Reds eliminated from Central in weakest game of season
CINCINNATI — Elimination Day was a glum, sullen, inglorious day for the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday afternoon in Great American Ball Park.
It was Silence of the Lambs, a 1-0 defeat to the New York Mets, a defeat that officially prohibits the Reds from winning the National League Central. They are four games behind with three to play.
But there is unfinished business. They are definitely in the playoffs, but they are still arguing with the Pittsburgh Pirates for home field advantage for the one-game wild card play-in game.
And that will be determined this weekend during a three-game season’s ending series at home against the Pirates.
“This team seems to take the hard road most of the time,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker. And it was no harder than the rocky and muddy road they tried to travel Wednesday.
“Just how it was drawn up in spring training, said one Mets broadcaster. “Dice-K pitches 7 2/3s shutout innings and LaTroy Hawkins closes it out with a one-two-three inning. Man, we’re a motley crew.”
They were just motley enough to mottle the Reds division title plans, taking two of three in this series. Dice-K (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 33, is a Boston Red Sox castaway — 1-7 with an 8.82 ERA this year before he was dumped and the Mets picked him up. In his last three starts for the Mets he has a 1.38 ERA.
Hawkins, 40, is with his 10th different major league team.
And that made for a sad day in the ol’ ballyard for the home team. But there is no give-up yet because there is much left to accomplish.
“Go into our clubhouse right now and you’ll see that our guys are down but they are not out,” said Baker. “It is OK to be down, but like my dad always told me, ‘It’s OK to be down, but don’t stay down.’”
Of the destructive defeat during which the Reds collected only four hits, Baker added, “Nobody feels worse than us. Everybody on this team. We don’t like to lose, we hate to lose. And anybody who knows me knows I hate to lose.
“When I first got married my wife asked my dad if there was anything he could tell her to help her get along better and he told her, ‘The first thing you do is when he loses don’t talk to him for about an hour,’” said Baker.
But Baker was talking about this debilitating loss within minutes after it ended and the rehash was not fun.
Mat Latos started for the Reds and gave up one run and four hits over seven innings.
The run arrived in the fourth and it began with a walk to Wilfredo Tovar. Dice-K bunted him to second and he took third on a passed ball charged to catcher Devin Mesoraco.
The Reds pulled the infield in to cut off the run and Eric Young rolled one perfectly between second baseman Brandon Phillips and first baseman Joey Votto, neither of whom moved to intercept the ball, and it was 1-0 and it stayed 1-0.
“I couldn’t tell whose ball that was because from the dugout, from my angle, I couldn’t tell if it split the guys or what,” said Baker. It split them perfectly, “and that ball led to a run, but we had chances. The bottom line is that we have to come through with some clutch hits. We had chances. We haven’t hit well all year with two outs and runners in scoring position. This was the epitome of that — had that a bunch of times.”
The Reds had a runner on second with one out in the second. Didn’t score They had a runner on second with no outs in the third. Didn’t score. They had runners on first and second with one out in the fourth. Didn’t score. They had runners on second and third with two outs in the eighth. Didn’t score. With first base open the Mets pitched to Joey Votto and he flied to center for the fourth straight time.
Was Baker surprised the Mets pitched to Votto?
“Not really because he hasn’t been swinging like Joey,” said Baker. “That’s happened a few times this year.”
And it was pretty evident early that this was not going to be Cincinnati’s day. Billy Hamilton was caught stealing. After 13 straight thefts, he was caught by catcher Juan Centeno in the fifth inning.
Hamilton used his speed to beat out an infield hit with two outs and immediately tried to steal. He was easily erased with a perfect peg.
“The catcher threw that ball right on toe, a perfect throw,” said Baker. “Dice-K changes his delivery, did the slide step. And that’s what it will take to get him — a quick delivery to the plate and a perfect throw. He is going to be thrown out sometime.”
So after losing touch with one goal, it is time for the Reds to reach for the No. 2 goal — home field in the wild card game.
“We have to remain calm, we have to remain confident that we can do this,” said Baker.
“Home field is very important, but it is not impossible (to win) no matter where you play the game.”