I’ll have more to say about the Reds’ annual visit to Southern California in a few days, but for now, a few words about last night’s walkoff loss. (As I got home after 11 p.m. and will leave for today’s game at 11 a.m., please excuse any first-draft typos, mixed metaphors or general illogic.)
In the summer of his rookie season of 2013, Tony Cingrani – who was then being used as a starter – threw the best-pitched game I’ve ever seen in person. At the time, the Dodgers were in the midst of an historic 46-10 hot streak, but Cingrani managed to keep their bats in check over seven shutout innings, during which he struck out 11 while yielding one hit and one walk. Unfortunately, the Reds’ bats were stymied that day as well, and the game was locked in a scoreless tie as it went to extra innings.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen mowed down the Reds in the 9th, but with the game on the line, Reds manager Dusty Baker stuck with Sam LeCure, who entered the game in the bottom of the 8th. Despite giving up two hits over 1 1/3 innings, though, LeCure did not give up a run. In the 10th, despite having the lethal Aroldis Chapman (who had pitched just one inning over the previous seven days) at his disposal, Baker instead called upon Curtis Partch. Miraculously, Partch dodged a bullet in the 10th after giving up a leadoff single to Hanley Ramirez, who promptly advanced to second on a gritty bunt by Skip Schumaker. Following an intentional walk to Andre Ethier, Partch struck out the next two Dodgers on six pitches.
The clock struck midnight in the 11th, though. After retiring the first two batters while Chapman continued to collect dust in the Reds bullpen, Partch threw his 28th pitch, a meatball to Dodgers rookie phenom Yasiel Puig. Chris Heisey barely moved as it sailed over his head and into the left field bleachers. Dodgers 1, Reds 0.
Four years later, Baker might be gone, but his ghost clearly lives on. With the Reds and Dodgers tied at 4 heading to the bottom of the 9th, I fully expected to see Raisel Iglesias summoned and asked to send the game into extras. When Drew Storen exited the bullpen door instead, I was shocked. After all the early-season hype of the Reds’ unconventional bullpen usage, had Bryan Price suddenly embraced The Book? I watched incredulously as Storen gave up singles to Puig and Justin Turner before Price mercifully waved the white flag. When Cingrani – who, like Storen, had pitched the previous night – subsequently came out of the bullpen, I assumed Iglesias must have had the Adam Duvall flu. In a high-leverage situation with the game on the line, there was no other logical reason to pass over Iglesias in favor of a pitcher who was fresh from the DL and who yielded a home run to the first batter he faced the night before… right?
According to Enquirer beat writer Zach Buchanan, however, Iglesias was fine, and Price simply chose to save him for an opportunity that would never materialize:
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Cingrani gave up a hit, and the Dodgers were walkoff winners. Ironically, the winning run was scored by Puig, who nullified Cingrani’s excellent start four years prior. Of note, the Dodgers used closer Kenley Jansen to mow down the Reds in the 9th innings of both games. It’s unfortunate that the Reds’ closers didn’t have the same opportunity.
Don’t ask me how I know this, but in professional wrestling, there’s something known as the “Dusty Finish.” Named after Dusty Rhodes (the wrestler and matchmaker who popularized it), it refers to a scenario when the good guy challenger scores a win against the bad guy champion, yet the bad guy champ retains his title on a technicality. For years, Reds fans had to suffer through a different type of Dusty Finish as Chapman sat while the team’s lesser relievers saw action instead. This year, I was initially encouraged that Price had apparently seen the light, but on the drive home last night, The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” echoed in my head: “Meet the new boss… same as the old boss…”
I was also reminded of the Einstein quote in which he defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results. If Baker and Price are insane, though, they’re not alone: If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Dodger Stadium.