Latos’ bad throw on squeeze play beats Reds, 3-2

Published 1:02 am Monday, July 1, 2013

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — There was one throw Cincinnati Reds starter Mat Latos really wishes he could take back — and it wasn’t one of his pitches.

Latos made an errant toss after his barehanded scoop of a squeeze bunt, leading to two runs on that play for the Texas Rangers in their series-clinching 3-2 victory Sunday.

“It was just a reaction. He bunted it pretty hard. I felt I could make a play,” Latos said. “As I look back, I should have held on to the ball.”

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Elvis Andrus’ bunt in the fifth inning put the AL West-leading Rangers up 2-0, and they added a run on a RBI bloop single by Nelson Cruz in the seventh.

Yu Darvish (8-3) struck out eight over 6 2-3 scoreless innings to win for the first time in eight starts. The ace from Japan hadn’t won since May 16.

Latos (7-2) also worked 6 2-3 innings. The right-hander struck out nine while allowing three runs, including an unearned run on the squeeze play.

Engel Beltre led off the fifth by dragging a bunt past the mound for a hit before Leonys Martin doubled. After Ian Kinsler struck out, Andrus bunted back toward the mound. Lantos grabbed the ball and tossed toward the plate in one motion.

The ball ricocheted off the earflap of Beltre, who was still on the ground when Martin also scored for a 2-0 lead.

“I never saw two runs on a squeeze before,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “I wasn’t surprised. But with the meat of the order coming up I didn’t really mind giving up one run. Sometimes a squeeze keeps you in the game because you’re giving up a run for an out.”

Catcher Devin Mesoraco, who had a hard collision with Beltre while trying to block the plate, said the Reds weren’t really caught off guard by the play.

“I figured Andrus would be aggressive so I called for a first-pitch slider. To his credit, he got the bunt down,” Mesoraco said.

“With the speed they had on the bases, it didn’t have to be a perfect bunt. … Whenever you have a squeeze, a pitcher’s only thought is he has an opportunity to get an out at the plate. (Beltre) was in the way of the ball and me catching it.”

The AL West-leading Rangers have won 10 of 13 games since a six-game losing streak. Cincinnati has lost seven of nine, including a 2-6 road trip.

The Rangers went up 3-0 in the seventh, when Martin had a leadoff single and a stolen base before scoring on the single by Cruz.

Robbie Ross got the last out of the seventh after taking over for Darvish. Tanner Scheppers made his team-high 39th appearance for Texas, after three days off, and threw only two of his nine pitches for strikes.

Scheppers walked Zack Cozart on four pitches in the eighth and gave up consecutive singles to Joey Votto and Phillips before going to a 2-0 count against Jay Bruce — and being relieved by Neal Cotts. Bruce and pinch-hitter Chris Heisey had consecutive sacrifice flies before reliever Jason Frasor retired Todd Frazier on a flyout.

“We couldn’t get any type of hit when we needed it,” Bruce said. “We need to execute better.”

Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his 27th save in 28 chances.

Darvish snapped his longest professional winless drought — in his two years with the Rangers or seven in Japan before that. The right-hander was 0-2 with a 2.93 ERA in those seven games, when Texas scored only 12 runs while he was on the mound.

“As a starter, if the team doesn’t win the day that you pitch, that can be really frustrated, so that was my thing,” Darvish said through his translator, though he insisted later he wasn’t overwhelmed by the winless streak. “I was thinking how I could live day by day, and nothing really special.”

Darvish threw 77 of 117 pitches for strikes on a sunny afternoon when the gametime temperature was 90 degrees, which was 10 degrees cooler than at the start of Friday night’s series opener. While increasing his majors-best strikeout total to 151, he walked four and scattered four hits with only one 1-2-3 inning.

“He wasn’t as sharp as he could be. I’ve seen him sharper. His breaking ball wasn’t as sharp. His changeup wasn’t as sharp. He was high with his fastball,” Baker said. “We threatened against him, but we’ve just got to get hits in those situations.”

Notes: Latos is 21-6 in 50 career starts for the Reds. … Martin extended his hitting streak to 14 games. … Cincinnati has played twice at Rangers Ballpark. The Reds also lost two of three games in 2002. … The Reds sixth ended when first baseman Mitch Moreland backhanded Xavier Paul’s grounder and threw to second to start a double play. Moreland hustled back to take the relay throw at first when Darvish wasn’t yet at the bag.