Missed chances dog Reds against Rox
Cincy, which entered series hot, can't avoid sweep
DENVER -- Reds starter Kip Wells seemed to forever be one pitch from escaping a third inning that never seemed to end.The Rockies scored five runs -- all with two outs -- in the bottom of the third, and it was all they needed to hand the Reds a 5-1 loss on Thursday. "They can strike very quickly," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. After being swept in all four games this week at Coors Field, Cincinnati has dropped all seven games in the season series to Colorado, which has won 14 of the past 15 games between the two teams. Before coming to town, the Reds had a season-high seven-game winning streak. Cincinnati had a 1-0 lead with two outs in the Colorado third when Wells couldn't handle speedy Eric Young Jr.'s bunt to the third-base side of the mound. No throw to first was possible, and Young was credited with a single. "That's a prime example that speed can kill," Baker said. "It wasn't a very good bunt, and ordinarily [Wells is] a good fielder. He tried to barehand it, but he had time to glove it and turn and throw." "I just tried to get to it quickly," Wells said. "Knowing he's fast and not having much time to do it fundamentally sound by getting in front of it, fielding it and throwing it, I tried to barehand it and throw it and slipped a little bit. At that point, I knew the play was over if I didn't pick it cleanly." That crack in the door was all the Rockies needed to blast through. The next batter, Carlos Gonzalez, followed Young with a walk and Seth Smith's RBI single scored Colorado's first run. Another chance to end the inning was missed when Jason Giambi sharply lined a drive to the wall in center field. Drew Stubbs had trouble tracking the ball, and it fell in for a two-run double. "I think ordinarily he gets that ball," Baker said. "He got turned around. When you get turned around and off balance, the ball bounces on you. It looked like he got his feet mixed up." Garrett Atkins put the game away with a two-run home run to left field for a four-run lead. Coming off of his last start at Atlanta, when he gave up one hit over six scoreless innings, Wells (1-4) pitched five innings. He allowed five earned runs and six hits with three walks and three strikeouts. "Pitchers always say, 'Well I only made a couple of mistakes and they took advantage,'" Wells said. "Well, the mistakes I made, with the slider in particular, were the ones that cost me -- soft pitches over the plate." The game might have been different had the Reds taken advantage of scoring chances early vs. Rockies starter Jose Contreras. They scored one run in the first inning when Brandon Phillips lined an RBI single to left field that scored Paul Janish. Then the rally dried up after the bases were loaded with one out. The Reds did likewise in the third inning after runners were on the corners with one out. "The score really could have been reversed," Baker said. "We have to get those runners in and put the ball in play." Both rallies were extinguished in the exact same manner when the No. 6 and No. 7 hitters, Wladimir Balentien and Adam Rosales, struck out back-to-back. Overall, the Reds were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. Contreras left after three innings with a quadriceps strain but he and the bullpen tandem of Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Rincon (3-2) and former Reds pitcher Matt Belisle combined to notch 13 strikeouts. In all four games vs. the Rockies, the Reds scored three runs or less and twice managed just one run. "It's a situation where you have to put the ball in play," Baker said. "When we won seven games in a row, we were getting those kinds of hits with runners in scoring position. Here these last four games, we got very few hits with runners in scoring position. And that's the name of the game. We got equal hits [seven] but they got more hits when it counted."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.