Braves 9, Reds 5, 10 innings
CINCINNATI (AP)—Sean Casey replayed the moment in his head and got emotional all over again.
Casey hit homers in his last two at-bats Wednesday night, including a two-run shot off close friend Chris Reitsma that left him with conflicted feelings as he rounded the bases.
“We played well, they played a little better at the end,” a subdued Casey said. “They pretty much took the game from us.”
Marcus Giles tied it with a two-out single in the ninth, and Jones and Furcal provided the final disappointment for the Reds, who blew three leads before finally collapsing.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a game where so many guys had clutch hits,” said Giles, who made his only hit count. “It was fun, a lot of fun.”
Not for Casey and Reitsma, who provided the game’s poignant moment.
Casey hit a solo homer in the sixth, his first of the season, off Horacio Ramirez for a 3-2 lead. After that lead slipped away, Casey hit a two-out, two-run shot off Reitsma (1-0) that put Cincinnati up 5-4 in the eighth.
The two of them kept their heads down as Casey dutifully rounded the bases, feeling his own happiness and his friend’s frustration all at once.
“That was probably the first time in my career that I had different feelings,” Casey said of his home run trot.
Casey was so upset when the Reds traded Reitsma to the Braves in the last week of spring training that he had to sit out an exhibition game. The two have kept in touch, talking every few days on the phone.
They had wondered what it would be like the first time they faced each other in a game. On Reitsma’s first pitch, they found out.
“Of all people—one of my best friends!” Reitsma said. “I wouldn’t do anything different. I wanted to challenge him. I wanted to get a fastball up and in, but left it over the plate and he hit it where he should have.”
As he circled the bases and again after the game, Casey thought about what his friend must have felt at that moment.
“That’s the way it goes,” he said. “When the game is over, we’re still best of friends.”
Casey also had a run-scoring single, stole a base and angrily flipped a ball at catcher Eddie Perez after a rough-and-tumble play at the plate, setting the tone in a three-hit game that raised his average to .423.
Closer Danny Graves blew Cincinnati’s 5-4 lead in the ninth, when Furcal singled, advanced on a groundout and came around on Giles’ single up the middle. It was Graves’ second blown save in nine chances.
The Reds had 40,000 Joe Nuxhall bobbleheads to give away, but sold only 29,472 tickets for a promotion commemorating the 60th anniversary of his historic debut. Nuxhall was 15 when he pitched in relief for the Reds in 1944, the youngest player to appear in the majors.
Casey got the crowd into the game with his exchange at the plate in the first inning.
Casey singled home a run and tried to score from second on Jason LaRue’s single to left. The throw home beat him easily, and he put his shoulder down as he went around Perez.
The catcher tagged him on the arm, and both of them tumbled in the dirt. Perez got up, reached his mitt toward Casey and dropped the ball in his lap.
Casey tossed the ball at Perez and told plate umpire Jim Wolf, “He dropped the ball on me!” Perez eventually turned and yelled at Casey, but the two were separated by teammates.
“I just kind of took offense to it,” Casey said. “He apologized to me inmy next at-bat. He said he didn’t mean to do it, so it’s over.”
Chipper Jones hit right-handed off a tee in the batting cage. Jones strained his right hamstring on Sunday and is expected to be sidelined for at least a week. “I felt it,” Jones said. “It was not extremely painful. It’s a step in the right direction.” … Three mallard ducks landed in right field in the top of the second inning and settled on the warning track. Reds outfielder Austin Kearns repeatedly glanced at them over his shoulder. Four grounds crew members chased the ducks away after the third out. … Casey has hit safely in 12 of the Reds’ 14 games, with seven multihit games. It was the fifth two-homergame of his career.