CINCINNATI – Baseball is a game where you can’t lick your wounds too long. Football gives you a whole week to regurgitate a game – the good, the bad and the forgettable – but baseball brings the opportunity for quick redemption.
Monday’s off day meant the Reds had to wait an extra 24 hours for their shot at putting the memory of the St. Louis Cardinals behind them. It would be easy to let the Cardinals get in your head, especially after they scored 28 runs in a pair of wins while taking two of three against the Reds for the fourth time this season.
Give this to the Reds this season: they’ve done a pretty good job of putting the past behind them. Tuesday’s methodical 3-1 win against Oakland was a perfect example.
Mat Latos pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits, while the Reds did just enough offensively against one of Major League Baseball’s stingiest pitching staffs to beat the AL West leaders.
“It didn’t matter how we won today,” said manager Dusty Baker, “we just needed a win. We need to put all of the negatives and stuff behind us, and get rid of what happened the other day because you can’t bring it back. Today is the only day that counts and we won.”
The Reds are again 11 games over .500 at 62-51. They’re in third place in the NL Central, trailing Pittsburgh by 6.5 games and St. Louis by 4.5 games, but they lead Arizona by 4.5 games for the second and final wild card spot with 49 games to play. Time is dwindling on the season. September is around the corner, but it’s not a bad position to be, especially considering they’ve gone 3-7 in their last 10 games.
It’s a matter of perspective. Dwell on the past, let it fester and that’s when five-game leads start to disappear. Take a breath, relax and take advantage for the next win and things aren’t quite so bad.
“The past is in the past. We’ve got to worry about right now,” said Latos. “I couldn’t tell you what happened this past weekend. All I know is that we played the A’s today, we’re playing the A’s tomorrow. We won today. We have to take this day-by-day. We have to forget what happened and basically prepare and be ready to come out the next day.”
Latos made pitches when he needed to, holding the A’s hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position, and got plenty of help from his defense.
Coco Crisp had a one-out triple in the third but was stranded there. Jack Hannahan picked off a high chopper at third base, looked back Crisp back before throwing to first for the out. Jay Bruce made a running catch to rob Josh Reddick of extra bases and a potential RBI to end the fourth inning. Brandon Phillips made a sliding stop of a ground ball hit by Brandon Moss in the eighth inning that eluded Joey Votto and threw to a covering J.J. Hoover to nip Moss and strand Jed Lowrie at second base.
Lowrie had doubled down the line with one out in the eighth to end Latos’ night after 108 pitches. He received a standing ovation from the crowd of 34,640 at Great American Ball Park.
Conventional wisdom wouldn’t have sent Latos out for the eighth inning but Latos had some gas left and Baker needed a solution to Oakland’s diverse lineup which includes two pure switch-hitters and alternating left-handed/right-handed bats throughout the order.
“We really didn’t like how they’ve got their lineup stacked, so we were going to give him one batter on base,” said Baker. “It was key that he got that first batter out. They can make you go through your whole bullpen.”
Hoover retired the only two batters he faced to record his 18th consecutive scoreless appearance. Oakland’s lone run came on a two-out, solo home run by pinch-hitter Derek Norris off of Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning.
The Reds got their runs on Bruce’s 23rd home run of the season leading off the second inning, an RBI single by Phillips in the third inning and an Oakland error that allowed Shin-Soo Choo to score from second base on a sacrifice bunt by Derrick Robinson in the fifth inning.
Not explosive, but effective enough to win on this night.