A 9-0 Cincinnati Reds lead after three innings was overcome by the Pittsburgh Pirates, who won 13-12, before 29,680 at Great American Ball Park.
|Pittsburgh Pirates (74-81)||13||16||0|
|Cincinnati Reds (79-77)
|W: J. Hernandez (1-1) L: Diaz (9-6) SV: Mlodzinski (1)
|Statcast | Box Score | Game Thread|
It was the unquestioned dagger to the heart of Cincinnati Reds fans who continue to hope that their team could somehow earn a 2023 playoff berth. But the pitching staff’s inability to hold a nine-run lead over the final six innings was the story on an evening that the Reds offense scored 12 runs on 16 hits.
Unfortunately, none of the teams the Reds needed to lose for them to gain ground in the wild-card race did so. That’s why there’s no replacement for winning when you’re in a situation like the Reds are in. I’m absolutely not giving up until the fat lady sings, as they say, but this now-four-game losing streak will ultimately be what people look back on as the ultimate reason the Reds could not make a legitimate push for the 2023 playoffs.
After tonight’s game, the National League wild-card race standings are:
This grid shows Miami and Cincinnati in the fourth- and fifth-place positions in a race in which only three teams will make it. With now six games remaining, Cincinnati must gain at least three games on Arizona to tie them, and-or 2.5 games on the Cubs to at least tie them. As much as we all would like to think the Reds can win the remainder of the schedule, the more realistic expectation is that they can go 5-1. If that happens, Arizona would have to lose at least five of their remaining eight, and the Cubs would need to lose at least four of their remaining seven. That doesn’t even account for Miami, which of course has every bit as much of a chance as Cincinnati as long as they play well in their final seven games.
Tyler Stephenson’s disappointment after the game was hard to disguise:
“At the end of the day we have to control the things that we can control.”
Tyler Stephenson describes this one as tough, but he knows they aren’t out of the race yet. pic.twitter.com/lDMHSKybZV
— Bally Sports Cincinnati (@BallySportsCIN) September 24, 2023
The team hitting line for the game: 16-for-41, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts. Spencer Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand both had three hits, and CES added four runs batted in to lead the team in that category. Stephenson and T.J. Friedl both also reached base three times on two hits and a walk.
Encarnacion-Strand and Stephenson got the Reds off to a quick first-inning lead, a welcome change from the trend of recent days and weeks. With two out and Nick Senzel on base after a single, Encarnacion-Strand blasted a hanging breaking pitch out of the zone from Bailey Falter into the right-field stands 385 feet away.
CES becomes the 11th Red with double-digit dingers, a new franchise record?? pic.twitter.com/HauJ11JAnG
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) September 23, 2023
Stephenson followed immediately with a 395-foot shot to put his club ahead by three early.
In the second inning, leadoff hitter Friedl laced a liner down the rightfield line which evaded right fielder Joshua Palacios and became an inside-the-park solo homer.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) September 23, 2023
An out later, Elly De La Cruz hit an opposite-field single to right then stole second and third. After a Jonathan India walk, Senzel hit a grounder that resulted in a force-out at second and De La Cruz scoring from third to make it 5-0. An infield hit by Steer moved Senzel to second, and he then scored on a looping single to right by Encarnacion-Strand to make it 6-0. Stephenson then lined a gapper to right-center, scoring both Steer and Encarnacion-Strand for an 8-0 lead after just two innings. One can only assume that Falter was going to “take one for the team,” because he surrendered six hits of more than 100 mph in just two innings against a team that has been struggling offensively.
That inning was fun. pic.twitter.com/UJrB8KjfKk
— Bally Sports Cincinnati (@BallySportsCIN) September 23, 2023
Facing righthander Kyle Nicolas in the third, Steer doubled with two outs to score Stuart Fairchild to make it 9-0.
But after the fourth inning, the Reds didn’t have another base reach base safely until Friedl walked with two out in the seventh — by which point the visiting team had made up their nine-run deficit. Friedl stole second to get into scoring position, but Fairchild struck out to keep the score tied.
Trailing 13-9 entering the bottom of the eighth, the Reds rallied against Pittsburgh righty Colin Selby. De La Cruz reached on a leadoff walk, followed by a flare to right by India which sent De La Cruz to third. Pinch-hitter Nick Martini bounced into a force-out which scored De La Cruz, making the score 13-10. Steer reached on an infield hit, bringing Encarnacion-Strand to the plate as the tying run. He lined a single to center, scoring Martini and making it 13-11. Stephenson then smoked one up the middle, but Pirates second baseman Ji Hwan Bae made a diving stop, righted himself and completed an impressive 4-3 double play to end the inning and rally.
The home team came out fighting in the bottom of the ninth against Pirates righty Carmen Mlodzinski. Joey Votto led off with a pinch-hit single, with Friedl following with a double to put the tying runs in scoring position with none out. Pinch-hitter Jake Fraley grounded out to score Votto and send Friedl to third, making it 13-12. De La Cruz then battled in his at-bat, hanging in for more than 10 pitches, but unfortunately struck out swinging on what would have been ball four. India then popped out to center to end the game with the tying run on third.
The sad but true team pitching line: 9 innings, 16 hits, 4 walks and 11 strikeouts.
Rookie righthander Connor Phillips pitched his second consecutive attention-grabbing game. Over the first four innings, he allowed only two very soft Pittsburgh singles, which — combined with two walks in the fourth inning — gave the Pirates their first run of the game. Eight of his nine strikeouts came during the first four frames, during which he dominated for the most part. He looks like a pitcher whom Manager David Bell can count on for what meaningful games remain in this season, and certainly as a top candidate for a spot in the 2024 rotation.
Phillips surrendered back-to-back sixth-inning singles, the second hit on his 99th and final pitch. With nobody out, Bell replaced him with lefthander Alex Young, who surrendered hits that allowed the two inherited runners to score. Pittsburgh treated him like a batting practice pitcher, plating five runs while he was on the mound.
It didn’t stop with Young, however. Fernando Cruz entered in the top of the seventh, and did his best impression of Friday-night Daniel Duarte. The first three batters Cruz faced reached on two hits and a walk. Bell came and got Cruz and replaced him with Lucas Sims with the bases loaded and none out. Immediately Alfonso Rivas laced a double to right field, clearing the bases and tying the game at 9-9. Sims retired the side without further damage, but without question, the damage had been done.
The carnage continued in the eighth, as Alexis Diaz allowed the first four batters he faced to reach, and four runs to give Pittsburgh the very improbable 13-9 lead.
Ian Gibaut pitched a scoreless ninth inning.
Up Next for the Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds
Sunday, September 24, 1:40 p.m. ET
TBD vs. Brandon Williamson (4-5, 4.56 ERA)