There are two absolutes in baseball. One, there are three bases and one batter. Two, when Albert Pujols (pronounced poop·hōl) is up in the late innings at Pretty Good American Small Park, he's going to go yard. So with three bases and a batter, a 3-0 lead is not safe against the Cardinals. What you need is either a 4 or 5 run lead, or a working knowledge of the unintentional, intentional walk.
So here's the set up. The Reds are up 3-0, with Homer Bailey having gone seven innings of two-hit ball. He gave up a lead-off single to start the game and walked the next guy. He then struck out Pujols and cruised from there, giving up only a hit-by-pitch through 6, with 4 k's. He got the first two guys in the 7th, gave up a double to Molina, and then got out of the inning on a ground out. Then the bottom of the 7th. Dusty allows Homer to lead-off the inning and he flew out. As mentioned above (with three bases and a batter) a 3-0 lead is not enough. Granted Homer was pitching great, but why not take him out after 7 and turn the game over to the pen with a little cushion? Plus, as mentioned, a 3-0 lead isn't enough. At lead-off, we needed a pinch hitter, not Bailey.
Leading off the 8th, Homer gave up a single to Rasmus. Bailey then got Ryan to fly out. So you figure with two lefties coming up, two bases open (remember there are three total) and Pujols lurking Bailey's done for the night and Rhodes is coming in. Because, of course, with three total bases and one batter the worse possible thing you can do is walk guys to get to Pujols. Of course actually walking Pujols is an intriguing idea, but we're getting ahead of ourselves. Instead, Homer stays in and walks Schumaker to put two on with Duncan up and Pujols on deck. (Basic math: that equals 4.) So with no margin of error (we have a three run lead at this point, but see the two absolutes described above) Rhodes comes in and walks Duncan to load the bases. The rest, of course is history.
Now, when I say no margin of error, that's not 100% true. Even with Pujols up with the bases loaded and a 3-0 lead, there is another option. You could walk Pujols. I'm not suggesting an intentional walk, but just don't throw him anything good. He walks, the Reds are up 3-1 and they try to get the next guy (Ludwick, who was 0 for 4 with an intentional walk).
I like Dusty and hate to harp on him like I did above, but I really think he blew it last night. I think he might be taking the approach that to be a player in the division we have to compete with the Cardinals, not duck them. But going toe-to-toe with the Cards does not require a 3-2 fastball in the strike zone to Pujols with the bases loaded and a 3-0 lead.
Kudos to the Reds for coming back and tying the game at four in the bottom of the 8th. And the Reds put the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, but it just wasn't enough. Also kudos to Bailey, who threw a great game. And kudos to the Reds for a great fireworks show. All-in-all it was a pretty nice night, but a win would have been sweet.
Mike Mussina, Hall of Famer
3 weeks ago