Swept by the Pirates over the weekend, the Reds went down without a fight. The hope that they could simply flip the switch — and maybe find their swag — Tuesday died a quick death in front of a raucous PNC Park crowd.
The incredible thing is that the Reds had actually beaten Francisco Liriano three times this year. They roughed him up only one of the four times he faced them, but he was 0-3 with a 3.70 ERA against Cincinnati.
Perhaps that success was part of their undoing tonight. The Reds seemed to treat this one like just another regular-season game. Lefties hit a ridiculous .131/.175/.146 against Liriano this season, and the Reds’ three best hitters are all lefties. All 10 runs the Reds had scored against Liriano was driven in by right-handed hitters.
Of course, all three of those left-handed hitters had to start tonight. There was no sitting Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Votto or Jay Bruce. But batting them first, third and fifth hurt the chances of a rally. Todd Frazier hit two homers off Liriano this year, but there he was hitting sixth anyway. If there was ever a time to try to stack some right-handers, this was it.
Alas, it’s probably moot. Dusty Baker could have employed a quicker hook with Johnny Cueto after the right-hander gave up two homers in the second. He could have tried to use Aroldis Chapman to stop the bleeding at some point instead of holding him in reserve for a situation that was never likely to arise. Doing so might have led to a tighter game. It’s highly unlikely it would have led to a win.
Bud Selig’s wish was for it all to come down to one game after 162. In five or seven, the Reds match up pretty well against the Pirates. But not in one, not with the way Liriano was dealing tonight.