It was a game involving two teams with identical records — both the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds entered Monday’s game with 58-65 work sheets.
There was one major difference. San Diego was 22 1/2 games out of first place and the Reds were 7 1/2 games out of first place.
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That’s because the Padres, playing in the National League West, are in the same division as the runaway express train known as the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Reds reside in the National League Central, where the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers are chugging along like overloaded freight trains.
The Reds didn’t do much chugging, just a bunch of huffing and puffing. On this night, in front of a closet full of fans, the Reds absorbed a 3-2 defeat that dropped them 8 1/2 games out of first place.
Cincinnati starter Trevor Bauer struck out 11 in seven innings and gave up only two earned runs and five hits. He was, though, victimized by no support — offensively or defensively.
With left hander Eric Laurer, a Kent State University product, pitching for San Diego, Reds manager David Bell stacked his lineup with all right handed bats. And he had Phillip Ervin leading off and playing center field and Jose Iglesias batting second.
Infielder Jose Peraza played left field and botched a ball that led to an unearned run.
This was one time that analytics should have told Bell and his staff that the righty vs. lefty scenario wasn’t right. Bell stacked right handers against Lauer, even though left handers are hitting .339 and right handers are hitting only .257.
And Peraza’s dropped fly ball in the seventh inning in left field led to what turned out to be the winning run.
“Kind of a tough spot for Peraza,” said Bell. “He’s played out there. He has worked at it. But it is not his normal position. We knew that going in. We wanted to get his bat in there.
“It’s not easy out there, never easy, especially when you are not playing out there all the time,” said Bell.
Peraza did have two of the Reds’ eight hits, but they led to nothing.
The game’s first three batters reached base against Bauer and he scraped by with only one run scoring.
Greg Garcia singled, Josh Naylor walked on a full count and Manny Machado singled sharply to right field for a 1-0 Padres lead.
It was shocking to absolutely nobody that Machado ripped a hit off Bauer. Entering the game he was hitting .643 (9 for 14) against Bauer with four home runs and two doubles, five RBI and four walks.
San Diego still had runners on second and first with no outs, but Bauer struck out Eric Hosmer, Hunter Renfroe hit a pop foul to first and Francisco Mejia took a called third strike.
Freddy Galvis tied it with two outs in the second, driving a 2-and-2 pitch onto the grassy knoll behind the center field wall, his 20th home run of the season. It was his second for the Reds since his acquisition from Toronto.
The Reds threatened in the third with two outs and nobody on. Eugenio Suarez walked and Aristides Aquino was hit on the foot.
Tucker Barnhart lined a scorching single to left field and Josh Naylor fielded it on one hop. Third base coach J.R. House waved Suarez homeward and he was out at the plate by the length of a tractor trailer truck.
After the first inning, Bauer faced the minimum 11 batters through two outs in the fourth inning. But his first pitch to catcher Francisco Mejia was pulled down the right field that pinged off the foul pole, a home run that pushed the Padres in front, 2-1.
San Diego added an unearned run in the fifth. Greg Garcia singled with two outs and Josh Naylor drove one to deep left, a catchable ball.
But Peraza misplayed it for an error as a run scored. Bauer bent over behind the mound with his hands on his knees as the Padres took a 3-1 lead.
Peraza singled with one out in the sixth against relief pitcher Luis Perdomo. He reached second on a ground ball but stayed there when Freddy Galvis struck out.
After expending 102 pitches through seven innings, Bauer departed for a pinch-hitter.
“In the middle of game, I thought, ‘Wow he is really good, he’s found his rhythm,’” said Bell. “One of these games we’ll have a lead and we’ll get to see him finish one of these things and throw 132 pitches. We know he is capable of that.”
University of Dayton product Craig Stammen, from North Star in Darke County, entered the game in the eighth.
So far this season he is an enigma. He leads the majors in blown saves with nine, but he leads the National League in holds with 25.
Which would it be on this sweltering night? It would be the strong and sturdy Stammen. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts for his 26th hold.
Stammen has an affinity for thwarting the Reds. For his career he is 4-1 with a 1.56 earned run average over 28 2/3 innings. It is his best ERA against any team.
That left it up to closer Kirby Yates, who took the mound for the ninth with a league-leading 35 saves.
It was a sweat-inducer, but make that 35 saves, even though he gave up a run and the Reds had the bases loaded with two outs — the potential tying run on third and the potential winning run on second.
That left it up to Eugenio Suarez, the Reds’ last hurrah, Suarez struck out. . .for the fourth time.
So make that 36 for Yates and nineteen of his saves have come on the road, eight of his last nine. None probably were as tough as Monday’s.
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