It was a scene straight out of a Little League game: Donald Lutz flying past second base and running full steam to third base, oblivious to the fact that there was only one out as Ryan Hanigan’s long fly ball was caught in center field.
“He was very proud of himself when he reached third base,” a sports writer said Wednesday, a day after Lutz’s blunder.
“He was running the anchor on the relay, looking for that baton,” said another.
“You know when a car is approaching the intersection and it ain’t slowing down,” Reds manager Dusty Baker joked.
That incident in the eighth inning Tuesday proved little — Baker said it won’t happen again because Lutz is a smart kid — but it showed how important it is to put mistakes behind you. The rookie Lutz made a nice running catch in left field the following inning, though he must have been feeling bad about causing the inning-ending double play in a game the Reds lost 5-4.
Now it’s up to the team to adopt a similar attitude. Cincinnati has lost two in a row at home for the first time this season and six of nine games overall heading into a three-game showdown with the Cardinals, beginning with a 7:10 p.m. game tonight at Great American Ball Park.
“You’ve just got to chalk it up and get it behind you,” Baker said. “You can’t have any carryover in this game. Any carryover has to be positive. If it’s negative, you leave it back there in the last game.”
Through Wednesday, the Reds (36-24) trailed St. Louis (38-21) by 2½ games. The teams haven’t met since April 29-May 1 when the Cardinals won two out of three in St. Louis.
Both teams lost their second game in a row Wednesday, but they still ranked first and and tied for third in baseball in wins.
“I feel like the Cardinals are the best team in baseball right now,” said Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, who’s expected to return to the lineup after missing four games with a bruised forearm. “They’re a great team. Those are the type of teams you’ve got to step up your game against.
“I’m glad I’m going to be able to play on Friday, and I’m really looking forward to it. I think everyone on our team is looking forward to it. We can gain ground on them. It really shows where you are when you play against the best teams.”
The Cardinals have the best team ERA in the league (3.10), and even after Wednesday’s 12-4 loss to the Rockies, the Reds ranked fourth (3.34).
They have two of the most productive offenses in baseball, too. St. Louis ranks seventh in runs per game (4.8), and the Reds are ninth (4.7). The Reds are fourth in the majors in on-base percentage (.335), and the Cardinals are fifth (.333).
The Cardinals lead the season series 4-2, but all six games have been played in St. Louis. The Reds scored nine runs in the ninth inning to beat the Cardinals 13-4 on April 8, but then lost 5-1 and 10-0. In the second series, the Reds again won the first game 2-1, but lost the next two 2-1 and 4-2.
Mike Leake (5-2, 2.75 ERA) gets the ball tonight for the Reds against Adam Wainwright (8-3, 2.33).
On Wednesday, Baker had a thick binder with the scouting report on the Cardinals on his desk, but he wasn’t ready to look ahead just yet. Instead, he was thinking about using the off day to take his kid swimming, watch some games and eat some of his wife’s home cooking — working in some homework on the Cardinals, of course.
“As soon as (Wednesday’s) game’s over, I’ll start getting excited,” Baker said.
Cardinals at Reds, 7:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410