Wednesday, April 05, 2000
Brewers 5, Reds 1
BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Reds finally played a game, but it wasn't their game. Their plan for success this year features air-tight relief pitching and powerful offense that overcomes opponents late in games. Neither was evident in Tuesday night's 5-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Pokey Reese bunts.
(Craig Ruttle photos)
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Cincinnati's bullpen surrendered four runs in the final three innings, spoiling Denny Neagle's encouraging six-inning effort. The Reds mustered four hits off five Milwaukee pitchers, none after the sixth inning.
Amid a mass of games in May or July, this game quickly would have faded into near-irrelevance. Yet since it was technically the Reds' first full game of the season, it became part of posterity as their third consecutive season-opening defeat.
It's basically only the first day, Reds manager Jack McKeon said. We're 0-1? Give them a chance. This is a good-hitting ballclub. It may take them a few days.
The fact that Ken Griffey Jr. and Dante Bichette are each 0-for-6 so far means absolutely nothing at this juncture. But observers intoxicated by the Reds' vast potential might panic over such numbers.
Dmitri Young high-fives Alex Ochoa after his HR
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I still have about 600 at-bats to go, said Griffey, who struck out twice, grounded out and hit into a fielder's choice.
I'm probably pushing a little bit, said Bichette, who struck out, flied deep to left field and grounded out twice. But I had some good at-bats. I felt good a couple of times.
The brief struggles of the Reds' Nos. 3 and 4 hitters crystallized in the sixth inning, one inning after Dmitri Young's homer off Brewers starter Valerio De Los Santos lifted Cincinnati into a 1-1 tie.
Right-hander Jim Bruske relieved De Los Santos, who left with a cracked nail and a blister on the tip of the middle finger of his pitching hand before the sixth began. After pinch hitter Chris Stynes led off with an infield hit, Pokey Reese pushed a daring bunt up the first-base line on a 1-2 count for another single.
Junior pops up
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Due up were Barry Larkin, Griffey and Bichette. Though that combination is bound to generate plenty of excitement this summer, nothing happened this time as Bruske, who didn't pitch last season after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery, looked quite healthy. Larkin flied out, Griffey forced Reese at second base, and Bichette grounded out.
That aborted rally at least gave the fans a brief thrill. They deserved more. The Reds reported a turnstile count of 16,761 spectators who braved a game-time temperature of 35 degrees and a wind-chill factor that plunged to 22 degrees. The attendance was respectable, since the previously unscheduled game resulted from Monday's Opening Day contest that was called on account of rain. No tickets were sold for Tuesday's game, which was witnessed only by bearers of Opening Day ticket stubs.
Griffey did furnish his first memorable feat as a Red, darting onto the warning track in right-center field to haul in Charlie Hayes' drive leading off the sixth inning.
That was pretty impressive, said Neagle, who doubted the ball would be caught. I got to see my first glimpse of a 10-time Gold Glove winner.
Thus aided, Neagle retired 11 of the last 12 Brewers he faced. He allowed only five hits, including the first of Jeromy Burnitz's two home runs, while throwing 58 strikes in 95 pitches. That contrasted with the 9.72 ERA Neagle recorded in six exhibition appearances.
But when Neagle came out, so did the Reds' effective pitching. Both Brewers Scott Williamson walked in the seventh and eighth innings ultimately scored. Scott Sullivan issued a bases-loaded walk in the eighth to force in another run.
Williamson (0-1) actually felt satisfied with his command of his pitches. It was unfortunate that the ball found holes, he said, citing ground-ball hits by Marquis Grissom in the seventh inning and Hayes in the eighth.
The first of these helped Milwaukee break the 1-1 tie. With one out in the seventh, Williamson walked Henry Blanco after getting ahead on the count 1-2. That should have been a minor irritant, but it became crucial when Bichette failed to field Grissom's two-out hit crisply. Bichette stumbled as he tried to corral the ball near the right-field corner, helping Grissom reach third base as Blanco scored. The play was ruled an RBI triple.
Looking back, I probably should have played it into a clean double, Bichette said. I tried to cut it off and I couldn't quite get around it to field it cleanly.
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