The Cincinnati Reds had plenty of opportunities to take the series opener Monday night on the road against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but a major gaffe by first-year Reds manager Bryan Price let the Pirates back into the game in the eighth inning.
Price opted to start the inning with left-handed reliever Manny Parra with the right-handed hitting Andrew McCutchen leading off. McCutchen had clobbered Parra in a limited number of at-bats (six hits including a home run in 14 ABs), but the sample size and the matchup should have been enough to convince Price to use a right-hander against McCutchen to start the inning.
Parra nevertheless faced McCutchen, who promptly served a cement-mixer of a slider over the right field wall for a game-tying home run. Price may have faith in Parra, but faith flying in the face of numbers came back to bite him this time.
Price brought in right-hander J.J. Hoover to finish the eighth inning. Hoover has struggled mightily early in the 2014 season, but he presented a much better matchup with McCutchen to lead off the inning. McCutchen was 1-for-7 against Hoover with the one hit a homer and two strikeouts. Hoover could have came in for a one-batter appearance, giving way to Parra to finish the inning against lefties Pedro Alvarez and Ike Davis.
Hoover went on to pitch the ninth and fail dismally, like he has for most of the early part of this season, but the Reds would have had impromptu closer Jonathan Broxton in the game in the ninth if the pitching staff and Price had held the lead in the eighth.
As a result, the Reds suffered their sixth one-run loss of the season. If the Reds are to contend in the NL Central, Price will have to be sharper in his decisions and directives (like aggressive base-running) or else the Reds are going to find themselves in too deep of a hole to battle their way back.