Bad slider, tough outing for Cordero
Closer can't control his key pitch in difficult loss
CINCINNATI -- Slider problems. That's what it was Friday night.
Closer Francisco Cordero, whose signature is the slider, hadn't been able to use the pitch in a meaningful inning for the Reds since the save he picked up Monday night against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Then again, when a team is scuffling -- as the Reds are -- don't all innings fall into the "meaningful" category?
Yet manager Dusty Baker knows that closers like Cordero don't seem to thrive unless they get consistent work.
"Closers like to pitch," Baker said. "The more they pitch, the sharper they get; the sharper they get, the more confident they feel."
Cordero's stretch of days without work seemed to prove Baker's point. For when Baker called on his closer to take his slider out of mothballs in the 10th inning, Baker didn't see the kind of slider that had made Cordero the linchpin of the Reds' bullpen.
At the time he entered the ballgame, Cordero, who has saved 22 games this season, was charged with keeping the Reds in a 5-5 game with the Astros. Two outs into his appearance, he'd given the impression that he'd blow through the Astros like a twister -- bowling them over, one, two, three.
But three didn't prove as easy to get as one and two did.
For before Cordero could record out No. 3, he'd given up a double to Miquel Tejada, a single to Lance Berkman, a double to Carlos Lee and a home run to Hunter Pence.
"He got a slider over the plate to Tejada, a slider over the plate to Lee and a slider up to Pence," Baker said. "Bam, four runs."
Almost in an instant, those four runs turned a 5-5 game into 9-5 game and, more importantly, into another loss for the Reds. They are a team in the middle of a 1-7 stretch since the Ken Griffey Jr. trade nine days ago.
Cordero's performance served to prolong this week-long funk. The closer didn't have his best slider, and he needed to have it.
"Closers aren't as good when they just need work," Baker said.
They need the adrenaline that rushes through them when a lead and a victory are there to protect. That's when their cutters look harder and their sliders break sharper.
"The thing about that slider," Baker said, "is it's real good or it goes a long way."
On Friday, Cordero's slider wasn't real good, and the pitch did as Baker said a bad slider will do: It went a long way.
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.