SAN FRANCISCO -- A game and a series was right there for the taking, and the Reds know they blew a chance to steal one from the Giants on Sunday.
No doubt these Reds will wonder how they didn't get more runs in the top of the ninth, and Jay Bruce was certainly kicking himself for his mistake in the bottom of the ninth of a 4-3 loss to the Giants.
Cincinnati left the bases loaded in the ninth, but had a 3-3 tie when reliever Jose Arredondo took over in the bottom half. Buster Posey's third hit of the game, a lofted two-out ground-rule double, landed near the right-field line and bounced into the seats. Pablo Sandoval was intentionally walked to bring up Angel Pagan.
On a 3-1 pitch from Arredondo, Pagan lifted a long fly ball to the warning track in right field. Bruce appeared to be tracking the ball but misplayed his proximity to the wall. He jumped early as the ball sailed over his glove. The sellout crowd at AT&T Park erupted as the ball landed safely. Pagan reached on a double that scored Posey with the winning run.
"It was not as close to the wall as I thought it was. I missed it," Bruce said. "It's really, really embarrassing. It should be an error. It's not. I pride myself on my defense."
San Francisco's ballpark, especially right field, has some unique angles and tough wind conditions that can make fly balls an adventure for many outfielders. Bruce made no excuses, however.
"You get to play here and so does everyone else," Bruce said. "The job is to catch the ball and I didn't. It's embarrassing. It's a really, really tough way to lose. We battled back and worked our butts off to get back and that happens. It's a tough one to swallow."
Cincinnati entered the ninth inning trailing by a 3-2 score when it rallied with the first four batters reaching on singles. Bruce started it with a single to right field against lefty Javier Lopez. Right-hander Santiago Casilla took over and gave up a grounded single to left field by Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier's flare to right field that loaded the bases.
Miguel Cairo, filling in for the injured Joey Votto, tied the game with an RBI single to left field that scored Bruce. Ludwick was held at third by coach Mark Berry, but it appeared that it was possible for the go-ahead run to come across on the play.
"A lot of that depends on the baserunner," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "The coaches get all the blame, but most of the time, you don't need a coach, really. We thought it was in there all way and maybe [Ludwick] didn't think it was there."
Casilla struck out the next batter, Ryan Hanigan, when the Reds' lack of healthy bodies became exposed. Already missing Scott Rolen, who was scratched because of back spasms, the Reds were really shorthanded with Votto being unavailable because of inflammation in his left knee.
Instead, Wilson Valdez was sent to pinch-hit for pitcher Logan Ondrusek and looked bad while striking out on a 1-2 pitch low and away. Zack Cozart lined out softly to first base to end the inning.
"We had the bases loaded and nobody out. That's a tough one to lose," Baker said. "It's really tough when you get four hits and you get one run. That usually doesn't happen."
The Reds, who kept their one-game edge over the second-place Pirates in the National League Central, settled for a four-game series split with a tough NL West-leading Giants club. It's just the beginning of an 11-game swing with stops in Los Angeles and San Diego still remaining.
"It's always been tough for us on the West Coast," Reds starter Bronson Arroyo said. "It's not going to get any easier in L.A. It would have been nice to steal this one today. You can't complain about having a split against a good ballclub like that, especially the rotation of arms they run out there."
Arroyo did not figure in the decision as he finished with six innings and allowed two runs and seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Things briefly got salty between Arroyo and Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong in the bottom of the sixth.
With a runner on first base and one out in a sacrifice situation, Arroyo came up and in twice on Vogelsong. The second time was a 1-1 pitch as Vogelsong squared to bunt and fouled it off.
An enraged Vogelsong spiked his bat and had words for Arroyo, who approached the plate as the benches cleared. No punches were thrown and the incident was quieted rather quickly. Vogelsong, who succeeded with his sacrifice on the next pitch, received a call after the game from Arroyo. The two were teammates on the Pirates over a decade ago.
"I was just missing my spots. He just got irritated," Arroyo said. "I played with Ryan for a long time. I called over there and told him he had every right to be irritated. I've got to get the ball down. Even if you're going in, which I wasn't, I was going away; you can't get up near guys' heads. I had already hit Buster up near his head as well [in the fifth]. I told him it's my fault. They've got all the right in the world to be irritated. I knew it wasn't going to get out of hand because I think Ryan knows me well enough to know there wasn't any malice in it."
Vogelsong accepted Arroyo's apology.
"We're friends, but when you're on the field and you're between the lines, you're not friends anymore," Vogelsong ended. "Ball's coming up and in, it's not a comfortable feeling. You don't like it. I'm sure he wasn't intentionally trying to hit Buster, either, but ... you're in the heat of battle and things happen like that and you get fired up."