From the point of view of the Cincinnati Reds’ 2018 season, that’s probably good.
When looking at the bigger picture, such as franchise progress, it’s probably not-so-hot.
A season in which the Reds hoped to see their young starting pitching develop enough to help them take a step toward respectability ended on Sunday with a 10-inning, 6-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pablo Reyes scored on Jackson Stephens’ two-out wild pitch, dropping the Reds to a season-ending 67-95 record. They lost eight of their last nine games against Pittsburgh, the team they face on Opening Day in 2019, scheduled for March 28 at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds lost seven of their last eight and eight of their last 10 games to miss setting a major league record by one win. If they had finished 68-94, they would have become the first team in major league history to finish three consecutive seasons with identical records.
“In areas, we improved,” said second baseman Scooter Gennett, who contended for the National League batting title before wilting in the final weeks, over the weekend. “We hit the ball better this year. We had better situational hitting, maybe not as of late. As a whole, throughout our lineup, we were pretty consistent the whole year. There were guys who’ve had some pretty good seasons. Everybody’s contributed. That’s good to see.
“I think an improved area was our bullpen. Most of the year they were pretty good. When they had to throw every day, it was expecting a lot out of them.
“There is definitely good things to take away from this season. I don’t think we are where we want to be.”
Catcher Tim Federowicz hit a two-run homer and Dilson Herrera added a solo shot for the Reds, who scored more runs than in any game since beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 10-6, on September 10.
“It was a battle,” said interim manager Jim Riggleman, who’s scheduled to be interviewed on Monday for the permanent job. “It was tough to see out there this time of day. They got a break there at the end.”
Besides the gifts being given away by the team on Fan Appreciation Day, first baseman Joey Votto and center fielder Billy Hamilton literally gave fans the jerseys off their backs when they were taken out of the game after taking the field for the top of the fourth inning.
“We told them before the game that they were going to get two at bats, then come off the field,” said interim manager Jim Riggleman, who’s scheduled to interview on Monday for the permanent job. “Billy really wanted to do that. The way he is with the fans, he really wanted to wave at them.”
Third baseman Eugenio Suarez tossed his cap into the stands after in the same fashion before the top of the fifth.
Sunday’s crowd of 25,091 boosted the season total to 1,629,356, the lowest for the team since 1984.
Sal Romano, making his first start since August 21, faced just one batter over the minimum through his first four innings before faltering in the fifth. He walked leadoff batter Colin Moran and gave up a double to the next batter, Jose Osuna. Both runners moved up on Kevin Kramer’s sacrifice fly and Osuna scored on a wild pitch.
“It’s something I haven’t done in a while, but I felt comfortable,” Romano said. “We had a game plan to attack the strike zone. We wanted to get strike one. I got a little sloppy in the fifth, but that will definitely leave a great taste in my mouth going into the off-season. I still think I can be a starter in this league, but if I prove I can do both, that’s good, too.”
“Sal did a nice job,” Riggleman said. “I think he had like 36 pitches through the first three innings, and that’s unheard of these days. He’s shown us he can both start and relieve. He can get ready quick.”
Hamilton, playing in his career-high 153rd game of the season, did what Hamilton does to single-handedly give the Reds a 1-0 lead in the first inning. He hit a sharp one-hopper off the glove of second baseman Kevin Kramer and beat with a headfirst slide right fielder Jose Osuna’s throw to second base. On ball four to Joey Votto, Hamilton stole third and scored when catcher Elias Diaz’s throw sailed into left field for a throwing error.
The Reds led, 3-0 and 4-2, before the Pirates got home runs from Starling Marte and Josh Bell on back-to-back Matt Wisler pitches for a 4-4 tie in the sixth.