CINCINNATI — A walk proved decisive in the Reds’ loss at Pittsburgh on Thursday. Nine walks were too many for even an 8-run lead on Friday.
The Reds blew an 8-0 lead Friday to Toronto, losing 14-9. The Blue Jays led all of baseball in runs scored in May and, while their production has been down this month, they still own a lineup that shouldn’t be given any extra help getting on base. They have a way of bringing those base runners around to score.
The Blue Jays did exactly that Friday night. Beyond the 16 hits that included two home runs by former Red Edwin Encarnacion and one each by Brett Lawrie and Juan Francisco (another former Red), the Blue Jays worked Cincinnati pitching for nine walks. Starter Mat Latos walked three in his 5 2/3 innings. Manny Parra walked the only batter he faced and Logan Ondrusek replaced him only to walk in a run with the bases loaded. Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman each walked two batters.
Four of those walks turned into runs.
"I couldn’t find the release point on any of the off-speed stuff and then frustration got the best of me," said Latos, who was making his first home start of the season. "Then I couldn’t find the release point on the fastball, either."
In their last four games, starting with Tuesday’s series opener in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati pitching has allowed 29 extra base runners via walk or hit batter. The Reds got away with walking seven Pirates in that opening 6-5 win as Pittsburgh stranded 13 on base. They got away with walking four and hitting two batters in an 11-4 win on Wednesday.
The Pirates took advantage of two walks (one intentional) and a hit batter in the 12th inning Thursday to win 4-3. Tony Cingrani walked in the winning run. It was the last of six walks the Reds issued.
Broxton’s walk of Encarnacion in the eighth inning eventually became the tying run. Colby Rasmus walked leading off the ninth against Chapman. He became the go-ahead and eventual winning run on a double by catcher Erik Kratz.
Four of the walks went to Jose Bautista. He scored twice the easy way, jogging around the bases on Encarnacion home runs.
"We’ve got not just a talented group of pitchers but guys that have a history of being very, very successful," said manager Bryan Price.
That successful group is making things difficult on itself. The walk bug is affecting everyone. Even Johnny Cueto walked four in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, a season high.
Latos had thrown 97 pitches when Price came to get him in the sixth inning. It was a warm, muggy night without much of a breeze. He had given up an RBI single to pinch hitter Adam Lind that cut the Reds lead to 9-4 but got Jose Reyes on a comebacker to the mound for the second out of the inning. Price brought in Parra to face Melky Cabrera.
Parra hadn’t walked a batter in his last nine appearances. He walked Cabrera on four straight pitches.
Ondrusek got all four batters out he faced in Pittsburgh on Thursday. He walked Bautista before getting out of the inning.
"I felt like he (Latos) had done enough. I really did," said Price. "He wasn’t sharp and it felt like I was playing with fire there a little bit. He was competing. The competition was good. He could’ve gotten him out. Now we’ll never know but it’s like everything else — when you make a decision that doesn’t work, it opens up a can of worms for speculation.
"I felt like it was the right move. We just didn’t execute. We didn’t get the job done and we’re sucking on a loss."