The Cincinnati Reds haven’t been mathematically eliminated from the postseason, but they didn’t look like a team in a playoff race against the Washington Nationals on Thursday.
Facing another last-place team, the Reds were shut down by left-hander Patrick Corbin in a 3-2 loss at Great American Ball Park. The Reds were nearly outscored by Juan Soto, who hit two solo homers, before scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning against closer Kyle Finnegan.
Pinch-hitter Max Schrock tried to spark a ninth-inning comeback with an RBI triple, but Finnegan retired the next three batters to earn the save
The Reds are 5½ games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild-card race with nine games left. The Cardinals completed a four-game sweep over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday and extended their winning streak to 12 games, the franchise’s longest streak since 1982.
St. Louis’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is six.
The only person on the planet playing better than the Cardinals is Soto, who has reached base in 10 consecutive plate appearances with seven walks and three homers, which matches a Nationals record.
Soto, the 22-year-old superstar, showed the 11,836 fans in attendance why he’s one of the faces of baseball. He drew a nine-pitch walk against Luis Castillo in the first inning, laying off two changeups and two 99-mph fastballs.
Lane Thomas reached on an infield single with one out in the third inning. Soto followed two batters later with a single to center on a full-count changeup, moving Thomas to third. Josh Bell added an RBI single four pitches later for the game’s first run.
Soto fell into a 0-2 count against Castillo in the sixth inning, fouled two pitches and then blasted an opposite-field, solo homer just beyond the left-field wall. Castillo didn’t pitch poorly, allowing two runs and six hits in six innings, but the red-hot Soto had the upper hand.
In the seventh inning, it was Reds reliever Luis Cessa vs. Soto. Cessa had retired 27 consecutive batters, the longest perfect streak by a Reds reliever since at least 1957, according to Elias Sports Bureau, and Soto stepped into the batter’s box with two outs.
Soto thumped the sixth pitch of his at-bat just inside of the left-field foul pole for his 29th home run of the season. Soto owns a jaw-dropping .602 on-base percentage in September. It was the 24th time he reached base four times in a game this season, a number which has been exceeded by only Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds.
Corbin, a two-time All-Star, is having the worst season of his career. He entered Thursday tied with Castillo for the most losses (15) in the Majors, giving up a league-high 109 earned runs and 36 homers. He had allowed at least six runs in four of his last seven starts.
Against the Reds, Corbin had his first scoreless start since April 20. He permitted four hits and four walks across 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven (all on sliders).
The Reds loaded the bases with one out for the middle of their lineup in the third inning via an error and two four-pitch walks. Nick Castellanos struck out, whiffing on two sliders in the dirt. Joey Votto, the next batter, battled in a seven-pitch at-bat before striking out on a slider in the dirt.
It was reminiscent of a no-out, bases-loaded opportunity in Tuesday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates where Castellanos, Votto and Kyle Farmer came up empty in a one-run game.
Farmer drew a leadoff walk in the fourth inning and Jose Barrero hit a two-out infield single, but Corbin escaped with a groundball against Castillo. Votto hit a leadoff single in the fifth and that was erased with a double play.
Delino DeShields opened the seventh inning with a double. He moved to third on a flyout, but he was stranded when Nationals reliever Mason Thompson struck out Jonathan India to end the inning. India scorched a ball down the left-field line that landed foul by a couple of feet, costing the Reds a run.