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09/13/08 1:21 AM ET
Harang strong, but takes loss in opener
Righty tosses seven frames but his error turns tide
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Porous defense and sub-standard baserunning have been two hallmarks of the Reds' season gone wrong. It was no big shock then that an error and a gaffe on the basepaths were integral in the Reds' 3-2 series-opening loss to the Diamondbacks on Friday night at Chase Field. "We just gave away three runs tonight, really. We beat ourselves," Reds manager Dusty Baker lamented. Typical of the unfortunate season he's had, Aaron Harang gave the Reds his fifth straight quality start. He has only one win to show for it. Over seven well-pitched innings, Harang gave up one unearned run and four hits with an intentional walk and four strikeouts. As for the error, that was purely a self-inflicted mistake by the right-hander. The game was scoreless with one out in the sixth when Harang made a leap and barehanded stop of David Eckstein's high chopper to the mound. Eckstein was well on his way to an infield hit when Harang made a late and wild throw well to the right of Joey Votto. As the ball rolled toward right field, Eckstein advanced to third base. Harang should have eaten the ball instead of throwing to first base. "He had no chance of throwing anybody out on that ball," Baker said. "It was so high up in the air." Sure enough, the next batter, Chris Young, followed with an RBI single to left field that scored Eckstein with the game's first run. "I knew it was a fast runner running," Harang said. "I grabbed it and Edwin [Encarnacion] was screaming at me to eat it. I think that's why I pulled off. I was trying to hold on to it and keep from throwing it. It just came out. I knew it was going to be a close play anyway. I was trying to make the play as fast as possible and it got away." The error later proved to be the difference when the Reds scored two runs on Jeff Keppinger's pinch-hit single in the ninth. Of 16 National League teams, the Reds are tied for 14th in fielding percentage (.980). Their 108 errors are second most in the NL. Up to that point, Harang had matched zeroes with Arizona ace Brandon Webb. He retired his first nine in a row and 11 of the first 13. Harang retired his last five hitters but was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth with a runner on second base. "I think by how I felt overall, that was one of my better outings probably this year. I feel really good," Harang said. Harang is 4-16 with 4.96 ERA and winless since Aug. 16. Over his last five starts, he has a 2.45 ERA. The worry stemming from the month he missed with a sore right forearm has dissipated. "The biggest thing was finally finding out that I was healthy and nothing was severely wrong," Harang said. "I'm just happy I'm feeling better and able to go out every fifth day." Webb (20-7), who came in with three straight losses, finally reached 20 wins on the fourth try. He worked eight scoreless innings and five hits allowed with two walks and two strikeouts as Arizona snapped its six-game losing streak while trying to stay in the NL West race. A chance to score on Webb was foiled in the sixth when rookie Chris Dickerson did himself in on the bases. After a one-out single, Dickerson made an inexplicable delayed steal attempt after Webb and Diamondbacks catcher Chris Snyder executed a pitchout. Snyder easily threw out Dickerson at second base. The batter, Danny Richar, followed with a double that might have scored Dickerson. The Reds have been caught stealing an NL-high 48 times this season. Their 63 percent success rate at stealing was a Major League low entering the night. "He was delaying on his own," Baker said. "I saw them pitch out and said, 'Yeah, good. Ball one.' I looked up and [Snyder] was throwing the ball to second base. We just have to keep teaching and keep harping to him." Arizona padded its lead in the bottom of the eighth when Jared Burton gave up a triple and two walks to load the bases. Bill Bray walked former Red Adam Dunn to force in a run. A Mike Lincoln wild pitch brought home David Eckstein for a three-run deficit.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.