Reds brush aside skid, focus on Wild Card Game

Reds brush aside skid, focus on Wild Card Game

Reds brush aside skid, focus on Wild Card Game

CINCINNATI -- In the grand scheme of things, Sunday afternoon's 4-2 loss to the Pirates didn't mean much for the Reds. Their playoff fate already decided, the final game of the regular season was mostly about staying healthy and giving some of the lesser used players a chance to compete.

But this was far from the ideal way to enter the postseason.

With the loss, the Reds were swept at Great American Ball Park by the Pirates, whom they'll face in Tuesday night's National League Wild Card Game at PNC Park, and closed out the season dropping five straight. That matched a season high and marked Cincinnati's longest home losing streak of the year.

Fortunately for the Reds, there's still baseball to be played.

"You've got to block it out," manager Dusty Baker said of the rough finish. "It's a situation where it's a new season. What you did previously, it doesn't matter. What you didn't do previously doesn't matter. Now you start the season all over."

The final week of the season was lowlighted by Cincinnati's offensive woes, which continued Sunday. Although the regulars played just enough to get two at-bats, the Reds notched just four hits and barely threatened in the first seven innings. In the five straight losses, Cincinnati scored a total of eight runs, three of which came in Saturday's loss that gave the Pirates home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game.

Both of Cincinnati's runs Sunday came with the team trailing, 4-0, in the eighth, which Derrick Robinson led off with a pinch-hit single. Cesar Izturis followed with a ground-rule double -- his second hit of the game -- before pinch-hitter Corky Miller drove both in with a double of his own to make it 4-2.

With just one out and runners on the corners, the Reds had a chance to tie the game or take the lead, but Neftali Soto grounded into an inning-ending double play. After Chris Heisey led off the ninth with a single, Jack Hannahan hit into another double play before Henry Rodriguez struck out to end the game.

Despite watching his team record just six hits against the Pirates, Baker tried to take something positive out of the loss.

"Today we hit some balls on the nose, which is a good sign," Baker said. "They just didn't find any holes. We had some opportunities to score, big time, in the eighth and ninth wiped out by double plays. It's a situation where we've got to keep the ball off the ground. Some of the young guys are learning what not to do."

On the other side, the Pirates jumped on starter Greg Reynolds and built an early advantage. Taking the place of Johnny Cueto, who is scheduled to start the Wild Card Game, Reynolds struck out Felix Pie to open the game. However, Pittsburgh used two singles and a walk to take an early 1-0 lead.

The Pirates struck again in the second, when Jordy Mercer hit what should have been a single to right field. Instead, right fielder Jay Bruce dove and missed the ball, letting it roll to the wall and allowing Mercer to race around the bases for Pittsburgh's second inside-the-park home run of the season.

After Reynolds worked around a hit-by-pitch and an error in the third, Mercer led off the fourth with a triple. Two pitches later, Josh Harrison drove in Mercer with a single.

Reynolds' day was done after escaping the fifth without any further damage. He allowed three earned runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out four.

For the series, the Reds were outscored, 16-6, by the Pirates, but that didn't leave anybody in the home clubhouse concerned about the upcoming one-game playoff.

"These past three games, to be honest with you, I don't even care about them," shortstop Zack Cozart said. "We put ourselves in a spot, we knew we were going to be in the Wild Card either way -- whether it was home or away -- so we knew we have this one game and that's what it boils down to. We're going to play well, put on a good show and hopefully continue it throughout the postseason."

Unlike Cincinnati, Pittsburgh will enter Tuesday on a roll, having won seven of its last 10 games.

"Yeah, we played well," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We won games, after the San Diego series [when they lost the first three of a four-game series, Sept. 16-19] we had to rally-up and get some things back in order, and I think we've done that across the board. We've put together a pretty good package here, finishing up."

The final weekend wasn't indicative of the season series between the Reds and Pirates, as they entered Friday tied 8-8 before Pittsburgh's sweep. Not long after the final pitch in the season finale, though, everything that happened Sunday and in the 161 previous games was quickly forgotten.

"It's all in the past right now and we're looking ahead," catcher Ryan Hanigan said. "I don't think anybody's going to worry about that. We'll have plenty of energy and momentum for that game and hopefully through the playoffs."

Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.