One out of three ain't good

BY foxsports • September 27, 2013

CINCINNATI – There are no secrets with this Reds team. Its success is predicated on good pitching, good defense and every so often finding a way to get runners around the bases and across the plate. They are good at getting the runners on, not always so good at getting them around.

When this is your equation for winning games, you can’t afford to have many nights when either of your strengths is less than strong.

Homer Bailey wasn’t strong Friday night as the Reds fell 4-1 to Pittsburgh at Great American Ball Park. Homer Bailey has been strong for the Reds this season, as his 3.40 ERA and .234 opponent’s batting average prior to Friday would indicate. Even after lasting just 5-plus innings, allowing all four Pirates runs, he finished with a career-high 209 innings pitched this season.

If the Reds get past next Tuesday’s National League Wild Card game, which we now know will be against Pittsburgh after St. Louis claimed the NL Central title with a 7-0 win against Chicago, they will need Homer Bailey and the rest of the pitching staff to show up every game. It’s hard to count on an offense that in one of the best hitters’ ballparks in all of baseball has produced just six runs over the last 37 innings.

The Reds managed just seven bases runners against Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett, who beat them for the second time in a week. The only run came on Todd Frazier’s solo home run in the fourth inning that went off the netting of the left field foul pole. Four of their base runners reached base after two outs, including Frazier’s home run, and the only time they got a lead-off batter on base was Joey Votto’s single in the ninth inning.

Votto was erased on the next pitch when Brandon Phillips hit into a 5-4-3 double play.

“We didn’t threaten a bunch,” said manager Dusty Baker.

If the offense doesn’t pick up, it won’t matter how good the pitching is.

Still, should Bailey get to start a game in the postseason, he’s going to have to be better than he has been. Bailey has given up 10 runs over 17 2/3 innings in his last three starts. He’s walked four batters in each of those games, plus hit two batters Friday. He had walked as many as three batters in a game just twice this season before this three-game stretch.

“We were just all over the place,” said Bailey. “We’ll just have to go to the videos and see what we can find. Probably (have) a pretty good idea of what we’re doing but we just have to keep doing it and keep trying to correct it.”

A lot of Bailey’s troubles came with two strikes. He couldn’t put batters away.

Bailey ended up throwing 10 extra pitches in the second inning after losing Pirates catcher Russell Martin to a walk on a 3-2 pitch. The pitch appeared to catch the bottom outside corner of the strike zone but home plate umpire Mark Wegner didn’t see it that way. Clint Barmes followed with a single on a 1-2 pitch but Bailey stranded both runners by striking out Burnett swinging on a 3-2 pitch.

The Pirates took a 2-0 lead in the third when Bailey couldn’t finish off batters after getting ahead of them. He was 0-2 on Starling Marte before hitting him in the back, was 0-2 against Andrew McCutchen before walking him and had Justin Morneau down 1-2 before losing him to a walk. Marlon Byrd drove the first pitch he saw from Bailey into left field for a two-run single.

Bailey got out of the inning by breaking Pedro Alvarez’s bat on a 4-6-3 double play but he was up to 58 pitches by that time.

He got through the next two innings unscathed, allowing only a walk to McCutchen, but lasted just two batters into the sixth inning. Byrd led off the inning with a double that was inches away from being a home run in left-center field. Pedro Alvarez left no doubt
with his at-bat as he crushed a Bailey fastball 443 feet to straight-away center off the batter’s eye to put the Reds in a 4-1 hole.

Alfredo Simon, Logan Ondrusek and J.J. Hoover combined to shut the Pirates down for the final four innings but there was no offense to take advantage of their good work.

The reality of their situation is that Reds can lose these next two games to the Pirates and it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is Tuesday, whether the game is at GABP or at PNC in Pittsburgh. But should the Reds get past that game, they will need their strengths to be strong. One out of three isn’t going to cut it.

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