PHILADELPHIA -- One of the best defensive teams in baseball is staring playoff elimination square in the eye, and they have no one to blame but themselves. In an improbable and gut-wrenching bottom of the seventh on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park, the Cincinnati Reds gave Game 2 of the National League Division Series to the Phillies, allowing three unearned runs in the frame, erasing a one-run lead in a 7-4 loss that leaves them one game from elimination. The Reds, staked to an early 4-0 lead thanks to a leadoff home run by Brandon Phillips, a solo shot by Jay Bruce and a sacrifice fly by Joey Votto, then simply gave the game away, allowing five unearned runs on a Division Series record-tying four errors, three hit batters, a poor defensive choice, a missed fly ball and a bobbled relay throw.
"We ended up giving them most of their runs," Reds manager Dusty Baker lamented. It all added up to the Reds being down 0-2 in the best-of-five series that moves to Cincinnati on Sunday. The situation is simple -- win or their special season is over.
"You know, you really don't have a choice," Baker said. "I mean, you either tighten it up and fight even harder, or you just quit and go home, and this team's not that kind of team."They certainly showed they weren't that kind of team early, rebounding from a Game 1 no-hitter at the hands of Roy Halladay with four early runs. "We had control of the game at a couple of points," said Scott Rolen, a seven-time Gold Glove third baseman who committed one error. "I would've loved to come out of here with one [win] and go home and take two from them. Right now, we're playing to survive. We're playing for our lives right now." The biggest Reds gaffe of all came with a 4-3 lead with one out in the Phillies' seventh. It was right fielder Bruce completely missing the catch of Jimmy Rollins' fly ball for an error. Center fielder Drew Stubbs backed up Bruce on the play, but the two runs -- including the go-ahead run -- easily scored as Phillips bobbled the cutoff throw for a second error. "It was in the lights the whole time," Bruce explained. "I tried to stick with it to see if it would come out. It never did. It's pretty helpless. It's embarrassing. I take a lot of pride in my defense. There's really nothing I can do about it. I wish for my team more than anything that it didn't go into the lights or that it came out and I could have caught it. It didn't happen." The crowd of 46,511 fans at Citizens Bank Park chanted "Thank you, Jay Bruce!" at someone who has played enough stellar defense to be a Gold Glove candidate after the season. The Reds have prided themselves all season on tight defense, and their 72 regular-season errors were tied for fewest in the NL. "Who knows what would have happened had I caught the ball or it had not been in the lights?" Bruce said. "When you put the ball in play, crazy things happen." The miscues disabled the Reds' best bullpen weapon in lefty Aroldis Chapman, who started the seventh with some controversy. Leadoff batter Chase Utley was ruled to have been hit by a pitch on the hand by plate umpire Bruce Dreckman, but replays showed there was no contact. Chapman's fastball was 101 mph and Utley appeared to sell that he was hit, but not too well. Asked if the ball hit him: "I'm not sure," replied Utley. "It was close." Chapman certainly was sure, however. "I don't think at any time that the ball hit him," Chapman said through an interpreter. However, the Reds did not argue the call and the inning continued as Chapman struck out Ryan Howard on three pitches. Jayson Werth grounded to third base, from where Rolen fired to second base on a fielders' choice, but the sliding Utley was ruled safe. Baker unsuccessfully argued the call from umpire Ed Rapuano. After Rollins reached on the Bruce error, he later scored on a Carlos Ruiz fielder's choice play for a two-run Philadelphia lead. Another insurance run crossed in the eighth inning. A classic series seemed possible when the Reds took a 4-0 lead on Phillies starter Roy Oswalt in the fifth inning. They put the leadoff man on base in each of the five innings against their usual nemesis, with four runners scoring. Phillips, who was a triple shy of the cycle, was the catalyst three different times against the Phillies. Phillips quickly erased the memory of Halladay's game in the first inning with a leadoff home run to left field on a 2-1 Oswalt pitch. It ended a scoreless streak of 30 innings for the Reds in Philadelphia going back to July 9. Two Utley throwing errors in the second inning led to another run. Bruce led off the fourth inning by crushing a 0-1 Oswalt pitch into the second deck of the right-field seats. Phillips doubled and scored on a Votto sacrifice fly in the fifth. The game turned ugly on the Reds from there. Phillips attempted a sliding stop on Shane Victorino's grounder but bobbled the ball for an error. Placido Polanco followed with a sharp grounder to third base that bounced off Rolen's glove for another error that loaded the bases. "It's a play I need to make one way or another," Rolen said. Next was Utley, who laced a two-run single to right field for a pair of unearned runs. "It's hard to give a lineup like that four extra outs and not expect to get beat," said Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who gave up three runs (one earned) over 5 1/3 innings. Using a pair of hit batters and Logan Ondrusek's bases-loaded walk, the Phillies pushed a run home in the sixth without notching a base hit. It put the Phillies in easier striking distance to complete the comeback. Since Division Series play began in 1995, teams down 0-2 have a 4-34 record. None of those wins came from an NL club. In all best-of-five postseason series, including the LCS from 1969-84, teams down 0-2 are 7-54. "The things that happened tonight are pretty uncharacteristic of what usually happens with this ballclub," Bruce said. "We just have to keep grinding, keep trying to play good baseball."