McCoy: Reds lose to Pirates on walk-off ground out

The Cincinnati Reds, also known these days as Team Slump, are in such a deep abyss that they are manufacturing bizarre ways to lose baseball games.

How about a walk-off ground ball on which a runner scores the winning run from second base?

That was the script Wednesday night in PNC Park when the Pittsburgh Pirates scored a devastating 5-4 victory.

It was Cincinnati’s second straight loss to the 91-loss Pirates, ensuring the Reds of their seventh straight series loss.

And the St. Louis Cardinals annihilated the New York Mets, 11-4, to take a 1 1/2 games lead over the Reds in the chase for the second wild card spot.

The big play?

With one out in the bottom of the ninth and the scored tied, 4-4, Wilmer Difo was on second base.

Colin Moran hit a grounder to first baseman Joey Votto. He flipped the ball to pitcher Mychal Givens, covering first base for the second out.

Difo, though, never stopped running. He ran through a stop sign from his third base coach and dove head first across home plate to score the winning run.

And the way Difo, a pinch-hitter, reached second base, was a strange twist. He lobbed one down the left field line. Left fielder Max Schrock, an infielder by trade just learning the nuances of outfield play, misjudged the ball, overran it, and the ball hopped into the foul-line stands for a ground rule double.

“Not really any excuses there,” said Schrock. “I misplayed the ball, that’s all that happened. That’s a ball I should catch 100 out of 100 times.”

Then came The Difo Dash, a dash that handed the Reds their 12th defeat in 16 games and Pittsburgh’s first win on Wednesday after nine straight losses.

It appeared the Reds might pull this one out when Kyle Farmer tied the game in the eighth inning with his 14th home run.

“After a game like tonight, it was really quiet (in the post-game clubhouse),” said Farmer. “Guys are down, as we should be. We’re down for sure, the clubhouse is down, but we just have to keep positive.”

Farmer said karma is just not on Cincinnati’s side these days. Pittsburgh left fielder Ben Gamel went above the wall in the third inning to snatch back what would have been a Jonathan India home run.

In the same inning, Nick Castellanos was thrown out at home when Gamel missed Joey Votto’s bloop double, but threw the ball from the seat of his pants to third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, who threw Castellanos out at home.

On Difo’s run from second to home, Farmer said, “I saw the third base coach hold him up. But when he kept running, I was trying to yell four (throw it home) once I saw him turn, but it was so loud, you can’t get your voice out.

“That’s a tough play for Joey and for Givens,” said Farmer. “He’s covering the bag, so far away from home plate and his back is turned. I’m surprised he ran on that, but kudos to him for making an aggressive play. You play the game hard, and it plays out for you.

“Things are not really going our way right now … like that play (Schrock’s), for instance,” added Farmer. “And Castellanos was being aggressive, and it didn’t pan out. Early in the season, that happened for us, he’s safe. It’s really not rolling for us right now and hopefully the baseball gods will help us out tomorrow.”

The Reds jumped on Pittsburgh starter Mitch Keller for two runs in the first after the first two hitters reached base, a single by India and a walk to Schrock.

India scored on Votto’s ground ball and Schrock scored on a single by Mike Moustakas.

But Reds rookie pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez continued his late-season struggles and gave up three runs in the third, giving up two singles, a double and a triple. And the rally started when pitcher Keller opened the inning with a single.

The Pirates made it 4-2 in the fourth and chased Gutierrez. He walked the first hitter, Hoy Park, batting eighth and in a 4 for 37 funk. Keller bunted Park to second and he scored on Yoshi Tsutsugo’s two-out single.

The Reds began their comeback in the seventh with a run against relief pitcher Chad Kuhl, It began when Tucker Barnhart was hit by a pitch and   Shogo Akiyama ended a 0-for-18 skid with a single. India’s sacrifice fly scored Barnhart to cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 4-3.

Farmer, back from paternity leave for only his second game, tied it in the eighth with a two-out home run into the left field seats.

Then came the strange and ugly happenstances in the bottom of the ninth as the Reds failed to score more than five runs for the ninth straight game.