McCoy: Reds lose series opener against lowly Pirates

Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto turns to return the dugout after striking out to end a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. The Pirates won 6-5. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Caption
Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto turns to return the dugout after striking out to end a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. The Pirates won 6-5. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

The mantra about the Cincinnati Reds from outside observers was that when September began it would be: “Wait until mid-September when the Reds have nine games left with the pathetic Pittsburgh Pirates.”

And the talk show hosts kept saying, “The Reds have the easiest schedule down the stretch.”

Well, mid-September is upon the Reds and the first meeting with the Pirates didn’t go swimmingly. In fact, the Reds drowned, 6-5.

There was every legitimate reason for the optimism. The Reds had whipped the Pirates nine times in their first 10 meetings this season. The last-place Pirates owned 91 losses and were 36 1/2 games out of first place.

And there was the Wade Miley factor. In two Miley starts this season against the Pirates the Reds won by 10-0 and 14-1.

It was Miley on the mound Tuesday in PNC Park and the Pirates committed assault and battery on the Reds left-hander.

They scored three in the first and three in the fifth, knocking him out of the game after he gave up six runs (five earned) and 10 hits in only 4 1/3 innings.

Meanwhile, the Reds were baffled once again by a soft-tossing left-hander Dillon Peters. He was 0-2 on the year but held the Reds to no runs and five hits over five innings.

That extended Cincinnati’s scoreless streak to 20 straight innings.

Then the Reds put on a charge against the Pittsburgh bullpen that fell one run short.

It is evident that in these last days of the season, only 17 games remaining, that the Reds are pressing, trying too hard.

After the game, manager David Bell toured the clubhouse, stopping at each player’s locker to say, “It is going to turn around. I feel it.”

And to the media, he said, “We absolutely know this is going to turn. I have no doubt, because I know our players and our team. Not that it’s easy, but we have to turn this around, we know. I’m completely confident and I feel it turning and it’s going to happen.”

For the Reds, soon better be real soon and losses to the lowly Pirates give little cause for optimism.

About pressing, catcher Tucker Barnhart said, “I can only speak for myself and to be honest there are times when I might put a little more emphasis on certain things that I wasn’t earlier in the year. We all welcome it, though. We all want to be in a position where we control our own destiny pretty much to get where we want to go.

“It’s human nature that when things aren’t going our way we try to get a little more instead of relaxing and playing,” he added. “It’s hard not to get wrapped up in it. We have to get back to playing clean ball and doing things right.”

Two of Pittsburgh’s run came on errors, a booted ground ball by third baseman Eugenio Suarez that led to a run and a throwing error by left fielder Aristides Aquino that let in another — two runs that made the difference.

The Reds broke through in the sixth for four runs against relief pitcher Nick Mears. Pirates manager Derek Shelton permitted Mears to give up five hits and a walk.

To quiet the Reds, Shelton sent left-hander Chasen Shreve to the mound in the seventh and he went 1-2-3. And he repeated with a 1-2-3 eighth.

Amir Garrett hadn’t pitched in nine days when he took over in the eighth for the Reds. He struck out the side to keep the Reds within two runs heading into the ninth.

And the Reds got to face a right-hander, Chris Stratton. Jonathan India struck out, pinch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera flied to right and is 0 for 17 in a Reds uniform and Nick Castellanos drilled the first pitch over the right field wall, a 421-foot home run.

It was 6-5 and brought up Joey Votto. He struck out to end it.

And so the Reds’ struggles against soft-throwing left-handers continued. The Reds have the 29th lowest batting average against left-handed starters of the 30 major league teams.

“Yeah, we’ve had quite a run against a lot of left-handed pitching,” said Bell. “I don’t know. . .we’re continuing to do our best in preparing and having a good approach each time we face a left-hander. We’ve faced some really good left-handers, so we’ll continue to work at it.”

Bell’s batting order against left-handers continues to include three players below the .200 Mendoza line — Eugenio Suarez (.179), Aristides Aquino (.184), Delino DeShields (.176). And they bat back-to-back-to-back, fifth, sixth and seventh.