Cincinnati Reds starter Brandon Finnegan pumped his fist and screamed to himself in excitement as he left the mound in the seventh inning.
With runners at first and second, Finnegan got Jhonny Peralta to fly out to center, preserving a tie game. He held the St. Louis Cardinals to two runs and five hits while striking out seven. He handed the game to the bullpen, and in 2016, that has been a recipe for disaster.
A bullpen with a 6.73 ERA, which would be the worst in baseball since 1950 if it holds up and the fourth worst all-time, lived up to its billing. Ross Ohlendorf gave up a run in the eighth as the Reds fell 3-2 in front of 24,516 at Great American Ball Park in the series finale.
Matt Carpenter led off the eighth inning with a double and scored on a bases-loaded double by Yadier Molina with one out.
“The pitch I threw to Carpenter to lead off the inning I really missed my spot,” Ohlendorf said. “Against a good hitter like that, especially with a 1-2 count, I need to make a better pitch. The Molina pitch, I felt like I threw it where I wanted to. He did a good job hitting it. It was frustrating to give up a run there, especially since we’ve been playing so well. To have a chance to win that series would have been big for us.”
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The Reds (22-38) lost the series 2-1 and fell to 4-18 in their last 22 series against the Cardinals. Cincinnati fell a season-high 20 games behind the Chicago Cubs (41-17).
Finnegan posted his team-best seventh quality start. In his last two starts, he has pitched 13 1/3 innings and allowed three earned runs. He lowered his ERA to 3.77.
Finnegan gave up the tying run in the sixth after committing the first balk of his career. Carpenter advanced to second on the balk and scored on a one-out single by Aledmys Diaz.
“It’s something I don’t think the home plate umpire can call, but he did and it went against us,” Finnegan said. “It’s something that hurt us, but you can’t do anything about it. It’s the same I’ve been doing the entire year, and nobody’s called it yet. I think if anybody should call a balk, it should be the first-base umpire.”
The Reds took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Joey Votto reached on a walk, moved to third on a double by Brandon Phillips and scored on a groundout by Jay Bruce. Phillips scored on a single by Adam Duvall.
St. Louis cut Cincinnati’s lead to 2-1 in the second. Yadier Molina scored on a single by Brandon Moss, who homered twice on Wednesday in a 12-7 victory over the Reds.
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, making the 300th appearance of his career, performed much better than in his previous start against the Reds on April 16 when he allowed seven earned runs on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings. This time he lasted six innings and limited the Reds to two runs on five hits. He struck out seven and walked one.
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