x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

No red-faced explanation needed in Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Reds will be able to learn from losing the National League Division Series to the San Francisco Giants, writes Carroll Rogers.

Joey Votto and his Cincinnati Reds teammates have no reason to hang their heads in losing to the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series.
Joey Votto and his Cincinnati Reds teammates have no reason to hang their heads in losing to the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series.

The Cincinnati Reds have been dealing with adversity all season and overcoming it.

Their closing pitcher, Ryan Madson, injured his elbow in spring training and missed the season, and still the Reds finished first in the National League in bullpen ERA.

Their most valuable offensive player, the first baseman Joey Votto, injured his knee in July.

Yet without him the Reds turned a one-game lead in the National League Central into an eight-game advantage.

The Reds played 11 games last month without their manager Dusty Baker, who was in the hospital for an irregular heartbeat and suffered a mini-stroke, but they clinched their second NL Central title in three years despite his absence.

So when their ace Johnny Cueto left the first game of the division series against the San Francisco Giants with muscle spasms in his side after making only eight pitches, the Reds had reason to believe they could handle it.

And they did that night, defeating San Francisco 5-2 with four strong innings by Mat Latos, who thought he would be starting three days later but was pressed into immediate action.

Ultimately, Cueto's injury was too much to overcome, even for the Reds.

After it was clear Cueto could not return for Game 4, the Reds activated Mike Leake, who was not even on the roster, a few hours before first pitch. He gave up five earned runs in four-and-a-third innings of a loss.

If Cueto had not been hurt, he would have been in line to pitch in the decisive Game 5 of the best of five series on Thursday.

Instead, Latos lost after giving up six runs in four-and-a-third innings, including a Buster Posey grand slam in the 6-4 final.

"I let a couple of things get to me that shouldn't have," Latos said, acknowledging he lost his cool in the six-run fifth inning.

"I let down everybody. I let down the team, most importantly and the front office and the fans."

The Reds, in becoming the first NL team since divisional play began in 1995 to lead a division series 2-0 and lose it, can point to a lack of clutch hitting as they went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position in Game 5 and stranded 11 of them.

They brought the tying run to the plate in each of the last four innings.

Votto, who was stranded at second base in the ninth, thinks the Reds can learn from this adversity too.

"We can either paint this organisation with a failure brush or we can take it and learn from it and improve," Votto told MLB.com.

"We showed resilience.

"Hopefully we use what we learn from this and it makes us tougher, makes us hungrier and makes us better."

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