Reds fall to Marlins in series finale

Reds fall to Marlins in series finale

CINCINNATI -- Ramon Ortiz had few problems on Sunday afternoon making pitches to catcher Jason LaRue.

Throwing to first? That was a whole different story.

Three times Ortiz was wild on attempts to pick off speedster Juan Pierre. And twice, it cost him, as the Reds fell to the Marlins, 2-0, in front of 23,297 at Great American Ball Park.

"He did pitch strong," manager Jerry Narron said of Ortiz. "He didn't do a very good job of picking guys off, though.

"I'm very disappointed with the pick-offs. He had a fast runner on first, and I know in his mind, he's trying to speed it up. He's trying to pick the guy off, instead of just keeping him close. And he made some mistakes there, and really, that's how [the Marlins] scored both runs."

In the first, third and fifth innings, Ortiz put Pierre on first base. All three times he made errant throws to first baseman Sean Casey to put Pierre in scoring position. The first two times, Pierre wound up crossing home plate, scoring the only two runs of the game -- both unearned.

"Three times I threw over there, and I tried to [pick the guy off]," Ortiz said. "But I don't know, I've never thrown like this to first before. I don't feel good about that."

Ortiz said he was just working too quickly with his pickoffs, and repeatedly his foot slipped off the rubber and the ball sailed on him.

In the first inning, after Ortiz watched Pierre single, the right-hander's errant throw over to first put him on third. Pierre eventually scored on a Jeff Conine single.

Two innings later, Pierre reached on a fielder's choice, then went to second on Ortiz's error. Two batters later, Conine again knocked Pierre in.

In the fifth, it was much the same, though this time Pierre only landed on third and never crossed home.

No matter, though. The first two runs were more than an enough for Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins.

"Ramon has one of the best pick-off moves in the league," Casey said. "He just didn't have it today. The balls were going out toward the runners. I think maybe the third time he just should have eaten it -- given LaRue a chance to get him. But he pitched well. Without those pick-offs, he pitched well and kept us in the game. We should've gotten some runs for him."

No easy task with Willis on the mound.

For the second time in three days, the Reds offense was stymied. After scoring one run off left-hander Jason Vargas two nights ago, the Reds were blanked for the fifth time this season.

"Dontrelle Willis was outstanding," Narron said. "He's one of the better pitchers in baseball, and going in you know you better pitch well and play well defensively. Today, we just didn't do it."

Well, Ortiz pitched pretty well. He scattered 10 hits, but he didn't allow a run that wasn't associated with the two botched pickoffs. And Narron recognized that.

"Outside the pick-offs, he threw well," Narron said. "He got out of some jams. I tell you what, they get 12 hits and we go into the eighth, ninth inning with a chance to win is unbelievable. He gave us a chance to win, but he gave us two unearned runs. He did not pitch poorly, just the pick-offs beat him."

And even though Ortiz gets hit with the loss, Narron still shouldered much of the blame for his mistakes.

A dejected Narron said he should have warned Ortiz before the game not to attempt pick-offs, or at least be smarter about it. Narron didn't, though, and like a captain going down with the ship, took the brunt of the loss.

"I tell you what, it's just poor managing on my part," Narron said. "I should've gone out there and told him, 'Whatever you do, don't make a throw over there unless you make a nice, accurate throw. Don't try to speed up.' And I told him that after the third one, but I should've done it before the game.

"So I tell you what, it's just poor managing on my part, poor preparation. How about that?"

However Narron decides to cope with the loss, Ortiz also had a hand in it.

Or, more importantly, he couldn't find Casey's glove hand.

Kyle Jepson is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.