Get yer Red-hot pizza, while you can

The Cincinnati Reds have been striking out batters at a breakneck pace, and all those K’s are costing one local restaurant chain.

LaRosa’s Pizzeria has handed out more than $100K in free pizza this month as a result of the team’s penchant for punchouts.

LaRosa’s has been a Queen City staple for more than 50 years, with 65 stores in the Cincinnati area. For the second consecutive season, the company is running a promotion giving fans a free small pizza in exchange for their ticket stub when the Reds strike out 11 batters at a home game.

In 2012, the Reds accomplished the feat 14 times, but through just 15 games at Great American Ball Park this year, the team has struck out 11 or more batters on seven occasions, most recently a 13-strikeout showing in Tuesday night’s 10-inning loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Overall, the Reds were tops in the NL and second in the majors with 195 strikeouts heading into Wednesday’s matinee against Chicago.

Food giveaways aren’t exactly new to the world of professional sports, but few have gotten the kind of attention that LaRosa’s pizza handouts have generated. There have, however, been some instances of fan revolt — or rejoice — over the prospect of a free bite to eat.

Since 2005, the Los Angeles Lakers have held a Jack in the Box Taco Frenzy promotion, giving fans coupons for two free tacos when the team wins and holds opponents under 100 points (it happened 20 times this season).

On several occasions — most notably a 2009 game against Deron Williams and the Utah Jazz — fans booed when the opponent reached 100 points late in the game.

The Washington Wizards haven’t given fans much to celebrate in recent years, but their Chick fil-A Fowl Shot promotion, which gives fans free chicken sandwiches when a player misses two consecutive free throws, has been a hit — leading them even to cheer losses in the name of free food.

In December, then-Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins vowed to buy Sixers fans free cheeseburgers when his decision to run out the clock in a 99-80 game prevented spectators from cashing in on a deal that netted them a free Big Mac when the team scores 100 points.

Back in Cincinnati, LaRosa’s is seeing a 15-to-20 percent redemption rate on the special according to the Cincinnati Enquirer — fans have seven days to exchange their tickets, but can’t do so on the day of the game. Most fans who come in are buying other items in addition to the free small pizza, which is valued at $6.79, making the promotion worthwhile.

But given the growing popularity of the deal — one that reportedly has fans at the stadium chanting, ‘Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!’ as the team nears the 11-K mark — that number seems bound to rise. With the Reds on pace to shatter last year’s franchise record of 1,248 strikeouts, LaRosa’s could end up handing out more pies than it bargained for.

However, the folks at LaRosa’s don’t seem to mind — for now, anyway.

"The real reason to do this is to underscore awareness of our brand and get people to visit," LaRosa’s executive vice president for marketing Pete Buscani told WLWT. "This is the best promotion we’ve done in a long time."