Simon stellar, but Reds' bats come up short vs. Rays
April 12, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
CINCINNATI -- There have been only 14 1-0 games played in the 12-year history of the hitter's haven that is Great American Ball Park. Three of them have been this season. Two of them of have been Reds losses, including the defeat at the hands of the Rays on Saturday afternoon.
This 1-0 loss was symbolic of the issues that have plagued the Reds throughout this young season. Great starting pitching is being wasted. The lack of offense from the lineup has become offensive. It was also their fifth loss this season by a one-run margin.
In four of the five games played at home, the Reds have been held scoreless through the first eight innings. Cincinnati, which lost the first two games of the three-game series to Tampa Bay, has dropped all four series. Perhaps in an effort at keeping the losses from accumulating, manager Bryan Price held a team meeting after Saturday's game.
"There was a little something," Reds catcher Brayan Pena said. "It was a friendly reminder of what we've got. A friendly reminder of who we are as a team and as a group. It was a very positive meeting. Hopefully, we can come out tomorrow and swing the bats.
"There's no secret. The scoreboard is out there. We're doing everything we know what to do. We just need to relax a little bit more and not press ourselves a little bit. It's normal. Everybody wants to be on the winning side."
In his second outing while filling in for the injured Mat Latos as a starter, Alfredo Simon tied a career high with eight innings pitched. He gave up one run on five hits, walked one and struck out four while throwing 102 pitches. Simon previously had an eight-inning start with the Orioles, the most recent on Sept. 23, 2011.
Simon had one glitch all afternoon -- a split-finger that didn't split -- resulting in a James Loney homer on an 0-1 count to lead off the second inning. From that point, Simon retired 21 of his last 25 batters, with only one more runner getting into scoring position.
"I just missed it. Right in the middle," Simon said of the home-run pitch. "That's baseball. Then after that, I tried to keep the ball down. Everything was working."
Through two starts, Simon has allowed two runs over 15 innings. His stay in the rotation will be extended, as Latos sustained setbacks this week because of a sore right elbow.
"This is an opportunity that he is seizing," Price said. "I think he sees himself as a starter or a primary setup man or closer. He's certainly showed us his value to the organization as a starter. Not having Latos ready right now, he's been a huge shot in the arm and given us a chance to win a couple of games in his first two starts."
The Reds, who have scored one run over their last two games, were again smothered by great Rays starting pitching. On the heels of David Price's 8 1/3-inning, one-run effort on Friday, Alex Cobb pitched seven innings of four-hit baseball without a walk and five strikeouts.
Perhaps the best at-bat all day came courtesy of Simon, who worked Cobb for nine pitches in the third inning after Zack Cozart doubled. Simon fouled off three-straight 3-2 pitches before grounding out to second base, which moved the runner to third. However, Cozart would be left stranded.
Price adjusted his lineup by bumping Joey Votto to the No. 2 spot in hopes of creating more offense, which had an effect in the fourth inning after nine of the first 10 Reds were retired by Cobb. However, the club created and destroyed their own rally.
Votto led off with a ground-rule double to left field and Brandon Phillips followed with a lined single to center. Third-base coach Steve Smith waved around Votto to try to score, but Votto was easily thrown out at the plate on a one-hopper by center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.
Smith was accountable for the mistake in judgment.
"I can't get a guy thrown out with no outs, and I understand that," Smith said. "I tried to be too aggressive at the wrong time. I got burned. ... I've got to play the game. I got aggressive. If the ball bounces one way or the other, then everybody doesn't know about it. It's no outs. I always assume a guy makes a great throw, and he did. I take full credit for that."
With Jay Bruce batting, Phillips was caught stealing third base by catcher Ryan Hanigan on a close play. Phillips argued the call, but Price did not use a replay challenge to review it.
"It was a green light to run, and Brandon picked his pitch. We just came up a little short," Price said. "I felt like he was out from where I was and the reaction of Smitty. But we did have contact with our video room to validate that. We got that validation without the need for me to take the field."
In the sixth, with Cozart on second base and no outs, Simon's sacrifice bunt moved him to third base. This time, Billy Hamilton flied out to left field on the first pitch and Votto grounded out.
"Trust ourselves. Trust our talent. Go back tomorrow and regroup and trust what we've got," Pena said. "It's tough when we know we're better than our record is showing. Our pitching staff is doing such a tremendous job for us. It's one of those things, we just have to trust ourselves and go back to basics. Just relax a little bit and trust our team."
Simon and winless ace Johnny Cueto have combined for six earned runs allowed over 36 innings. They've pitched a combined three innings with a lead this season.
"We just haven't gotten on that roll," Price said. "We've started the season 3-8. This could be June, July or August and it wouldn't be as big of a deal. ... Starting the season this way is disappointing, but there are better days ahead. I'm optimistic that we're going to turn things around quickly."