Cincinnati's bid for sweep falls short
Offense goes silent after early-season surge
CINCINNATI -- All week, the Reds' lineup has displayed numbers as gaudy and flashy as some mother-in-law's jewelry.For pitcher Dave Williams' Cincinnati debut in Sunday's 5-3 loss to the previously winless Pirates, a suddenly more modest offense appeared to have put away the bling... er -- the bang. In their first five games, including a just snapped four-game win streak, the Reds hammered out 39 runs and 56 hits, including 11 home runs. Challenged by starter Victor Santos (1-1) and the Pittsburgh bullpen Sunday, Cincinnati collected its three runs on only seven hits, with no homers of their own leaving Great American Ball Park. A chance at a four-game series sweep was missed. "You're not going to get [runs] every day," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "There are going to be days where you just swing the bats and don't get those. If we continue to get the starting pitching we've had the last few days, I think we'll be fine. I know with our lineup, we'll score runs." In an outing that should assuage some Reds fans, edgy about sending popular first baseman Sean Casey to the Pirates to acquire him in December, Williams (0-1) provided six decent innings. The latest member of the rotation to have an encouraging outing, he allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits. Williams' two walks issued in the fourth inning snapped the rotation's four-game streak without giving up a walk (29 innings). Working on six day's rest and having not thrown since pitching last Sunday in a Minor League spring game, Williams was successful at changing speeds with a mix of pitches. The hardest the lefty threw was 90 mph and sometimes, he dipped into the low 60s. Overall, Williams was positive about his results but felt there was room to improve. "I feel like there were a few pitches, even though they stayed in the park, they were left up," he said. "This game is crazy and as far as how I pitched today, I came up a little short. Obviously, you want to throw up as many zeroes as you can." Williams was successful at doing that for four innings but was partially undone with lackluster defense behind him. In the top of the fourth with two outs, catcher Javier Valentin and first baseman Scott Hatteberg collided trying to catch Joe Randa's routine would-be inning-ending foul pop near the Reds' dugout. Hatteberg appeared to have the play made until he was hit by Valentin, who was charged with an error. Randa eventually drew a walk and Williams hit Jose Castillo with a pitch that loaded the bases before the pitcher escaped the inning unharmed. "I know he didn't give up a run there, but those extra pitches don't always help," Narron said. In the fifth on Pirates pitcher Victor Santos (1-1) routine grounder, third baseman Edwin Encarnacion airmailed the ball over Hatteberg's head for an error. Two batters later, Jack Wilson hit a 1-1 changeup for a two-run homer to left field. On leadoff batter Jeromy Burnitz's long drive to the warning track in the sixth, center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. attempted a difficult over the shoulder catch but the ball went through his arms. Burnitz was credited with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly that made it a 3-0 game. "That's baseball," Williams said. "A lot of times when errors occur, you just try to pick up your teammates. That's my job." The Reds finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth. Making his Reds' debut, pinch-hitter Brandon Phillips hit a leadoff double to left-center field and scored on Tony Womack's RBI two-base hit to the right field corner. Womack was later thrown out at home for the first out, trying to score from second base on Felipe Lopez's hit off Randa at third base. As third base coach Mark Berry waved Womack around, Wilson quickly retrieved the ball and fired a perfect throw and Womack was called out in a close play.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.