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08/09/07 5:39 PM ET
Guadardo's return spoiled by Dodgers
In first game in 11 1/2 months, Reds reliever blows save vs. LA
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Running out of the bullpen gate and on to a Major League mound for the first time in nearly a year wasn't enough of a victory for Reds reliever Eddie Guardado. Guardado had bigger ambitions in mind Thursday, namely preserving starter Phil Dumatrait's one-run lead in the seventh inning. It didn't happen on a day where Cincinnati's bullpen blew two late leads before losing to the Dodgers, 5-4, in 11 innings. Rafael Furcal's one-out home run to right field off Victor Santos (1-4) snapped the 4-4 tie and prevented the Reds from taking a three-game series sweep. It was the first time Guardado appeared in a big league game since Aug. 19, 2006. He had reconstructive left elbow surgery Sept. 8. Summoned to hold down a 3-2 lead, he left a 1-0 fastball up to pinch-hitter Nomar Garciaparra. It was scorched for a single to right field. Russell Martin added a one-out double to the left field corner. The tying run scored on Olmedo Saenz's sacrifice fly. "It felt really great. Too bad the outcome wasn't what I wanted," Guardado said. "Obviously, when you have a young kid out there throwing the ball like he did today, the last thing on your mind is thinking about your first time back in a long time or Tommy John [surgery] or all this. Your main thing is to hold the lead, and it didn't happen. I didn't get it done. I don't care if it was my first time out there in a long time." Interim manager Pete Mackanin would have preferred a situation he could ease Guardado into rather than a tight one-run game. "I can't wait forever for a game to get Eddie Guardado in," Mackanin said. "He was throwing the ball well and locating well in the reports we've got in the Minor Leagues. If he's doing that there, then I expect him to do that here. He's not a young kid that will be overly excited. "I liked what I saw from Guardado. He made a mistake to that first hitter he faced, and he paid for it." Although Guardado is a former All-Star closer with 183 career saves, he will be used in a situational and setup role in the late innings with David Weathers already locked in as the ninth-inning man. Pitching cleanly through the seventh and eighth innings has been the Reds' biggest weakness this season. "It's the way things have been going all year," he said. "Obviously, we all have to do a better job. Now I'm in the mix, and I have to do a better job. On the other hand, it felt really good to get my feet wet again. It felt like a century. I had the knees shaking. It felt good to have some butterflies. I threw strikes. I made some bad pitches that cost us." Cincinnati got the lead back in the seventh when Dodgers reliever Joe Beimel was called for a two-out balk that allowed Norris Hopper to score the go-ahead run from first base. It was given back in the Dodgers' eighth when Delwyn Young hit a one-out double off Jared Burton and pinch-runner Andre Ethier scored on Ramon Martinez's single to right field. Besides Alex Gonalez's two-run homer in the second inning for a 3-1 lead, the Reds lacked big hits and were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Most of their hits after the second inning came with two outs. Coming off a poor 3 1/3-inning, six-run Major League debut last week vs. the Nationals, Dumatrait fared better Thursday. He allowed two earned runs and seven hits over six innings with two walks and three strikeouts. Dumatrait lacked command in the first two innings and backed himself into corners before escaping with minimal damage. Using a walk and two singles, Los Angeles loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning, but only had Jeff Kent's sacrifice fly to show on the scoreboard. It snapped the Dodgers' 28 scoreless inning streak for a Los Angeles team that had been shut out in the previous three straight games and four of the last five -- including twice by the Reds. They had runners on second and third with no outs in the second and came away with only Martinez's sacrifice fly. "I felt a lot more comfortable today than that start in Washington," Dumatrait said. "I fell behind some guys. Once the third inning hit, I calmed myself down and made some quality pitches and got ahead of some guys." "He started using all his pitches," Mackanin said. "Early on, he was just going to fastball, fastball, fastball like a lot of young guys do. He settled down and started using his changeup and breaking ball. He did a good job for us. That was encouraging." Dumatrait retired eight of his last nine batters before he gave way to Guardado in the seventh. "I wanted to give the kid his first win, collect that scorecard and lineup sheet," Guardado said. "He was the first guy I saw when I came in. What do you do?" Teammates greeted Guardado with pats on the backs and congratulations for making his way all the back from a long, and often frustrating, 11-month rehabilitation. "That was good, too. They've supported me all the way," Guardado said. "The plain bottom line is you've got to get the job done."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.