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08/15/05 11:21 PM ET
Reds' homers fall short vs. Giants
Three solo long balls can't pick up unusually shaky Harang
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- A pair of firetrucks pulled up to Great American Ball Park just before 3 p.m. ET Monday, around the same time the Reds' players began arriving to work. No fire was reported, so it must have been a false alarm. But perhaps the trucks were also around to douse the flames of the Reds' 5-1 swing through Chicago and Milwaukee. For in the 7-3 loss to the Giants that came scant hours after the trucks' departure, the Reds looked decidedly watered down in front of a home crowd of 17,777. A spotty Aaron Harang, a rusty Randy Keisler, an offense that burned out after some strong firepower in the early innings and a cycle for Giants leadoff man Randy Winn didn't make for a pleasant return home. "It was one of those nights where they just put together more runs than we did," Harang said. "It was a difficult night to throw." Harang sure made it look that way, because he was hardly his usually solid self in the muggy conditions. The right-hander lasted just five innings, throwing 105 pitches and snapping the Reds' streak of quality starts at eight games. He was working uphill from the very beginning. Harang put himself in a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, but got out of it by striking out Michael Tucker and Ray Durham. Still, he had used 31 pitches, setting a tone for his brief, yet grueling outing. "Throwing that many pitches, especially in that first inning, that's not a good start to the game," he said. "I was sweating so much, I couldn't keep my hands down. Those nights where you sweat a lot aren't fun to throw in. I didn't have a real feel for where I wanted to throw it." Fortunately for the Reds, right-hander Kevin Correia was in the same boat. Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn tagged him for back-to-back solo shots in the bottom of the first. But while staked to that 2-0 lead, Harang ran into trouble when Winn and Todd Linden touched him for solo shots in the third and fourth innings, respectively, to make it a 2-2 game. The Reds regained the lead with Austin Kearns' solo shot in the bottom of the fourth. But a throwing error by Edwin Encarnacion the following inning opened the door for the Giants to tack on a pair of unearned runs against Harang, knocking him out of the game with the Reds mired in a 4-3 deficit. "He definitely didn't have his best stuff," manager Jerry Narron said of Harang. "He had a high pitch count early. [To throw] 105 pitches through five innings, that's tough on him." Still, the one-run hole Harang left behind was manageable. But it widened in a hurry when Keisler took over in the sixth. Keisler had pitched just twice over the previous two weeks, and both of those outings were struggles for the young left-hander. But Narron looked at the matchups ahead with Winn, Omar Vizquel and J.T. Snow due up and decided to put his trust in Keisler. "We haven't had an opportunity to use him a great deal," Narron said. "With two switch-hitters and a left-hander coming up, I thought it was a good opportunity for him." It didn't work. Keisler was touched for a leadoff triple from Winn, who picked up the cycle in four at-bats. The runs came quickly from that point. Vizquel hit an RBI double, Snow followed with a single, Pedro Feliz walked and Tucker hit a sacrifice fly to center to make it 6-3, knocking Keisler out of the game. Durham then tacked on another sac fly off Todd Coffey to cap the back-breaking inning. Keisler admitted he was a little rusty. "But that's no excuse," he said. "It's tough, but you have to do it. It was just bad execution. I was a little uncomfortable and leaving the ball up." Quite a bit of leaving was going on. The Reds left eight men on base over the final five innings, ensuring that Harang's early struggles would hold up. "We had some chances," Narron said. "Some pretty good at-bats. We didn't get anything to show for it." Indeed, for the Reds, this was a waterlogged night that made the thrill of the road trip seem like another false alarm.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.