What is more exciting on an oven-hot September day than to watch the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds argue feebly during a doubleheader over squatter’s rights on last place in the National League Central?
What’s more exciting? How about a close shave with a dull blade? How about a dog scratching its ear in your neighbor’s backyard? How about a wiener roast with no charcoal briquettes?
On a day that started at 1:10 and ended at 11, the Reds kicked away two games to the Brewers, 8-6 and 7-3, to solidify their firm grip on last place, 4 ½ games behind the fourth-place Brewers.
The Reds, facing 14-game loser Matt Garza in the first game, nearly made him a 15-game loser when they took a mid-game four-run lead.
Alas, left hander John Lamb was charged with five runs in the sixth inning and that blew up a chance for him to win his first major league game. Instead, he is 0-3 with a 6.11 earned run average.
While Lamb gave up five hits in the sixth inning, he also was victimized by shoddy defensive outfield play by left fielder Skip Schumaker and center fielder Jason Bourgeois that contributed to the run deluge and an 8-6 loss.
The Reds actually came back to tie the game, 6-6, after the Brewers took a 6-5 lead against Lamb, but J.J. Hoover gave up an eighth-inning home run to No. 8 hitter Elian Herrera for the game-winner.
The excitement in this one was hits by shortstop Eugenio Suarez his first three trips to the plate with two RBIs to help construct a 5-1 lead.
As each game passes, the 24-year-old Venezuelan shortstop causes more and more head-scratching. What are they to do with this guy?
As it stands, he is a stand-in at shortstop for injured Zack Cozart and manager Bryan Price continues to say that Cozart is the shortstop when he returns next spring.
So where does that leave Suarez, who is hitting .291 with 11 homers and 41 RBI in only 69 games.
Do they, or can they, trade the 30-year-old Cozart to make room for a younger cheaper model at shortstop? Do they try to find another position for Suarez, like left field? Do they throw open the shortstop competition next spring, with the loser relegated to the bench?
“Cozart is dynamic and a presence in the middle of our defense,” said Price. “But the beauty of it is being able to create other options for Gino.”
And what might those be?
“Maybe we can move him around the infield a little bit and maybe we have to move some other people in the infield a little bit to create opportunities for his bat and glove,” he said.
Looking at the infield, it would appear that Joey Votto won’t move from first, Brandon Phillips won’t move from second and Cozart won’t move from shortstop. That leaves third baseman Todd Frazier. Left field? Price didn’t name Frazier, or anybody else, but he did say he wouldn’t like moving Suarez to the outfield.
“We have some flexibility and we’ll see what we have to work with after the off-season and who is back,” said Price. “No doubt, left field could be an option, but you hate to take a guy with such nice hands and take him out of the infield. We’ll look at all our options because he can do a lot of things — play everywhere in the infield and play left.”
In the nightcap, the Reds fell behind, 3-0, before a rain-lightning invasion delayed the game for nearly two hours.
The Reds pulled within 3-2 after the delay, but Jumbo Diaz gave up a three-run homer in the ninth to Elian Herrera to assure a double dose of defeat for the down-spiraling Reds.