McCoy: Bullpen blows it for Reds

St. Louis uses walk-off, two-run home run to beat Cincinnati 5-4

The Bullpen Blues continue for the Cincinnati Reds, and it is not too cruel to call the Cincinnati Reds’ bullpen a pigpen.

The mess Saturday afternoon in Busch Stadium was incredulous — a two-out, two-run walk-off home run by Tommy Edman off Joel Kuhnel that gave the St. Louis Cardinals a 5-4 victory.

It was the only time they led the entire game, and it spoiled another strong and solid performance by Reds starter Hunter Greene.

Two games ago, the bullpen gave up four runs in the ninth inning to lose to Arizona by the same 5-4 score.

Greene held the first-place Cardinals to one run, two hits, two walks and he struck out seven. He turned a 3-1 lead over to the bullpen and had done enough to earn his fourth victory. It was not to be.

Kuhnel’s mission in the ninth was to face the bottom third of the St. Louis batting order and protect a 4-3 lead. His first sin was to walk the first batter, Dylan Carlson, on a full count.

With the 43,832 fans chanting, “Yadie, Yadie, Yadie,” Yadier Molina grounded into a 5-4-3 double play and all seemed copacetic for the Reds — two outs, nobody on.

But rookie Juan Yepez, a late-game defensive replacement, singled to right field.

That brought up Edman and the left-handed hitting Cardinals shortstop cranked his sixth home run into the St. Louis bullpen.

St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright’s bucket list most likely contains the passage: “Please let me win a game once in a while against the Cincinnati Reds.”

And there is a footnote: “Don’t match me up against Hunter Greene.”

He didn’t win this one, but he didn’t ‘t lose, either.

The 40-year-old Wainwright was matched up against 22-year-old Greene in and came up short of a win … again.

Wainwright pitched seven innings and gave up three runs and eight hits with one walk and seven strikeouts during his 101-pitch afternoon. When he left, the Reds led, 3-1.

Greene was a year old when Wainwright signed his first major league contract. While Greene is a green rookie, Wainwright is in his 18th year and has won 189 games. But it was Greene who pitched as if he was born on the mound rubber.

His bullpen, as it has done so often, let him down again.

Wainwright, the Cardinals’ ace, has beaten the Reds one time in the last three seasons and is 10-16 for his career against Cincinnati, his only losing record against any team.

The Reds scored three runs in the third, a rally that was started with a bruise. Catcher Chris Okey, making his first major league at bat, was hit in the middle of the back to open the third.

With one out, Brandon Drury extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a double to left field. Tommy Pham, a former Cardinal, doubled to left on a hanging curveball, scoring two runs. Kyle Farmer picked on another hanging curve and singled to left to drive in the inning’s third run, his first of four hits.

The bullpen continued its maddening ways  by giving up five runs (one charged to Greene that scored with Alexis Diaz pitching).

Greene mowed down the Cardinals like a heavy-duty John Deere tractor.

The fast-improving, flame-throwing right-hander showed the Cardinals what they were in for in the first inning when he struck out the side.

He was in moderate difficulty in the second when he gave up his only hit through five innings, a leadoff double inside the third base bag by Nolan Arenado.

He issued a one-out full count walk to Brendan Donovan, putting two aboard. But he coaxed a pair of shallow fly balls to left from Carlson and Molina.

Greene pitched into the sixth but gave up an infield single to Edman and hit Nolan Gorman with a pitch.

That put runners on second and first with no outs and Greene’s day was done.

And it was time for the bullpen to let another one go slip-sliding away.

Diaz was summoned to face ever-dangerous Paul Goldschmidt, whom Greene had retired twice on 3-and-2 counts. Diaz retired him on a shallow fly to right.

After throwing a wild, wild, wild pitch, moving the runners to third and second, Diaz walked Arenado on four pitches to fill the bases.

Tyler O’Neill flied to deepest left center and Senzel leaped against the wall to catch it, a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1.

The seventh inning started ignominiously when relief pitcher Luis Cessa gave up a leadoff infield single to Carlson and he reached second on second baseman Matt Reynolds’ throwing error.

And on the play, Carlson ran into first baseman Colin Moran, knocking him out of the game.

Molina moved Carlson to third on a ground ball. After slipping two strikes past Yepez, Cessa walked him, putting runners on third and first with one out.

The walk helped. Cessa escaped this mess by inducing an inning-ending double play from Edman, leaving matters at 3-1.

The Reds applied some insurance in the eighth against relief pitcher Drew VerHagen. With one out, the Reds spliced together three straight one-out singles by Farmer, his fourth hit, Reynolds, and a run-producer by Alejo Lopez, who replaced Moran in the previous inning. That gave the Reds a 4-1 working margin.

Hunter Strickland worked the eighth and after getting two quick strikes on Gorman, he hit him with a pitch. He retired Goldschmidt on a pop-up, ending Goldschmidt’s 46-game streak of getting on base.

Arenado blooped a single to left, once again threatening to rally against baseball’s worst bullpen.

The threat turned into the danger zone when O’Neill doubled to left center, scoring two runs and slicing the margin to 4-3.

And that set in motion Edman’s ninth-inning commotion that cost the Reds a second straight loss in St. Louis, assuring the Cardinals of the series victory.

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