In the Reds' 8-4 loss to the Cardinals on Friday night, the 43,564 fans in attendance at Busch Stadium saw more than they bargained for. There was an inside-the-park home run, a triple for a guy that doesn't normally hit triples, a line drive to the face off a hitter waiting in the on-deck circle, a leadoff homer and a grand slam.
In the end though, it turned out to be a battle of bullpens, with the starters on both sides struggling. One bullpen rose to the challenge, and the other, the Reds', didn't.
"We scored early and got to their starter and then their bullpen shut us down," Reds manager Pete Mackanin said. "We didn't do the same."
Leading by one run heading into the sixth, reliever Jon Coutlangus took the hill. The lefty got the last two outs of the fifth and then struck out Aaron Miles to start the sixth. With three right-handed bats coming up, Mackanin decided to go with Gary Majewski.
The move backfired.
Majewski never had good command and struggled to say the least. The righty gave up a double to So Taguchi, a single to Brendan Ryan and then plunked David Eckstein to load the bases for Rick Ankiel.
Mackanin again decided to play the matchups and called for a lefty, Eddie Guardado, to face the left-handed-hitting Ankiel.
On a 1-1 count, Ankiel hammered a Guardado slider that barely cleared the right-center-field wall for a grand slam.
"It's the story of my career right now -- make a good pitch and then I make a bad pitch and pay for it," Guardado said. "I take the blame for everything. He did what he needed to do with it. That's just what I'm going through right now."
To make the loss even harder to take for the Reds, was the fact that they managed to sidestep a rough outing from starter Tom Shearn and were still in the lead when he left the game with one out in the fifth.
The Reds came out and did what a good team likes to do -- put up a crooked number in the first to try and put the other team on its heels, while giving their starting pitcher a little cushion.
The Reds put up three in the first, courtesy of a leadoff homer by Josh Hamilton, an RBI triple off the bat of Brandon Phillips and an RBI double by Adam Dunn.
After Shearn gave one run back in the first, the Reds got another run on the board. This time, Edwin Encarnacion hit an inside-the-park home run, the Reds first since May 6 of last season. That knocked Cards starter Anthony Reyes out of the game, after just recording three outs, and it looked as if the Reds were in good position, forcing the Cards bullpen to get 24 outs.
However, the Reds were never able to take advantage and Shearn ran into more trouble in the second.
The rookie starter gave two runs right back, when Yadier Molina connected on a two-run shot to make it 4-3.
Shearn, making just his second big league start, battled spotty command and got through 4 1/3 innings with his team still leading by the same score, but was pulled after throwing 85 pitches.
"I have to do a better job of getting ahead of hitters," Shearn said. "I felt good, but I kept falling behind and had to throw their pitches all night."
Mackanin was pleased with Shearn's outing, and said the quick hook in the fifth had to do with Shearn's inexperience at the big league level more than his struggles during the game.
"He's a rookie, he's unproven," Mackanin said. "This is a pennant race. I chose to take him out. He just had a lot of pitches for five innings. He did OK, just not well enough for me to leave him in, at that point."
Daniel Berk is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.