Third base was not a happy place for the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night. Scott Rolen's 10th-inning error at the hot corner figured into the headlines and Brandon Phillips' ill-advised steal attempt of the bag in the first inning started a pair of sad bookends in the 2-1 NLDS Game 2 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Great American Ballpark.
While Rolen's misplay was the lead lowlight for the game, Phillips' baserunning decision forces just as many "what-might-have-been" laments, if not more. The error in judgment occurred after Phillips led off the bottom of the first with a single and then took off for second on a steal attempt. Ryan Vogelsong's pitch went to the backstop as Phillips made his way into second and the Reds second baseman thought that third was his for the taking.
The ball, however, came back to Giants catcher Buster Posey rather quickly and he was able to throw down to third and get Phillips. The out would later prove to be a big one as Vogelsong struggled in the frame, issuing a walk to Zack Cozart and singles to Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce. The Reds, however, managed only one run, a total that loomed large as they failed to score against Giants pitching.
So what was Phillips thinking by taking such an unnecessary risk?
"He thought he had the chance to make the play and the ball came right back to Buster Posey," Reds manager Dusty Baker told reporters. "Doesn't weigh on my mind. We had chances sometime later in the game, too. It appears that's the only chance when you look back upon it but, no, doesn't weigh heavily on our minds. I urged our guys to advance bases and to hustle."
"I've been doing that all year. If the throw was a little bit high, or a little bit wide or whatever, I would have been safe. Buster Posey made a great throw. I'm an aggressive baserunner. If I would have been safe, it would have been beautiful. But I wasn't. Would I do it again? Yes I would."
It's hard to blame Phillips too much here. After all, if you're going to take a risk and be aggressive, the best time to do it is when you still have 27 (or more) outs left. Throw in the fact that the Reds were up two games to none entering Tuesday's game in Cincinnati and it's easy to see why they were raring to jump down the Giants' throats early.
But if you take the risk, it also means accepting the consequences and those became apparent 10 innings later. Aggressive goals or not, you don't want to give away any outs in a postseason game and that's what Phillips did in the first. It likely cost his team an important run.