Bob Ford: Reds dig deep to give this one away

On a night that was neither historic nor perfect nor even close, the Phillies will still take the outcome from Friday's division series game with the Reds.

They award runs in these things, but not style points and that was good as the teams decamped and moved to Cincinnati for at least one more game. The schedule says there might be two more there, but the Reds don't look up to the task at the moment.

Once again, the Phillies didn't hit Cincinnati that well, and, this time, they didn't pitch all that great, certainly nothing that required Roy Oswalt's uniform to be overnighted to Cooperstown.

And, to be honest, as far as the third phase of the game - fielding - it didn't look as if this was going to be their night, either.

But that wasn't counting on the worst Reds' performance since Warren Beatty.

It wasn't so much that Cincinnati gave away the game - which the Reds certainly did - it was the way they gave it away.

"You know that was a very unfortunate inning for us when things didn't go right in that inning," manager Dusty Baker said of the ugly and pivotal seventh, when the Phils scored three runs. "Actually, it went terrible."

Not just any team can reach down in the crucible of the postseason, that time of year when you want to play your best baseball, and make four brutal errors, but the Reds were that special kind of team on Friday night. Five of the Phillies' runs in the 7-4 win were unearned and one of the others was aided by a walk, two hit batters and another walk. Pretty bad.

"We lost the game, but we ended up giving them most of their runs," Baker said.

The outcome of the game says a lot more about the Reds than it does about the Phillies, who were very lucky to come away with the win despite slumbering into the middle innings of the game against the junk being thrown by Bronson Arroyo.

By the end, Cincinnati's miscues and the emotion of the comeback seemed to wake up the Phils. They started to string together hits after taking the lead, and if that momentum carries over into Sunday night, then the Reds can start making their vacation plans.

It seemed as if Oswalt was going to suffer death by a thousand paper cuts as he tried to follow the big footsteps left by Roy Halladay in the opener. His no-hitter lasted just four pitches and the Reds nickel-and-dimed their way to a 4-0 lead in the middle of the fifth inning. Cincinnati got its own gifts along the way when Chase Utley made two throwing errors in the second inning that cost a run.

Arroyo's mixture of off-speed breaking pitches and off-speed fastballs was perplexing the Phils and they looked like a team that couldn't rouse itself. With two out and a runner on first in the fifth inning, the Phillies had just three hits and were just a few more shoves from going over the cliff.

At that moment, however, the Reds decided to effectively end their season. It must have a been a nice year over there in the NL Central, and the statistics show that Cincinnati scored a lot of runs - most in the league, in fact - and won 91 games. Barring a dreadful collapse by the Phillies, they will have to content themselves with those accomplishments. Teams that do what the Reds did in the late innings Friday night do not deserve to hang around any longer.

First it was an error by second baseman Brandon Phillips off the bat of Shane Victorino that kept the fifth inning alive, and then a boot by Scott Rolen at third that loaded the bases for Utley, who drove in a pair of runs with a sharp single to right field.

Phillips had the best fielding percentage in the league for second basemen (and Rolen the second-best for third basemen), but his night of coming apart wasn't over yet. After the Phils made it a 4-3 game in the sixth with the walk, two hit batters and the RBI walk by Victorino, they found more presents under the tree in the seventh.

The key goof that time was a line drive that rightfielder Jay Bruce lost in the lights. Bruce completely whiffed on the ball, which allowed one run to score, then Phillips dropped the relay throw and the Phils took the lead. Carlos Ruiz knocked in one more with a fielder's choice and the score was 6-4 and there was no way the Reds were going to come back from punching themselves in the gut that hard and that often.

Bad luck figured in as well as bad baseball. Utley probably wasn't hit by the pitch that sent him to first base to open the seventh, and he might have been out on a close force attempt at second. It was also very possible he missed third base as he stumbled around toward home on Bruce's error, but the field was tilting hard against the Reds by then and nothing that happened seemed to happen their way.

Cincinnati went quietly and quickly after losing the lead. Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge faced just seven batters in final two innings. It seemed as if the Reds were ready to get off the field and end the embarrassment.

"You either tighten it up and fight even harder, or you quit and go home," Baker said. "This team's not that kind of team."

That remains to be seen. It hasn't really been a series to remember for them so far. First, they get no-hit, then they get no-field. They might have had enough of this fun. We'll find out for sure on Sunday.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at 215-854-5842 or

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