Tough luck costs Lyon, D-backs
Arizona closer yields three-run walk-off homer to Reds
CINCINNATI -- It's heartbreaking losses like the one the D-backs dropped, 6-5, to the Reds on Wednesday night that leave closers scratching their heads and playing the "What if?" game.
"Him bunting in that situation, maybe I should have just thrown it down the middle and let him bunt it," Brandon Lyon said. "But obviously you can't think about that out there -- you're trying to make quality pitches."
So Lyon threw Edwin Encarnacion a nasty curve that he took for a strike to make the count 1-2. He missed with a curve in the dirt to run things even and then tried to throw a fastball outside. Instead, he got a little too much of the plate with the 92-mph offering, and Encarnacion crushed it into the left-field seats.
"I put myself in a bad situation and just couldn't make enough quality pitches to get out of it," Lyon said. "I was trying to go away, and left it over the plate -- and maybe even in -- and he put a good swing on it."
And just like that what looked to be a 5-3 D-backs win turned into a 6-5 loss that sent whatever was left of the crowd of 14,016 on a cold night at Great American Ball Park home happy.
The loss belongs to Lyon, who took over the closer role after Jose Valverde's trade to Houston, but the Arizona offense also must shoulder its share of the responsibility.
Though they scored five runs, the D-backs missed cashing in on plenty of other opportunities. The team stranded eight runners and was 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
"The top of the ninth we probably should have added on to take the pressure off some," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "That would have been a nice little add-on there."
Instead, with the bases loaded and one out in that frame, the D-backs let reliever Jeremy Affeldt off the hook. The lefty struggled with his command, walking two straight at one point to load the bases. Eric Byrnes then swung at the first pitch he saw, and later in the at-bat, the tapper he hit in front of the plate struck him for an automatic out.
That brought Chris Burke to the plate. Burke, who was in the game because first baseman Conor Jackson had to be taken to the hospital with shortness of breath in the fifth, struck out to end the inning.
Still, the D-backs were up, 5-3, and were confident Lyon had put his Spring Training struggles behind him after he retired the Reds in order on Opening Day to save a 4-2 win.
Lyon quickly jumped ahead 0-2 on Brandon Phillips, who had homered earlier in the game, before Phillips was able to line a fastball the opposite way into right for a single. Adam Dunn followed and worked the count to 3-0 before taking a called strike. The left-hander then made the D-backs pay for their infield shift, as he grounded a single through the hole at short to put runners at first and second.
That brought up Encarnacion, who was 0-for-3 to that point with two strikeouts looking. Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker decided to have him try to put down what would have been his first sacrifice bunt since 2004, when he was in Double-A. The 25-year-old's failure to execute turned out to be a blessing for the Reds.
"It's just tough luck," said D-backs shortstop Stephen Drew, who had a homer and a double in the game. "He just put a good swing on it. It's just tough to lose one like that."
Overshadowed by the late heroics was the performance of Arizona starter Dan Haren. The right-hander, making his first start for the D-backs since coming over in an eight-player trade with the A's, tossed six strong innings, allowing three runs on four hits over six innings.
The performance was even more impressive given the fact that Haren did it despite suffering from flu-like symptoms.
"I didn't have as much energy, but once you get out there, the adrenaline takes over," he said.
All three of the runs allowed by Haren came in the fourth, when Corey Patterson hit a solo homer and Phillips added a two-run shot.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.