If Sunday was, indeed, Zack Cozart’s last game in Cincinnati as a Red, the memories definitely will be bittersweet at best.
The sixth-year shortstop, who can be a free agent after the season, had two hits and scored a run, but he also was guilty of a baserunning gaffe that might’ve cost the Reds a run in a game they ended up losing, 5-4.
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“We’re not in a pennant race,” manager Bryan Price said. “We’re not in a playoff race. We’re in the finish-strong race. This loss sucks. It sucks because we had the lead. It sucks because we were beating a really good team. It sucks because, except for a bad half-inning, we played a really good game and you want to be rewarded. It doesn’t hurt less because we’re 20 games under .500. It hurts worse.”
Second baseman Scooter Gennett and Billy Hamilton each drove in a run and Hamilton scored in the seventh on a sequence that electrified the Fan Appreciation Day crowd of 25,545, but the usually reliable Raisel Iglesias (3-3) picked up his second blown save of the season while trying for his ninth two-inning save of the season.
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“We were really hoping to get an out or two before bringing in Iglesias,” Price said. “It’s been a long season, and it’s unfair for us to keep asking him to get us out of jams with those two-inning saves.”
Mookie Betts tied the game with a bases-loaded, three-run double and scored the go-ahead run on third baseman Rafael Devers’ infield single to third to extend the Reds losing streak to six games, all at home and their longest since a six-game losing streak from July 24 through July 29.
Boston’s bullpen retired the last eight batters for the Reds, who finished 39-42 at home. They are 1-12 against Boston in interleague play and finished 5-15 in interleague play this season.
After walking with one out, Hamilton was trapped in a rundown between first and second, but he escaped when second baseman Dustin Pedroia committed a throwing error. As the ball rolled toward the first base dugout, Hamilton headed to third. Seeing the plate unguarded as catcher Christian Vazquez was retrieving the ball, Hamilton sped home, completing the trip with a dusty headfirst slide.
“I was just trying to get to second base,” Hamilton said. “When I’m running the bases, I keep my head up to see what’s happening. When I got to third, I saw there was nobody at the plate. At that point, it’s a race between me and Devers. I’ll take my chances with that.”
Hamilton avoided being the third Reds runner to be thrown out on the basepaths. Two were thrown out between second and third in the first four innings. Gennett was caught in a rundown as Cozart scored on his double into the right field corner in the first. Cozart singled to lead off the fourth and was thrown out at third on Joey Votto’s single to right after stopping a couple of steps around second base.
Rookie right-hander Jackson Stephens, who retired the first 10 batters he faced in an 8-7 10-inning loss to St. Louis on Tuesday, allowed two baserunners through the first four innings of his sixth career major league appearance and third start on Sunday. Third baseman Rafael Devers got the Red Sox on the board and tied the game 1-1 with his 10th home run of the season and second of the series leading off the fifth.
Adam Duvall, who took one of those called third strikes to end the second inning, snapped a career-worst 19 at bat hitless stretch in the fifth with a one-out infield single, a dribbler up the third base line on which Devers was unable to make a barehand grab and throw. One out later, Stephens blooped a single into short center field and Duvall scored when center fielder Xander Bogaerts throw sailed over Devers’ head into the visitor’s dugout on the third base side.
Hamilton followed with a line drive, RBI triple into the right field corner.
Stephens (3-0), aided by some flashy glove work, finished six innings. Former shortstop Eugenio Suarez, playing as part of a shift where Cozart normally plays, made a diving backhand stop in the hole and threw out Mitch Moreland leading off the second inning.
Gennett dove to his left to snare Pedroia’s sharp one-hopper, scrambled back to his feet and threw out his Red Sox counterpart.
Stephens limited the Reds Sox to two hits and one run with two walks and three strikeouts.
“He was really good,” Price said. “He was aggressive in the zone and had good command. He threw some really good glove-side sinkers, and he just learned that three days ago. Good learnability, and the defense played well behind him”
Red Sox starter Doug Fister’s first six strikeouts all were called before Hamilton went down swinging to end the third inning. The Reds piled up nine hits and struck out nine times in 5 1/3 innings against Fister (5-9), who didn’t walk anybody.
RedsFest is scheduled for Dec. 1-2 at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati.