The Cincinnati Reds have found diverse and sundry ways to give away baseball games this season, but it has never come about because Billy Hamilton dropped a baseball.
Scratch that one off your list.
Hamilton dropped a fly ball with one out in the sixth inning against the New York Mets on Sunday afternoon and it led to three unearned runs, just enough for the Mets to harpoon the Reds, 4-3.
The Reds broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning with three straight two-out hits by starting pitcher Mat Latos, Hamilton and Skip Schumaker to take a 1-0 lead.
It was the first time in their last eight games that the Reds scored first. And it still didn’t do any good.
They had a chance to do more than negligible damage in the fourth when they filled the bases with nobody out. Then came a microcosm of what this season has been all about. Bases loaded. No outs. No runs.
They also had two on with no outs in the second, but Jay Bruce flied to center and Jack Hannahan hit into an around-the-horn double play. Two on. No outs. No runs.
Brandon Phillips hit into a pitcher-to-home-to-first double play, making him 2 for 28, and Jay Bruce grounded to second.
Latos retired the first batter in the sixth and Wilmer Flores drove one toward the warning track that Hamilton chased down. But the ball bounced off his glove, only his second error this season.
That put Flores on second and he scored on a single to right by Curtis Granderson that tied it, 1-1. Latos retired Dilson Herrera for the second out, then No. 8 hitter Anthony Recker wrecked the first pitch he saw, slamming a tw-run home run off the façade in front of the upper deck in left field, a 418-foot blast.
“I thought it was hit softer than it was,” said Hamilton of his rare error. “At the last second I saw the wall and took a little peek and that did it. I said to Jay Bruce after that, ‘Man, one peek is all it takes to mess things up.’
“That’s no excuse, I missed it and it’s my fault,” Hamilton added. “I made the pitcher fall behind in an inning he should have been out of. That’s something I have to put on myself and I’m very frustrated and angry with myself.”
A fourth earned run surfaced in the eighth against relief pitcher J.J. Hoover. The first batter he faced, Granderson, popped one in foul territory and first baseman Hannahan fell chasing it and dropped the ball for an error.
Granderson then pulled a home run down the right field line, his 18th, and the 12th home run given up by Hoover in 56 1/3 innings.
Latos was fortunate to escape in the first five innings of the six he pitched. The Mets had at least one runner on in all five innings and stranded six runners.
For the game, Latos gave up three unearned runs, seven hits, a walk and struck out five and his record dropped to 5-5.
“I pitched all right,” said Latos. “Billy made that error out in center field but look at all the plays he has made for us all year. I have to do a better job of pitching out of a jam. You can throw a fastball down the middle to a hitter like Recker and expect nothing to happen to it.”
After Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia struck out the side in the eighth, Mets manager Terry Collins brought in closer Jenrry Mejia for the ninth and he promptly made it exciting for the by-now nearly empty house.
Bruce led the inning with his 16th home run to make it 4-2 and Hannahan bounced a ground-rule double over the center field wall.
That put the tying run on base with no outs.
Pinch-hitter Chris Heisey popped to shallow left, pinch-hitter Ryan Ludwick singled to right, scoring Hannahan and Hamilton walked on a full count, putting the tying run on second and the winning run on first.
Schumaker popped to second and Todd Frazier grounded to third and David Wright double-clutched on his throw.
First base umpire Paul Schrieber called him out to end the game, but the Reds issued a challenge. After looking at it for 3 minutes and 8 seconds, the reviewers in New York ruled Frazier safe, loading the bases.
That brought up Devin Mesoraco, owner of three grand slams this year and an opportunity for another. He struck out on three pitches — just another one-run loss, the Reds’ 35th one-run loss this season.
“We made a great effort in the ninth inning against a very good pitcher,” said manager Bryan Price. “Mejia has very good stuff. We got ourselves into a good situation with some aggressive play — that double that Hannahan smokes and a two-strike hit by Ludwick and a walk to Hamilton and Frazier’s hustle to beat the play … that all set the stage.
“We just couldn’t pull it out and it is unfortunate the way the game turned out,” he added. “We provided them with their four runs.”
Of the errors by Hamilton and Hannahan, Price said, “Two plays that those guys will make 999 out of a 1,000. They were obviously costly, but not from lack of effort. It was whatever it is, whatever it is.”
It has been whatever it is all season for the Reds.
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