What’s the worst way to lose a baseball game, the worst way to prevent a team to climb over .500 for the first time this season?
The Cincinnati Reds did it Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh after working more than five hours trying to get above .500.
The worst way? A walk-off walk — a bases loaded two-out free pass by Tony Cingrani to Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin in the bottom of the 12th inning.
And it was a bizarre way that Cingrani filled the bases in the 12th inning. With out he gave up a single to right field by Gaby Sanchez. It appered Cingrani had Sanchez picked off first base, but umpire Jerry Layne called a balk, ruling that Cingrani’s front leg stepped toward home plate instead of first base before he made the throw.
That put the winning run on second base, forcing the Reds to intentionally walk Josh Harrison to set up a possible inning-ending double play. But Cingrani’s next pitch, his first to Clint Barmes, brushed his uniform, a hit by pitch to fill the bases.
Martin worked the count to 3-1 before he took a low-and-away pitch for ball four to end the game.
So instead of recording their first sweep of a series this season, instead of climbing above .500 for the first time, the Reds dropped back to one game below .500 after taking two of three from the Pirates.
On the plus side, the Reds did go 4-2 on the trip after taking two of three in Milwaukee.
The Reds had won three straight, amassing 30 runs on 46 hits. On Thursday, in 12 innings, they had three runs and eight hits.
For a few innings, Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco was a hero. The Reds trailed, 3-2, in the ninth inning when with one out Mesoraco yanked a home run down the left-field line off Pirates closer Jason Grilli to tie it.
Homer Bailey pitched three perfect innings after the Reds took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Billy Hamilton’s leadoff double, his theft of third and a sacrifice fly by Joey Votto.
The Reds took a 2-0 lead in the fourth on Votto’s double, a fly ball and a sacrifice fly by Jay Bruce.
But things fell apart, literally, for Bailey in the Pirates fifth when they scored three runs, all after two outs. Barmes singled with one out and Chris Stewart singled. The Reds got the second out on a bunt when catcher Mesoraco threw Stewart out at second, putting runners on first and third.
With Gregory Polanco batting, Bailey began his delivery and slipped. He held on to the ball without delivering it, a balk, enabling Barmes to score. Had Bailey released the ball, it would not have been a balk.
Polanco then beat an infield single, Starling Marte singled to make it 2-2 and Andrew McCutchen singled to push the Pirates in front, 3-2.
That’s the way it stayed until Mesoraco’s home run in the ninth.
It wasn’t a good baserunning day for Todd Frazier. In the sixth he singled to left field and made too big of a turn at first base and was caught in a rundown.
He singled with one out in the 10th. He was still on first with two outs when he broke for second base before pitcher Jared Hughes went into his pitching motion. Hughes merely stepped off the rubber and once against Frazier was caught in a rundown.
Hamllton, who made a sliding catch earlier in the game, appeared to save the game in the bottom of the ninth. Jonathan Broxton walked Stewart to open the inning and Travis Snider drove one to deep center. Hamilton fled to the wall and leaped against it, leaving spike marks on the padding as he climbed it to snag the ball.
When Broxton issued another walk, to put two on with two outs, manager Bryan Price brought in closer Aroldis Chapman in a tie game and he struck out McCutchen.
Chapman stayed in the game for the 10th and struck out the side — four up, four down via whiffs.
Cingrani took over in the 11th and gave up a leadoff double to Barmes, his fourth hit. Then he walked Martin, but retired the next three to escape. .
Meanwhile, the Reds went three-up and three-down in both the 11th and 12th, setting up the disastrous walk-off walk, a disappointing ending to what could have been a great road trip.