McCoy: Slumping Reds break up no-hit bid with two outs in 9th, lose to Giants

At a time when the Cincinnati Reds should be playing as if every game is game seven, they are playing as if they are spring training games that don’t count.

America’s Team suddenly is Team Slump.

They nose-dived to the bottom of the well Tuesday night in Oralce Park when they came within one out of being no-hit in a 6-1 defeat.

San Francisco’s 36-year-old Alex Cobb had two outs in the ninth inning and the Reds didn’t have a sniff of a hit, mostly doing imitations of a guy trying to hit in a dark closet.

And at that point, Cobb was one batter away from a perfect game. The only Reds batter to reach base through 8 2/3 innings was Nick Senzel.

With two outs in the third inning, he pulled one up the third-base line. Casey Schmitt back-handed the ball, straightened up, and threw the ball wide of first base.

The official scorer ruled it an infield hit. A couple of innings later, realizing Cobb was retiring every batter effortlessly, it was changed the hit to an error.

And Cobb, using a split-fingered pitch that dove under bats, took it from there.

With two outs in the ninth, Senzel reached base again, this time on a walk.

The Oracle crowd of 29,023 was screaming and howling on every pitch after the fifth inning and it reached a crescendo as Spencer Steer stepped into the box, Cobb’s last obstacle.

Steer, no man to appreciate history, lined a run-scoring double over right-fielder Luis Matos, whose lunge nearly snagged the ball.

It prevented the ignominy of the Reds absorbing their first no-hitter since Oakland’s Mike Fiers no-hit them in 2018.

Entering the game, Cobb gave no indication that he would do an imitation of Greg Maddux. He was 0-3 with a 6.82 earned run average over his last eight starts.

Lately, though, the Reds have made many pitchers resemble Randy Johnson or Nolan Ryan.

Nobody knows what was on the Reds’ minds, but playing a good baseball game wasn’t upper most.

It was untidy baseball.

The Giants scored two runs in the third, the first coming on a balk by Reds starter Brandon Williamson with runners on third and first.

Williamson had disengaged on the mound twice while Paul DeJong was at the plate. A third disengagement is a balk. First base umpire Bill Miller flashed two fingers at the Reds dugout, informing them that Williamson had two disengagements.

Apparently, the message was not relayed to Williamson. He threw over to first trying to pick off J.D. Davis. When he didn’t, it was balk.

Patrick Bailey trotted home from third and Davis was awarded second. He scored on a double by Matos and it was 2-0.

It was even uglier in the third. Austin Slater doubled to begin the inning, took third on a ground ball and scored on Williamson’s wild pitch.

With two outs, Mitch Haniger grounded to third and Noelvi Marte threw the ball into the dirt for an error. Bailey then drove one to deep right center.

TJ Friedl went above the fence and snagged it, but when he crashed into the wall the ball fell out of his glove into the Reds disbelieving bullpen, a two-run homer.

San Francisco’s sixth run came against Derek Law in the eighth when he walked Slater and Thair Estrada doubled him home.

In losing three straight games, the Reds have produced four hits, six hits and one hit.

Cobb’s consistent below the knee offerings forced the Reds to hit 13 ground balls and they struck out seven times.

There was only one threat of a hit before the ninth inning. With two outs in the eighth, Will Benson blooped one into shallow left field.

Shortstop Slater sprinted out and made a highlight reel diving catch off the grass tops. The Reds were so desperate they challenged the play, but replay/review confirmed the catch.

San Francisco had lost seven straight series, but by winning the first two of this three-game series they’ve won the series. And if the Reds and Giants tie for the third and final wild card spot, the Giants get it because they’ve clinched the season series, leading four games to two with one game remaining Wednesday afternoon.

And the Reds have fallen to the fifth spot in the wild card standings behind Philadelphia, Chicago, Arizona and San Francisco.

They are two games behind the Giants for that third and final spot ... and sinking quickly behind with every loss.

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