Thursday, August 12, 2004

News gets worse for Reds

Shaky pitching, cold bats on list of woes in loss

By John Fay
Enquirer staff writer

The Dodgers' Jose Hernandez (center) and Reds catcher Javier Valentin watch the ball after Hernandez's first-inning triple Wednesday.
The Associated Press/DAVE KOHL
Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park had that feeling of deja vu all over again.

The night seemed like an ugly flashback to 2003.

Shortly after Brandon Claussen struggled through a 49-pitch, four-run first inning, it was announced that Ken Griffey Jr. was done for the season - the victim of another hamstring injury.

Right after the Griffey news came word that John Vander Wal had left the game after re-injuring his surgically repaired right knee.

And the bad news continued to come as Claussen, the great left-handed hope of the starting rotation, continued to take his lumps.

The beat-up Reds ended up losing 11-1 to the Los Angeles Dodgers before a sell-out crowd of 38,933 at Great American Ball Park. (It was Joe Morgan Bobblehead Night.)

The Griffey news overshadowed the loss.

[IMAGE] Starter Brandon Claussen gave up seven runs in three innings.
(AP photo)
"It's very discouraging," Danny Graves said. "As bad as things are going, we need him in the offense and we need him in the outfield. ... It's a big blow."

Jeff Weaver and Duaner Sanchez limited the Reds to five hits, one night after Jose Lima and Eric Gagne limited them to four. Barry Larkin has four of the Reds' nine hits in the series.

But Wednesday, it was understandable if the Reds' collective attention wandered. The players heard the Griffey news in third inning or so. None knew the severity of the injury until then.

"You feel bad for Junior," Reds manager Dave Miley said. "It's a tough hit, not only for him but for the club."

Wednesday's loss put the Reds a season-high five games under .500 at 54-59. The club is 7-18 since Griffey suffered the hamstring injury that put him on the disabled list on July 11.

"You just try to keep boxing your way out of it," Miley said.

The focus obviously has turned toward the future and players like Claussen.

Nobody said rebuilding is pretty.

Claussen, obtained from the New York Yankees for Aaron Boone last year, was making his fifth start for the Reds. He had been alternately good and bad before Wednesday.

He was abysmal against the Dodgers because of his lack of command.

"He's going to have his ups and downs," Miley said. "It's a rough learning process. We all know he's better than the three innings he pitched tonight."

The Dodgers scored four runs in the first, despite hitting only two balls fair in the inning. Claussen walked four in the inning, including three straight with two outs. The big blow followed the walks - a three-run triple by Jose Hernandez. The ball barely eluded right fielder Vander Wal and was just fair.

Claussen was a pitch from getting out the inning at least three times. He threw several pitches he thought were strikes but were called balls.

"I was throwing the ball to the glove," Claussen said. "It's up to the umpire if it's a ball or strike."

Said Miley: "I thought he was trying to nibble. He was trying to be too fine."

Claussen got through the second inning. But he allowed three runs on back-to-back homers by Hernandez and David Ross in the third that made the score 7-0.

Claussen went three innings, giving up seven runs on four hits. He walked five, with all five scoring, and struck out two, and is 1-3 with a 6.93 ERA.

"Anybody can play this game when it's going well," Claussen said. "This is a test of my character. I welcome the challenge."

Todd Van Poppel took over for Claussen and gave up four runs in the fourth. That made it 11-0.

How bad is it getting?

The fans cheered derisively when Larkin scored in the fourth on Adam Dunn's groundout to make it 11-1.

Izturis ss511001.295
SFinley cf323120.287
Bradley rf200001.273
Ventura 1b301000.223
Beltre 3b421011.324
ShGreen 1b-rf331320.266
Werth lf410111.272
JHernandez 2b512503.311
Ross c411101.181
Weaver p401001.176
Sanchez p000000.250
FLopez 3b401001.264
Larkin ss412000.306
Casey 1b401001.338
Dunn lf401100.279
WPena cf400001.261
DJimenez 2b300001.254
Vander Wal rf100000.176
Van Poppel p000000.125
Hummel ph100000.224
RWagner p000000---
JCastro ph100000.235
GWhite p000000---
Graves p000000---
Valentin c300002.211
Claussen p000000.167
JaCruz ph-rf300001.230
Los Angeles403400000-11110

LOB-Los Angeles 6, Cincinnati 4. 2B-Izturis (21), Larkin (15), Casey (37). 3B-JHernandez (1). HR-ShGreen (16), off Van Poppel; Ross (4), off Claussen; JHernandez (10), off Claussen. RBIs-SFinley (52), ShGreen 3 (61), Werth (28), JHernandez 5 (21), Ross (11), Dunn (73). GIDP-Bradley. DP-Cincinnati 1 (Larkin, DJimenez and Casey).

Weaver W, 10-108411071043.78
Claussen L, 1-3347752816.93
Van Poppel264411495.60

HBP-by Claussen (Ross). WP-Weaver.

Umpires-Home, Eric Cooper; First, Chuck Meriwether; Second, Mike Reilly; Third, C.B. Bucknor.

T-2:33. A-39,933 (42,271).

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