McCoy: Reds blanked by Phillies in series finale

There were no matinee idols for the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday afternoon in Great American Ball Park.

It was a frustrating instant replay of Monday’s effort that the Reds prefer to forget and toss into file 13.

On Monday, the Reds were shut out on one hit, 7-0, by the Philadelphia Phillies. On Thursday, they were shut out on three hits, 5-0, by the Phillies.

On the bright side, the Reds won the two games between the shutouts for a split of the four-game series. And they won the season’s series, four games to three.

That clinches a tiebreaker in Cincinnati’s favor should the Reds and Phillies tie for a playoff position.

The Reds, though, discovered what Philadelphia pitcher Zack Wheeler is all about.

And they were reminded about how important Bryce Harper is to Philadelphia’s offense.

Wheeler was a wheeler-dealer — six innings, no runs, one hit, four walks and eight strikeouts.

Harper missed the first three games while on paternity leave, but returned Thursday and ripped a two-run home run during a four-run Philadelphia third inning against Nick Martinez.

Harper has five home runs this season, four against the Reds, including a three-homer game against the Reds in Philadelphia.

The Reds had one opportunity against Wheeler (2-3, 1.93). It surfaced in the third when Wheeler walked Jeimer Candelario and Santiago Espinal singled, the only hit off Wheeler.

That put two on with no outs, but Luke Maile took a called third strike on a full count and Will Benson also took a third strike.

Elly De La Cruz drew a full-count eight-pitch walk to fill the bases. That brought up Spencer Steer, who hit a grand slam home run against the Phillies in Philadelphia earlier this season.

He fouled off five pitches before narrowly missing another grand slam — a drive to the right field wall that Nick Castellanos caught.

And that was it.

Wheeler is working on an incredible streak. He had two strikes on 13 Reds hitters and not one produced a hit. His overall streak is 51 straight batters with two strikes that have not registered a hit.

The top five Reds in the batting order went 0 for 12 with four walks and six strikeouts. And the lineup is sprinkled with strugglers. Steer is 0 for 18, Nick Martini is 2 for 24, Will Benson is 3 for 29 and Luke Maile entered the game with a .120 batting average.

Martini and Maile did provide late-game singles to join Espinal as the only Reds with hits.

Philadelphia’s third inning was the undoing of Martinez — four runs and five hits that included Harper’s home run.

“Bad location on pitches to the wrong guys,” said Martinez on his post-game interview with Bally Sports Ohio. “And some bad luck.”

The misfortune began when former Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos began the inning by reaching out and blooping an outside pitch to right field for a single.

The second piece of bad luck was the next hitter. Bryson Stott shot one over first base and down the line. The ball skittered along the wall and stuck in the corner, making it difficult for Benson to retrieve.

Castellanos scored from first and Stott sprinted to third, an easy trot home on Kyle Schwarber’s sacrifice fly to left to make it 2-0.

Trea Turner, who matched the Reds hit total by himself with three, doubled to left center and Harper’s home run made it 4-0.

“Missed executions and they capitalized,” said Martinez after giving up 11 hits during his six innings.  “Turner hit that two-out double before the home run —another good hitter where I didn’t execute the cutter.

“The first run was a little bit of bad luck, the ball gets caught in the corner that turns into a triple and a sac fly,” said Martinez. “Just a little bit of bad luck mixed in with bad execution.”

The Phillies added their fifth run in the sixth on a single by Brandon Marsh, a stolen base and Stott’s two-out single for his second RBI.

Jonathan India, down eight pounds after missing the first three games with the flu, returned to the lineup, and batted sixth instead of his usual leadoff spot. He went 0 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts.

The Reds’ schedule takes a steeper degree of difficulty over the next week. They open a three-game series on the road Friday night against the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers.

Then it’s on to highly regarded San Diego for three against the Padres.

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