McCoy: Free pizza, but another Reds loss to Orioles

The good news: The Cincinnati Reds scored a run Saturday night in Great American Ball Park, ending a 21-inning scoreless streak.

The bad news: The Baltimore Orioles hit two solo home runs, scored two runs, and beat the Reds, 2-1.

With their seventh loss in nine games, the Reds dropped below .500 at 16-17. On Star Wars Night in GABP, neither The Fourth nor The Force was with them.

But they nearly pulled this one out of the debit column in the ninth inning.

They scored their run in the ninth to pull within one run and had the bases loaded with one out.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand struck out.

Jeimer Candelario popped to short left.

Game over.

Baltimore closer Craig Kimbrel started the ninth with a 2-0 lead. On Friday, he struck out the side in the ninth inning, saving a 3-0 win.

But in the Orioles previous series against the New York Yankees, Kimbrel blew two save opportunities and was vulnerable.

On Saturday, pinch-hitter Jake Fraley greeted him with a single and he walked Jonathan India.

With most of the 33,202 on their feet and screaming, “Ellly, Elly, Elly,” Elly De La Cruz took a called strike three for the first out.

Spencer Steer drove a 2-and-2 pitch into right field for a run-scoring single to make it 2-1.

Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde had seen enough of his struggling closer and pulled him to bring in Yennier Cano.

Steer stole second, putting the tying run on third and the walk-off winning run on second.

Cano walked Tyler Stephenson on a full count to load the baes. That brought up Encarnacion-Strand, owner of seven walk-off hits in his short career, but he struck out and Candelario’s pop fly ended it.

During the Reds’ 2-7 slide, they’ve scored only 24 runs, six times scoring four or less runs. And they’ve batted .168 in those games.

On Saturday, the bottom five in the lineup were hitting .190, .188, .183, .204 and .185. They were 2 for 16 Saturday.

Cincinnati starter Andrew Abbott pitched five innings and gave up two runs, seven hits, no walks and struck out eight.

Two of those hits were home runs. The first came in the fourth inning, a one-out rip into the left field seats by third baseman Jorge Mateo. That didn’t bode well for the Reds because the Orioles were on their way to a 14-2 record when they score first.

The second came in the fifth inning, a one-out blast by designated hitter Adley Rutschman, making it 2-0.

After Abbott departed, Nick Martinez, Lucas Sims and Sam Moll held the Orioles runless and hitless over the final four innings.

The Reds, though, were unable to perform admirably against Baltimore starter John Means, a left-hander making his first start of the season.

He is back from Tommy John surgery and a forearm strain, limiting him to six starts over the past two seasons.

He showed he was ready five days ago while pitching on rehab for Triple-A Norfolk. He pitched seven shutout one-hit innings with eight strikeouts against Gwinnett.

He nearly matched that against the Reds — seven innings, no runs, three hits and eight strikeouts.

Before making his start against the Reds, Means told the Baltimore Sun, “I don’t take anything for granted. You embrace the little moments, just being here and being around the guys.”

When the Reds reached the ninth, they were in danger of being shut out for the fourth time in their last six home games.

Besides the streak of 21 consecutive scoreless innings, the Reds entered the ninth on a streak of 26 straight scoreless innings at home.

After being shut out Friday, Reds manager David Bell told the media during his post-game interview. “We’ve just got to keep working, continue with our process, continue to make adjustments and work through it.

“We have to continue to swing it and continue to look for our pitches to hit,” he added. “All the things that we do, we have to stay with it.”

Unfortunately for the Reds, they did just that. . .stayed with everything that have been abject failures over the last 10 days.

Other than the ninth-inning excitement, there was one positive for those Reds fans among 33,202. Free pizza. Reds pitchers struck out 13. Eleven or more strikeouts gets ticketed fans free pizza.

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