Having the worst record in baseball following another loss featuring poor pitching cost Cincinnati Reds manager Jerry Narron his job. A scout is being given the chance to turn the tide.
The day after Narron was fired, Pete Mackanin takes over as Reds manager on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game set against the San Francisco Giants.
“History will tell you when a new guy comes in, there is often a good initial response,” Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. “It has a way of re-energizing a team often times, and I think Pete will energize our team.”
With Cincinnati (31-51) headed toward its seventh consecutive losing season, Narron was fired on Sunday after compiling a 157-179 record since being hired to replace Dave Miley on June 21, 2005.
The move came immediately after the Reds’ 12th loss in 17 games, 11-7 to St. Louis. Cincinnati committed three errors, rookie Homer Bailey was tagged for seven runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings and the bullpen again provided little relief by allowing four runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings.
Mackanin was serving as an advance scout when Cincinnati decided to try him out as Narron’s replacement on an interim basis. He also served as interim manager with Pittsburgh for the final 26 games of the 2005 season after Lloyd McClendon was fired.
Mackanin, who has managed for 13 years in the minors, will be given a chance to keep the job on a permanent basis.
“We’ll see what he does,” Krivsky said. “We’ll see how the team responds. Pete deserves a chance to show what he can do here in the short-term.”
Narron’s firing could stem from lofty expectations set by an increasing payroll after a promising 80-82 record last season, the team’s first under owner Bob Castellini. It was their best record since 2000 and earned Narron a two-year extension through 2008. However, the team has reached the playoffs only once— in 1995—since winning the World Series in 1990.
Castellini appeared ready to snap the postseason slump in 2007, allowing the payroll to rise $10 million to $69 million in an effort to contend in the weak NL Central. He allowed Krivsky to give $71 million in contract extensions to starting pitchers Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo in the franchise’s biggest spending splurge since it brought Ken Griffey Jr. home in 2000.
With the pieces in place for a division title run, the bullpen turned into one of the worst in the NL, going 9-18 with a 4.83 ERA and converting only 15 of 28 save opportunities. Offensively, the Reds lead the majors in home runs with 119, but are hitting .254 to rank toward the bottom of the NL.
“If people want to perceive we’re a rocky ship, they can do that,” Castellini said. “But I can tell you we have a direction.”
Cincinnati now hopes Harang (8-2, 3.80 ERA), the team’s wins leader this season, can help it start a turnaround while tying his season high with a fourth straight win.
The right-hander struggled in his most recent outing on Wednesday as he surrendered five runs and eight hits in six innings at Philadelphia, but was bailed out by a six-run rally in the seventh as the Reds won 9-6.
Harang is 0-3 with a 3.46 ERA in his last four starts against the Giants (35-45). He he has not faced them since Sept. 4 when he allowed four runs and six hits with nine strikeouts in eight innings of a 5-4 home loss.
The Giants are coming off a 13-0 win over Arizona on Sunday, taking consecutive games after dropping the series opener 4-3 on Friday.
Sunday marked the first time in a month San Francisco shut out an opponent.
“It’s just something great for us to feed off,” said starter Tim Linceum, who combined with two relievers on the five-hitter.
The Giants now turn to Barry Zito (6-8, 4.61), who is 0-3 with a 7.17 ERA in his last four outings. However, he pitched very well in his most recent start, allowing two runs—both on solo homers—in eight innings of a 3-2, 10-inning loss to San Diego last Tuesday.
Zito has faced the Reds twice in his eight major league seasons, winning both starts for Oakland despite a 6.00 ERA.
Barry Bonds, who learned Sunday the fans elected him to start the All-Star game in San Francisco, goes into this series five home runs shy of Hank Aaron’s career record of 756. He’s homered twice in 26 at-bats at Great American Ball Park.
While he’s only 2-for-11 with a homer against Harang, Bonds has dominated Reds closer David Weathers, going 9-for-16 with three home runs and 10 walks.