Thursday, May 10, 2001

D'Backs 5, Reds 2

Lots of blame to go around as Reds fall under .500

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Deion Sanders (0-for-4) stomps back to the dugout.
(AP photos)
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        PHOENIX — The Reds fell below .500 but took aim at the league lead in apologies Wednesday night after their 5-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

        A mistake-plagued eighth inning, culminating in pinch hitter David Dellucci's three-run homer off John Riedling that broke a 2-2 tie, essentially ended the Reds' uncanny dominance at Bank One Ballpark.

        Dellucci's blast, which traveled an estimated 424 feet while clearing the swimming pool in right-center field, followed Luis Gonzalez's single to right field, which manager Bob Boone thought Alex Ochoa should have caught on the fly, and Reggie Sanders' double to left, which Deion Sanders knew he should have grabbed.

        “Both of them, I thought, were catchable,” Boone said. “That was huge. It set it all up.”

        But Riedling didn't spare himself any grief for throwing a 3-0 fastball down the middle to Dellucci, who delivered his second pinch homer of the season and Arizona's seventh.

        “That was just dumb pitching,” Riedling said. “I didn't go with my best fastball. I took a little off of it to throw a strike.”

Jason LaRue blows a bubble after tagging out Jay Bell to end the third inning.
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        The Reds began this series having won nine of 10 games at the BOB since it opened in 1998. But they lost two out of three on this visit, which was made memorable by Randy Johnson's 20-strikeout gem Tuesday.

        The Reds (16-17), who have lost eight of their last 10 games, own their first losing record since they were 5-6 on April 13.

        If they're going to rebound from their five-game deficit in the National League Central, they at least have a chance to do it soon. After today's scheduled off-day, they'll play 22 of 25 games against division opponents.

        Arizona's fateful eighth began with Gonzalez's hit off Hector Mercado (1-2). The ball short-hopped Ochoa, who happened to generate most of the Reds' offense by rapping three hits and scoring both runs off Arizona starter Robert Ellis. Ochoa charged the ball, then lunged to his left to grab it and make sure it didn't bound past him for extra bases.

Barry Larkin reacts to popping out.
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        Reggie Sanders then smashed a 1-2 pitch on a line to left field. Deion Sanders appeared to track the ball shakily but had a play on it. Then it flew past him, advancing Gonzalez to third.

        “I got a bad read on it,” Deion Sanders said. “I didn't think it was hit as hard as it was. It kept carrying, then I lost it in the lights. There's no way I should allow those plays to happen.”

        Mercado briefly provided hope for Cincinnati by striking out Mark Grace. Playing the righty-vs.-righty percentages, Boone replaced the left-handed Mercado with Riedling, since right-handed Damian Miller was due up.

        Arizona manager Bob Brenly countered with Dellucci. You know the rest.

        In retrospect, Riedling wouldn't have minded walking Dellucci. It would have loaded the bases, but .216-hitting Tony Womack was on deck.

        “He (Womack) has been struggling a little bit,” Riedling said. “He's a (potential) double-play ball right there.”

David Dellucci homers.
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        As the Reds packed their equipment bags to return to Cincinnati, Mercado knelt by Deion Sanders and wrapped his arm lovingly around his celebrated teammate's head. Though most people probably didn't see it, Mercado said he yanked his glove off his hand in frustration after Reggie Sanders' hit fell in.

        “I told Deion I wasn't trying to show him up,” Mercado explained. “It's baseball. Things happen.”

        Earlier, right-hander Elmer Dessens continued the brief but encouraging trend of improvement among Reds starters. Having surrendered 16 runs and 27 hits in 17 innings over his last three outings, Dessens allowed two runs and seven hits while walking two and striking out three.

        Pete Harnisch, Chris Reitsma and Dessens combined to allow six earned runs in 19 innings during this series. That's a 2.84 ERA, which contrasts nicely with the 9.89 ERA Reds starters compiled in nine games before the series.

        Boone had stated that this turn through the rotation would be crucial for each starter.


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