to come to an end. Today turned out to be the day,” said LeCure. “I’m not going to run from that. It was unfortunate. We battled and came back there. It was a game we should have won but that’s the way it is. I’m not going to run. I’m not going to hide from it. I’m going to come back tomorrow and give it another shot and see if I can help us out.”