CINCINNATI — Ohio’s two major league baseball teams have been corks bobbing in a raging sea of mediocrity this season.
Only two games separate the overall records of the poor-hitting Cincinnati Reds (59-56) and the poor-fielding Cleveland Indians (57-58). However, four interleague games between those teams this week suggest that Cincinnati is closer to the land of significance, where a second wild-card spot shines like a beacon of hope in the hazy National League Central.
Cleveland maintains its own postseason hopes in the American League Central, but the Indians are drifting into more treacherous water after suffering three consecutive losses to Cincinnati by an aggregate score of 21-5.
Fueled by a third consecutive strong outing by a starting pitcher, this time from Homer Bailey, the Reds cruised to a 4-0 victory last night at Great American Ball Park that gave them a three-game winning streak for the first time since July 9.
Cleveland batters struck out 11 times. In the field, the Indians had three errors — two by first baseman Carlos Santana, including a dropped pop-up — to bring their major-league worst total to 89 this season. That’s 35 more than Cincinnati has committed.
Cincinnati’s three-game surge occurred after manager Bryan Price voiced displeasure about his team’s lethargic effort in a 7-1 loss in Cleveland on Monday that began the annual series.
Price’s team responded with its usual top-flight starting pitching, stellar defense, and unexpected production from an offense that for most of the season has dragged down the Reds, especially without injured Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips.
“It had nothing to do with the speech,” Price said. “We just got back to playing the game the way we’re capable of playing.”
By taking the final game in Cleveland and winning both in Cincinnati, the Reds were able to claim the Ohio Cup trophy from the Indians for the first time since 2010.
“I’ve heard a lot about the Ohio Cup but I’ve never actually seen the cup,” Price joked. “It will be out in the middle of the clubhouse, when we actually find this cup, for the boys to enjoy.”& amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; lt; /p>
Bailey (9-5) didn’t give Cleveland much to smile about while striking out eight in his seven scoreless innings. He yielded only four hits, two in the first inning, and later was able to joke about a scary moment that occurred in the fifth.
Jose Ramirez lined a shot back at Bailey that caromed off his glove and into his neck and jaw, causing the Cincinnati trainer to check him out.
“I’ve been bit worse by bed bugs down in Saltillo (Mexico),” said Bailey, who had marks on his neck that resembled a baseball’s stitches.
The peskier bug for Cleveland was little-known Kristopher Negron, filling in at second base again for Phillips.
Negron had two more hits last night, the second one a sixth-inning single that drove in Todd Frazier with the game’s final run.
Billy Hamilton was a pest for Cleveland, too.
In the bottom of the first Jay Bruce slapped an infield single to the left side against an over-shifted Cleveland defense. Hamilton raced from first to third, forcing an errant throw by Santana.
Santana’s error sent Hamilton home and Bruce to third, where two batters later he scored on a two-out single by Ryan Ludwick to put Cincinnati up 2-0.
“The whole series was a really good series for us,” Bailey said. “We needed a lot of momentum."