The Reds got bunt-happy last night and it cost them dearly

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If the Reds fall a game short of the Cardinals and/or Pirates — or, heaven forbid, the Diamondbacks or Nationals — they might want to look at last night’s game against the Cardinals as the reason why. It was a night the Red squandered multiple opportunities thanks to ill-advised bunts.

The first weird attempt did no harm, but it was nonetheless head-scratching. In the bottom of the 14th inning the Reds were down by a run. The leadoff hitter reaches and Dusty Baker wisely inserts Billy Hamilton into the game as a pinch runner. The entire point of Billy Hamilton’s existence on a major league roster right now is to steal bases. But rather than have him steal, Baker puts on the bunt with Zack Cozart squaring. He didn’t get the bunt down and Hamilton stole on the next pitch anyway and then scored when Cozart, swinging away, singled.  Maybe that was just a missed sign by Cozart?

The second one came right afterward, with Cozart on first. Dusty Baker had Devan Mesoraco try to bunt him over. He bunted it back to the mound and Cozart was out at second.

The third one came in bottom of the 15th. Score tied and Shin-Soo Choo singles. The heart of the order is due up: Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. Baker has Phillips — who has 100 RBI on the year which we’re all told is supposed to mean something — bunt Choo over. Votto was then retired, but did advance Choo to third. The open first base allowed Mike Matheny to issue an intentional walk to Jay Bruce. Then:

For reasons known only to God, Chris Heisey tries to bunt. Two outs, runner on third, a flamethrower on the mound and Heisey is playing suicide squeeze. Choo is a dead duck when Heisey misses and a rundown ensues. After the game Dusty Baker made it clear that Heisey was freelancing there.

It was a dumb freelance, obviously, but I’m reminded of this:

Just substitute “bunts” for “drugs.” And ask yourself why Dusty and his players seem to love to bunt so darn much.

Marlins option Tom Koehler to Triple-A, recall Hunter Cervenka

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Long-time rotation mainstay Tom Koehler was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on Monday and reliever Hunter Cervenka was recalled, the Marlins announced.

Koehler, 31, made 131 starts out of the Marlins’ rotation over the last five years, but his 12 this season have not been good, so the club hopes he can figure things out with a stint in the minors. He’s carrying a 7.92 ERA with a 44/29 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. Koehler battled bursitis in his right shoulder in May and June, which may partially explain his struggles.

Cervenka, 27, posted a 4.50 ERA with a 34/21 K/BB ratio in 34 innings of relief with New Orleans. He hasn’t pitched in the majors yet this season, but compiled a 3.53 ERA over 43 1/3 innings in the bigs last year in the Marlins’ bullpen.

Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are interested in Pat Neshek

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At the trade deadline, relief pitching is the name of the game and one of the names clearly available is Pat Neshek. Today Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are among the clubs who are closely scouting the Phillies reliever. Last week Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers and Rays were involved as well.

Neshek is an impending free agent, so he may come cheaper than Justin Wilson or some of the other bullpen arms available right now. The All-Star is 36 and is posting a fantastic season, featuring a 1.12 ERA and 45/5 K/BB ratio over 40.1 innings this season.