NEW YORK -- Reds manager Bryan Price and pitcher Brandon Finnegan liked the situation they had in the seventh inning on Tuesday vs. the Mets. And Price felt good about his decision to let his starter face pinch-hitter Yoenis Cespedes.
What nobody liked in the end was the outcome. Cespedes hit a game-tying, three-run homer on a first-pitch fastball en route to a 4-3 Reds loss. Until that fateful hit, Finnegan had given up four singles in the game.
"He was good all the way through," Price said. "He pitched his tail off, deserved a better result. He threw the ball extremely well and felt he still had good stuff there to face Cespedes, and knew how he wanted to attack and ended up centering a fastball, and he hit it out."
Heading into the seventh, Finnegan had 94 pitches through his six scoreless innings. Price went to Finnegan in the dugout and heard his pitcher tell him he was good to go. But the Reds still had Tony Cingrani and Caleb Cotham get warmed up in the bullpen.
"No pitcher wants to get pulled out of the game," Finnegan said. "I was rolling through the lineup. Of course I wanted to go back out there."
With one out in the seventh, Finnegan walked Juan Lagares on five pitches before Kevin Plawecki lined a single. The pitcher's spot was due up and Lucas Duda appeared on deck, but he was not announced into the game. Following a mound visit from Price, Duda went to the bench and Cespedes emerged.
Cespedes had not played since Friday and had fluid drained from a bruised right knee on Monday. A small sample size, indeed, but Finnegan struck out Cespedes three times in four previous at-bats.
"It looked like Lucas Duda was going to come up to hit. If he's going to hit there against Finnegan, then Cespedes isn't healthy," Price said. "What I think they figured out is that they could run Cespedes out there, and if I bring in Cotham, they get to flip around and hit Duda there with a healthy player. That was one of my considerations. The other thing is Cespedes is about 60-70 points less against left-handed pitching than right-handed pitching.
"I wasn't sure if they were going to use Cespedes solely as a decoy or not, but either way if Cespedes was going to hit in that situation, I liked him against Finnegan because Finnegan had the three-pitch mix as opposed to Tony. Those were the decisions I had to make there."
Another factor not directly addressed: The Reds' bullpen has the highest ERA in the Majors. Price lacked dependable options.
Incidentally, Collins wanted Cespedes all along, but used Duda as a decoy because Cespedes originally could not be found.
"All I kept hearing was, 'He's coming, he's coming, he's coming.' He finally got there," said Collins, who noted Cespedes was still taping his wrists as he walked to the dugout.
Finnegan's first pitch was scorched by Cespedes for a low line drive that hit just above the orange line at the top of the left-field wall. Adhering to the ground rules, the umpire signaled home run.
"It was [supposed to be] in, but a four-seam tailed out," Finnegan said. "It was down and away. He just reached out and turned on it. It's going to happen. I still thought I threw the ball great. Got bad luck out of it."
Finnegan also took a great game into the seventh inning on April 11 vs. the Cubs when he had a no-hitter for 6 2/3 frames, before giving up a hit and two runs in an eventual Reds loss.
"The only way these things work out is if you end up winning the ballgame," Price said. "The speculation comes when it doesn't work out. The question, which I have to ask myself, is do I need to give these guys the early hook to keep them away from having a setback like that? I wasn't going to let him face the go-ahead run. He pitched too well. We need to grow. Our goal coming into the season is that we're going to grow and grow fast as a pitching staff."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.