The untimely downslide by the Cincinnati Reds continued Wednesday afternoon in Game One of a day/night doubleheader, a 5-4 loss to the fast-closing St. Louis Cardinals.
Usually reliable pitcher Wade Miley threw in a clunker, giving up five runs and 12 hits that include three home runs in four innings of the seven-inning game.
The big destruction came from St. Louis first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, two home runs that included a two-run rip in the fourth inning that turned a 4-3 Reds lead into a 5-4 deficit, a deficit that remained the rest of the game.
It was a fourth straight loss for the down-spiraling Reds, their sixth in eight games. And it enabled the Cardinals to scramble with 1 1/2 games behind the Reds for the second National League wild card spot.
Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart tried to put a positive spin on his team’s current doldrums.
“It is one of those things where you just have to keep going and not get caught up in the wild card race or the playoff race,” he said. “If we play the way we know we can play and the way we’ve been playing, outside of this last week, everybody is confident we’ll be where we want to be at the end of this thing.
“It’s a crappy time to go through a bit of a rut, but it’s one of those things you go through,” he added. “We still have a month of baseball left and we’re all looking forward to steadying the ship and get it back in the right direction.”
The ship was knocked off kilter early when Goldschmidt drilled a first-inning home run to dead center that threatened to knock down the Roebling suspension bridge.
And it got worse and worse for Miley. Harrison Bader homered in the second for a 2-0 lead.
The Reds rallied to take a 3-2 lead in the second, highlighted by Miley’s two-run double.
But he gave up three hits and a run in the third that tied it, 3-3. But the Reds barged back ahead, 4-3, in their third on Joey Votto’s double.
Once again Miley was not up to protecting the lead. He gave up a broken-bat single to Tommy Edman in the fourth and Goldschmidt unloaded his second homer of the game, the final runs of the game.
“That Goldschmidt at bat (second home run) is one I’d like to have back,” said Miley. “Once I had him 3-and-2, I should have challenged him with a cutter on his hands. That’s what Tucker called, but I shook him off for a fastball down and away. Obviously saw what happened.”
Goldschmidt has been on a month-long tear, including a two-run home run in the first inning Monday that launched the Cardinals to a 3-1 victory.
“He grinds out an at bat better than anybody in the league,” Barnhart said of Goldschmidt. “He makes you work, he is really patient. You do your best to expand the strike zone and get to chase pitches. When he’s not doing that, he is a tough out.”
Barnhart said Goldschmidt’s first home run as the game’s second hitter sent Miley down the path of destruction.
“They jumped him early and his cutter was inconsistent,” he said. “They made us go to Plan B, C and D pretty quick. They just got him today.”
Miley gave no excuses for his worst outing of the season that dropped his record to 11-5.
“They came out swinging and I didn’t execute pitches, didn’t make adjustments,” he said. “I got away from my strengths a little bit. I just didn’t have it and I’m not going to go searching for any answers. I just had a bad day.”
The Cardinals were jumping on his first pitches and Miley said he tried to throw some first pitches outside the strike zone but couldn’t do it.
“I was trying to go 1-and-0, throw balls, but I just couldn’t do it,” he said. “They came out of my hand funny and just floated in. In the third and fourth innings I was trying to throw balls out of the strike zone and couldn’t pull it off. Things snowballed and I just got away from what I do.”
Manager David Bell realized the importance of the game and yanked out all the stops in the fourth inning. St. Louis manager Mike Shildt brought in lefthander Genesis Cabrera.
Bell sent up four righthanded pinch-hitters — Tyler Stephenson for Barnhart, Asdrubel Cabrera for Max Schrock, Aristides Aquino for Miley and Alejo Lopez for Tyler Naquin.
Stephenson led off with a single, Cabrera was called out on strikes, Aquino broke an 0 for 24 skid with an infield single, India popped out and Lopez grounded out, stranding two runners.
That was the Reds last chance.
“We were trying to get the best matchups, trying to do the best we can to tie the game or get a lead,” said Bell about the bevy of pinch-hitters. “It was early, but being a seven-inning game there was more urgency.
“If we tie it or get the lead in that inning, it changes the way the rest of the game goes, from the pitching standpoint on both sides. We took a shot there before they got to the back end of their bullpen.”
Didn’t work. Giovanny Gallegos pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to end it.
Tigers at Reds, 7:10 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410