McCoy: Reds bullpen bullied in 7-3 loss to Dodgers

For the Cincinnati Reds, it was the bullpen giveth and the bullpen taketh away.

After the relief pitching staff, seven of them, baffled the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night, the relief pitchers were plug ugly Friday night in a 7-3 loss.

Too often this season, when it is closing time, the Reds bullpen keep the doors unlocked and wide open.

The Reds spotted the Dodgers a 3-0 early lead but fought back to a 3-3 tie after six innings.

The once unhittable but now much-troubled Fernando Cruz gave up two runs in the seventh and Alexis Diaz gave up a two-run home run in the eighth.

The trouble began in the top of the seventh when it was still 3-3 and Mike Ford opened the inning for the Reds with a single.

Rookie Jacob Hurtubise pinch-ran and was picked off first base, snuffing a potential go-ahead rally.

The next inning would make the Keystone cops proud.

Cruz took over in the bottom of the seventh and after starting 0-and-2 against No. 9 hitter Kike Hernandez, he gave up a full-count single.

He struck out Mookie Betts and induced a possible double-play ground ball to second from Shohei Ohtani.

They got the force at second, but shortstop Elly De La Cruz air mailed the relay throw past first base and Ohtani ended up on second.

With two outs, manager David Bell decided an intentional walk to Freddie Freeman was in order. Catcher Will Smith took offense at the maneuver and singled to center on Cruz’s first pitch, scoring Ohtani for a 4-3 LA lead.

Freeman took third on the hit and scored when Cruz threw a wild pitch that nearly reached Pismo Beach. That made it 5-3.

Diaz pitched the eighth and gave up a single to Andy Pages and a home run to Jason Heyward.

On Thursday, Will Benson led off the first inning for the Reds with a home run that launched the Reds toward a 7-2 win.

On Friday, Mookie Betts led the Dodgers first with a home run.

It was Shohei Ohtani Day in the City of Los Angeles, and he rewarded them with a two-out, two-run home run off Reds starter Frankie Montas in the second.

That gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead, but Montas shut them down from there and the Reds chipped away until it was 3-3.

Jonathan India, back in the lineup after missing two games with migraine headaches, led off the fourth with a single off LA starter James Paxton, who began the game 5-0.

India took second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a ground ball by De La Cruz and scored on an error by shortstop Betts.

Stuart Fairchild led off the fifth with a home run and scorching hot Tyler Stephenson homered with two outs and a full count in the sixth to tie it.

Then it all came apart for the Reds like a cheap toy on Christmas Day.

On Thursday, the Reds kept LA’s top three hitters — Betts, Ohtani, and Freeman — to 0 for 8. On Friday, that trio provided two home runs and scored the first five runs.

Meanwhile, the Reds top three hitters — India, De La Cruz and Spencer Steer — were 1 for 12 and De La Cruz was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.

The Reds had early action in the second and third innings. Stephenson, who had two hits and was on base four times, led off the second with a single. But Mike Ford hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

Santiago Espinal poked a one-out single in the third, but Benson rolled into a double play.

Montas pitched five innings and gave up three runs and four hits and retired the Dodgers 1-2-3 in the fifth.

After the fifth, he pleaded with Bell to stay in the game, but he had 98 pitches and Bell thought that was enough.

The Reds collected three runs and seven hits over six innings against Paxton but added only one more hit over the final three innings against the LA bullpen.

Stephenson reached first with one out in the ninth on an error, but fittingly Jeimer Candelario lined into a game-ending double play, the third DP of the night.

Candelario did single in the fourth inning to extend his hitting streak to seven games.

But it all added up to Cincinnati’s 13th loss in 16 games.

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