Pittsburgh – Even when competing in competitive games, the Reds have sometimes found ways to outdo themselves. Such was the case during Friday night’s 4-2 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park.
Here are three key items for the loss, Cincinnati’s fourth straight.
The Shield defense frustrates the Reds again
Reds reliever Derek Law prepared to complete a scoreless sixth inning at 2-2 when Mark Mathias hit a sharp but routine Jose Barrero shortstop. Barrero booted the ball before catching it and lunged with his throw to first base. It might have been time to get out, but Jason Fosler couldn’t handle it as Connor Joe scored the go-ahead.
“It looked like it was a rough jump,” said Reds boss David Bell. “Maybe it happened a little bit. [Barrero] In fact he did a really great job staying with him, and [he] Make a good throw. I just discovered it and didn’t realize it, it might have gone through Jason’s gauntlet strap.”
Barreiro was accused of fouling the official top scorer, his second of the season.
“Obviously I didn’t want that to happen. It happened there,” Barreiro said through translator Jorge Merlos.
However, Barrero has struggled to get in the field this season. He entered the game at -3 points above average, ranking lowest among shortstops in the National League.
“I don’t feel any different. I feel the same,” Barrero said. “I prepared myself the same way I do every two years.”
Barrero, 25, has been known for his defense since he was moved up to the big leagues from the higher level during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
“We talk a lot about him attacking, adapting to the league and making adjustments. But the same applies to defence,” Bale said. “He has all the capabilities in the world to play there and be one of the best players in the game. It will take time. He definitely works every day to be great there.”
Meanwhile, going into Friday, Cincinnati’s all-around defense this season has converted just 62 percent of its ground balls to teams — the lowest percentage in Major League Baseball. The league average, according to Statcast, is 74 percent.
Ashcraft had to work harder
Bell made the decision to go to Law for the sixth inning after pitcher Graham Ashcraft threw 89 pitches over five innings. Ashcraft allowed two runs earned with three hits and three walks with four hits.
Ashcraft had to fight often in the game, including a 10-pitch at-bat against Carlos Santana in the fourth inning that ended in a knockout.
“He just got in too many deep counts to be able to go deeper than the fifth,” Bell said. “Good start. The slider was good. He relied heavily on it.”
Ashcraft gave up both runs during the long second inning. After Joe singled, a one-out walk to Jack Swinski put runners at first and second base. Facing Mathias, Ashcraft was concerned about the runner at second base and committed a block.
“I could see how far he’d come. He was sparkling and it just blew me away,” said Ashcraft, who gave Mathias a solo single for Matthias. “The game sped me out… one of those games that just happens to get its way.”
Ashcraft gave up a leadoff walk and two walks in the fifth inning. That cemented the decision to go sixth.
“As much as I want to, I gassed. Those were some really grinding roles,” said Ashcraft. “Of course I’m going back out, and I’m not going to say I don’t want to take the ball. They made the right decision. They can tell I’m getting gassed.”
Snzel gets a master hit
Since coming off the injured list and making his season debut on April 13, quarterback Nick Senzel hasn’t had much success. Going into Friday, he was batting . 160 (4-for-25) in seven games, but pitched a significant hit against Pittsburgh in the fifth inning.
After Tyler Stephenson connected to Cincinnati’s first hit of the night on a single against Mitch Keeler, Fosler made the walk. That set up Senzel, who hit a sharply lined RBI single down the right field line. Barrero followed with a game-tying sacrifice fly.
“I really like his approach to the dish now,” Bell said of Senzel. “I think he feels good about the adjustments he’s made. We’re still young in the season here, especially for Nick. I was a little late at first, but he’s gotten more comfortable playing.”
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