Late loss shines light on missed chance
Phillips may have cost Reds a key run before clutch homers
CINCINNATI -- In a one-run loss, the difference doesn't always have to be the home run in the top of the ninth -- like the one Rod Barajas hit for the Mets against Francisco Cordero to send the Reds to a 5-4 loss on Tuesday.Sometimes it's the run that didn't score but could have, or should have. Brandon Phillips already had one home run in the first inning against Mets starter John Maine, and it appeared Phillips thought he had a second long ball in the third. On an 0-1 Maine pitch, Phillips lifted a drive to deep left field and admired it for a few steps. The ball bounced off the wall and caromed behind the outfielders. Phillips had to settle for a double, but with his speed, a triple seemed possible had he been running hard out of the batter's box. Manager Dusty Baker agreed when asked about the play. "Probably, yeah," Baker said. "It looked like, at first, he thought it might have been gone. Then he started running probably halfway, but it was a little too late at that time." Next batter Joey Votto hit a deep fly to left field. Had Phillips been on third base, he likely would have scored on the sacrifice fly. Although the Reds didn't know it then, it would be the one run they wished they had scored. Phillips had left the Reds' clubhouse before reporters were allowed to enter. This isn't the first time Baker has called out his star second baseman about not hustling. Phillips was benched for one game last season in Los Angeles when he did not run out a fly ball that appeared to be routine but fell in. He was thrown out at second base on the play. And last week on April 28, at Houston, Phillips put his head down and slowly trotted on a thought-to-be routine fly ball. It ended up being dropped for a three-run error and Phillips reached second base. Like on Tuesday, he could have taken third base if he were running all the way. He wound up scoring anyway in that win and Baker did not take issue with the play. Reds starter Bronson Arroyo pitched well for seven innings but was trailing by a 4-2 score when he exited. He allowed four earned runs on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts. New York played small ball in the top of the first, beginning with Angel Pagan's odd push bunt for a base hit into right field. On a hit-and-run, Pagan went to third on Luis Castillo's rolling single through the right side and scored on Jose Reyes' single up the middle. "I got lucky to get out of that first inning without too much damage," Arroyo said. "After that, it was a pretty well-played baseball game. They just got one more run than we did." Phillips, who was 4-for-8 with two homers against Maine entering the night, hit the left-field foul pole in the first inning and made it a 1-1 game. Arroyo notched seven of his nine outs on the ground in the first three innings but left a changeup over the plate in the fourth that David Wright pounded for a 455-foot, one-out home run to make it a 2-2 game. Cincinnati was trailing by a 4-2 score with two outs in the eighth when Votto hit reliever Fernando Nieve's first pitch for a home run to the center-field batters' eye. Scott Rolen gave the Reds their back-to-back long balls of the season when he sent Nieve's 1-1 pitch into the first row of the right-field seats to make it a 4-4 game. A fan tried to catch the Rolen blast as Pagan made a leaping attempt, prompting a one minute, 45 second delay for umpires to review the video replay. Second base umpire Bill Welke's call of a home run was upheld. With two outs in the Mets' ninth, Barajas tattooed a first-pitch fastball from Cordero over the left-field wall for the solo homer and go-ahead run. "It was not a good pitch," Cordero said. "I tried to go down and away and it came back to the plate. Nothing we can do about it. Today is over. I will focus on tomorrow's game and try to make a better pitch." There won't be much time to dwell. The rubber game of the three-game series is at 12:35 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.