Saturday, September 09, 2000
Pirates sweep Reds 7-3, 3-1
Sloppy defense fuels two defeats
By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer
PITTSBURGH The wrecking ball hasn't hit Three Rivers Stadium yet, but it dealt the Reds a pretty solid blow Friday night.
The Reds looked just as doomed as this ballpark, dropping a doubleheader to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-3 and 3-1, before 26,486 fans who must have completely lacked interest in high school football.
The outcome trimmed St. Louis' magic number for clinching the National League Central Division to 12 and brought the Reds' postseason hopes closer to official extinction.
The Reds (71-70) were at their underachieving worst in the nightcap, matching a season high for a nine-inning game by leaving 14 runners on base, including 10 in scoring position.
We didn't deserve to win, Reds manager Jack McKeon said. You can't leave two runners on base in every inning like we did and expect to win. ... So much for batting stats. You have to get them in. It's great to get them on, but you have to get them in.
Ron Villone (9-9) kept the Reds in a scoreless tie through five innings in the second game, though from the second
inning on he allowed Pittsburgh's leadoff batter to reach base safely. That habit landed him in trouble in the sixth inning, when Pittsburgh scored all of its runs. Villone was one pitch away from escaping a two-on, two-out jam, but Alex Ramirez tripled home two runs on an 0-2 pitch. Keith Osik doubled in Ramirez, finishing Villone and helping the Pirates lengthen their winning streak to eight games.
The game will drive you nuts sometimes, Villone said. My stuff was good, but I'd rather my results were better than my stuff.
A similar malady struck Scott Williamson (5-8), Cincinnati's first-game starter who issued two leadoff walks that generated Pittsburgh runs. He also hastened one of them across by flinging a wild pitch. Williamson, who could have been expected to struggle in his first outing after being confined to the disabled list with back spasms, allowed four runs and six hits in 3ö innings.
An evening featuring non-contending teams forced to play an extra game due to a May 1 rainout was bound to yield some listless baseball, at worst, or sloppy baseball, at best. As it turned out, Dmitri Young committed a pair of errors, one in left field and another at first base. These generated four unearned runs for Pittsburgh, including three in the eighth inning.
The Reds can only hope for better luck during the rest of this series and next season, when the Pirates move into PNC Park. In fact, the Reds are tentatively scheduled to provide the opposition for the April 9 inaugural.
Friday's pair of games were bridged by an incident that remained open to interpretation.
McKeon said between games that he would rest center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. in the nightcap. Griffey, who cited sore hamstrings in his much-publicized confrontation with broadcaster Marty Brennaman and sat out last Sunday's game with a sore hip flexor, occasionally seemed to move gingerly in the first game, though he went 2-for-4 to lift his batting average to a season-high .267.
If he is sore, this will give him a chance to rest it, McKeon said.
But after hustling reporters out of the manager's office with a harsh command they were leaving anyway Griffey held a brief chat with McKeon. Back in their press-box a few minutes later, the banished reporters learned that Griffey would start the second game. Griffey went 0-for-4 in the nightcap, striking out twice.
He wanted to play, so he played, McKeon said. That's good. He can play every day. If he tells me that he's OK, it's good enough for me.
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