Rolen's Error Allowed Game-Winner to Score
The Reds came home riding high on the verge of a sweep over the Giants in the NLDS. The injury to Johnny Cueto added importance to that for the opportunity to rest their rotation. Unfortunately it was not to be. Homer Bailey turned in a solid start but the opportunistic Giants took advantage of some lapses on defense to win 2-1 in ten innings and stave off elimination.
After awakening their slumbering bats by scoring fourteen runs in a two-game sweep at AT&T Park the Cincinnati Reds returned home to hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park for a pitcher’s duel. Homer Bailey, who was moved up to start Game Three in the wake of the Johnny Cueto injury, was up to the task. After firing a no-hitter eleven days earlier Bailey kept the Giants hitless until two outs in the fifth inning. He threw seven innings of one-hit ball, allowing one run and tied a career high ten strikeouts, including six in a row. However, Ryan Vogelsong and four Giant relievers kept the Reds scoreless for the final nine frames to prevent him from getting a decision in 2-1 Giants win in ten innings.
Things started out well enough for the Reds who had four of their first five batters reach safely. Brandon Phillips led off the bottom of the first with hard bouncer over the Vogelsong’s head that found its way into center field. He would eventually steal second only to get thrown out attempting to take an extra bag when the ball got past catcher Buster Posey. Zach Cozart followed with a walk and Ryan Ludwick singled. Jay Bruce plated Cozart with a hit which would turn out to be the only Reds run in the contest. Bruce has an RBI in all three postseason games thus far.
Bailey ran into some trouble in the third inning after hitting leadoff batter Gregor Blanco. He advanced to second on a Bailey’s only walk on the night, moved to third on a bunt, and scored on a sac fly to provide the Giants a run before they got their first hit. With the score tied at one both teams could muster only one hit each for the remainder of regulation.
After Sean Marshall and Aroldis Chapman retired the side in order for one inning apiece, Jonathan Broxton immediately got in trouble in the tenth when Posey and a hobbling Hunter Pence led off the inning with hits. Broxton came back to strike out the next two hitters to get into a position to finish the inning unscathed. Then Ryan Hanigan was charged with a passed ball to move up the runners. Joaquin Arias followed with a ground ball that Scott Rolen bobbled enough to allow him to reach safely before the throw arrived at first. The error cost Broxton an unearned run and the loss.
The opportunistic Giants extended their season by at least one game and the two teams will come back for Game Four on Wednesday with the Reds holding a 2-1 lead. The defensive lapse was atypical for the Reds. Hanigan committed only three pass balls in 110 games this season. Rolen of course is an eight-time gold glove winner. It was a brief flashback to Game Two of the 2010 divisional series when four Reds errors helped blow a 4-0 lead when they were swept by the Phillies.
Now comes decision-making time for the Reds. Uncertainty on their next starter had them hoping for a sweep. Johnny Cueto’s injury has been identified as a mild oblique strain. Unfortunately that diagnosis does not help manager Dusty Baker’s planning because no one knows how long it will take for him to be ready to pitch again. The only thing that has been confirmed is that he is out for Game Four. Of players on their playoff roster the top option is to run out Mat Latos who worked four innings Saturday after Cueto left Game One in the first inning. Fifth starter Mike Leake is not on the playoff roster and could be activated, however if he replaces Cueto then the Reds ace would be ineligible to participate in the NLDS. He would be able to come back for the World Series if the Reds manage to advance that far.
This is an example of how just one game can change things in the post season. The Reds were riding high after winning two on the road and came home on the verge of a sweep. Now they’re trying to determine who will face former Cy Young winner Barry Zito to prevent them from tying the series at two games each. Latos finished the season strong, but a Wednesday start would be his second consecutive appearance on only four day’s rest.
Even with all the uncertainty, it’s better to be up 2-1 than down. Giant manager Bruce Bochy will be ready to utilize anyone on his roster he thinks could help his team avoid elimination. Meanwhile Baker’s decision on a starter will be made sometime before first pitch which is scheduled at 4:00 PM. Limiting Latos to four innings in his first post-season appearance may pay off dividends. It’s October which means it’s time that every team still playing will look for someone to step up for them big-time. On Wednesday Reds fans are hoping that someone will be either Mat Latos or Mike Leake.