CINCINNATI - The last six outs have been such gimmes for the Diamondbacks this season that what transpired at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park Sunday was darn near shocking.
Brandon Lyon and Jose Valverde each gave up a two-run homer in the final two innings as the Reds walked off with a 5-4 win before 27,694 fans that had seen the Diamondbacks blank the home team the previous two evenings.
Javier Valentin’s pinch-hit shot off Valverde in the bottom of the ninth kept the visitors from sweeping the first series on a 10-game road trip that moves to Shea Stadium today for three games against the NL East-leading Mets. It also halted the Diamondbacks’ five-game winning streak.
“It happens. They came up with big hits,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. “We’re not going to go the whole year without giving up runs down there. Granted, the way we’ve been down there, you certainly expect (to win).”
The blown save spoiled the major league debut of starting pitcher Enrique Gonzalez, who limited the Reds to a single run in six innings and turned a three-run lead over to the bullpen.
After Jorge Julio tossed a scoreless seventh, Lyon surrendered a leadoff bunt single to David Ross and a two-run homer to Scott Hatteberg that made the score 4-3. The lead stood at one run when Lyon retired two straight to strand the tying run at third. Valverde struck out the first batter he faced but a pinch-hit infield single by Austin Kearns set up Valentin’s blast and sent the D-Backs on their way to New York. It was Valverde’s first blown save since April 17. He was 2-0 with 12 saves in 14 appearances since his last misstep.
Reds leadoff hitter Ryan Freel welcomed Gonzalez to the major leagues by knocking out his first home run of the season in the first inning. It looked like it would be another short outing by a Diamondbacks starter at that point, but the 23-year-old Venezuelan was nearly unhittable the rest of the way.
He said he had some trouble keeping his pitches down in the first inning, but over the final five frames he was able to get his sinker and breaking ball to work for him. He struck out four and induced six groundouts.
Melvin considered pinch hitting for him with two outs and two runners in scoring position in the sixth, but left him in believing a three-run cushion would be enough. Gonzalez walked one and got three flyouts in his final inning.
“A lot of (the first-inning trouble) was nerves . . . but after that he was phenomenal,” Melvin said. “You could see why everybody (in the organization) was so high on him.”
The Reds managed just three hits and walked just once against Gonzalez, who was unsure of what to expect in his first go-round in place of traded starter Orlando Hernandez. He got a good feel for the major league game when he left his third pitch of the afternoon high in the strike zone for Freel to devour.
“The first two pitches I threw perfect down in the zone. Then the ball came up in the middle and he got me,” Gonzalez said. “Welcome to the big show.”