McCoy: Reds rookie shuts down Giants -- again

Graham Ashcraft pitches eight strong innings in Cincinnati’s 4-2 win

Graham Ashcraft is a quick learner and used his education Friday night to muzzle and manhandle the San Francisco Giants, 4-2, ending the Cincinnati Reds’ seven-game losing streak.

In his first three major-league starts this season, Ashcraft’s high-velocity fastball baffled and bewildered the opposition and Ashcraft was 3-0.

For some reason, during his next two starts, he became slider-happy and was roughed up — a no-decision and a loss.

But on Friday night, Ashcraft returned to heavy usage of his 98, 99 and 100 miles an hour fastballs.

And it enabled him to pitch eight strong innings — two runs, six hits (three in the eighth inning), no walks and a career-best eight strikeouts.

Ashcraft had the Giants tearing up the Oracle Park infield with ground ball after ground ball after ground ball — 13 outs on 12 ground balls (one double play.)

And for once there was no bullpen meltdown, but it wasn’t easy.

Hunter Strickland retired the first two in the ninth but walked Evan Longoria on a full count. That forced him to face the potential tying run, Brandon Crawford. He struck him out with a down-and-in slider for the save, handing San Francisco its fifth loss in its last six games.

Shoddy San Francisco defense gave the Reds aid and comfort throughout the game.

The Reds scored two runs in the second, a rally started by a Kyle Farmer ground ball to shortstop Crawford. He threw the ball wide of first and it was generously ruled a hit.

Giants starting pitcher Alex Cobb thought he had Mike Moustakas struck out on a foul tip, but it was ruled that catcher Curt Casali trapped the ball against the ground. Moustakas then doubled to right center, scoring Farmer, and Nick Senzel doubled to left for a 2-0 lead.

Ashcraft made very few mistakes, two to Evan Longoria. He singled to the right field corner in the second and launched a long-distance home run to center in the fourth, cutting Cincinnati’s lead to 2-1.

The Reds scored a run without a hit in the fifth. it began with a catcher’s interfernce call for Nick Senzel, the sixth time this season and 12th during his short career.

Jonathan India walked and when Cobb ignored the runners, Senzel stole third and India swiped second. With the infield drawn in, Donovan Solano shot a one-hopper to shortstop Crawford and he threw home — high, wide and ugly. It was a throwing error and Senzel slid home to make it 3-1.

The score reached 4-1 in the sixth when Moustakas opened the inning with a double. He took third on Albert Almora Jr.’s grounder to second and scored when left fielder Darin Ruf (a first baseman by trade) permitted Senzel’s catchable soft liner to fall in front of him for a run-scoring single.

Ashcraft gave up only three hits through seven innings and retired 10 straight after Longoria’s home run.

But the first two Giants in the eighth, pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores and Curt Casali, singled to open the eighth. That problem was solved when Tommy La Stella grounded to the mound and Ashcraft started a double play.

Flores moved to third on the double play and Mike Yastrzemski blooped a run-scoring single to short right, slicing Cincinnati’s lead to 4-2.

Strickland, though, finished the deal and preserved the win.

The fans in Oracle Park spent the night loudly and lustily booing Reds left fielder Tommy Pham every time he stepped into the batter’s box. It was a reaction to the incident when Pham slapped San Francisco outfielder Joc Pederson when the Giants were in Cincinnati over a fantasy football dispute.

Pham went 0 for 4 with a strikeout.

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