PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Give a game ball to the ballpark lights.
Reds right fielder Jay Bruce missed a seventh-inning line drive after losing the ball in the bright lights, allowing two crucial runs to score, and the Philadelphia Phillies took advantage of Cincinnati’s shoddy fielding to earn a 7-4 win Friday night for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five NL division series.
“It’s embarrassing,” Bruce said. “I take great pride in my defense, but there was nothing I can do about it.”
After Roy Halladay threw the second no-hitter in postseason history in Philadelphia’s 4-0 victory Wednesday, the Reds were determined to show their resilience.
Brandon Phillips hit a leadoff homer on Roy Oswalt’s fourth pitch and the Reds built a 4-0 lead before their defense and bullpen unraveled.
The Phillies rallied against hard-throwing rookie Aroldis Chapman and his triple-digit fastball after soft-tossing starter Bronson Arroyo kept Philadelphia’s hitters off balance.
The two-time defending NL champions can close out the series in Game 3 on Sunday night in Cincinnati. Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, pitches for the Phillies. Johnny Cueto is on the mound for the Reds.
Leading 4-3, the Reds turned to Chapman to protect the slim margin in the seventh. The 22-year-old Cuban lefty came in firing, but he hit Chase Utley with a 101 mph fastball leading off. It wasn’t clear whether the ball grazed Utley’s right forearm, but he didn’t seem shaken.
“I’m not sure,” Utley said when asked if the ball hit him. “At first, I thought it was going to hit me in the head. He throws fast. I felt like it hit me, so I put my head down and ran to first.”
Chapman saw it differently.
“No, I don’t think at any time the ball hit him,” he said through a translator.
After Ryan Howard struck out, Jayson Werth hit a bouncer to third baseman Scott Rolen. Utley beat the throw to second on a close call. Phillips threw his arms up and Reds manager Dusty Baker came out to argue briefly.
Jimmy Rollins then hit a liner to right that Bruce turned into a two-base error. The lights were the culprit, he said, not the sea of white-and-red “Fightin’ Phils” rally towels.
The ball rolled past Bruce, and Utley scored the tying run. Werth scored without a play when Phillips dropped the relay throw for another error, giving the Phillies a 5-4 lead.
“I feel like I let my team down,” Bruce said. “It was in the lights the whole time. I tried to stick with it. It was a pretty helpless feeling.”
Raul Ibanez followed with a single and Carlos Ruiz hit an RBI grounder for a 6-4 lead.
Werth hit an RBI single off Nick Masset in the eighth to cap the scoring.
Jose Contreras tossed a perfect seventh to earn the win. Ryan Madson worked the eighth and Brad Lidge pitched around a leadoff walk in the ninth for the save. Third baseman Placido Polanco made a diving, backhanded stab on Chris Heisey’s hard grounder and threw to first to end it.
The Reds finished second in the NL with a club-record .988 fielding percentage, but four errors led to five unearned runs. Their relievers hit three batters, who all ended up scoring. Philadelphia had eight hits, all singles.
“That was an uncommon night for us,” Baker said. “I don’t think it’s pressure as much as it is inexperience.”
Before they fell apart, the Reds made this Roy look ordinary.
Oswalt allowed four runs — three earned — and five hits in five innings. Oswalt used to dominate the Reds, but lost to them twice this season. He won his first 15 decisions against Cincinnati and was 23-1 coming into the year.
“I knew that as long as we didn’t get blown out, we have a chance,” Oswalt said. “I was trying to throw a quality start. I knew I wasn’t going to go out there and throw a no-hitter.”
Phillips, who made the final out against Halladay, drove a hanging slider into the left-field seats to snap Cincinnati’s 30-inning scoreless drought against Philadelphia. The All-Star second baseman flipped his bat and sauntered around the bases, pumping his fist on the way to the dugout.
Arroyo allowed two unearned runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings. The shaggy-haired right-hander, a 17-game winner, used an assortment of slow curves and other off-speed pitches to baffle the Phillies. He reached 90 mph on the radar gun just once, on his 38th pitch.
Two defensive gaffes by two of Cincinnati’s best fielders allowed the Phillies to get back in it in the fifth. Then wildness from the Reds’ relievers made it even closer an inning later.
Arthur Rhodes plunked Ruiz on the left knee with a two-out pitch to put two runners on in the sixth. Logan Ondrusek came in and hit pinch-hitter Ben Francisco on the bill of his helmet to load the bases. Francisco’s helmet spun off, but he was fine.
Shane Victorino walked to force in a run and get the Phillies within 4-3. Polanco grounded out to end the inning.
Phillips, who led NL second basemen in fielding percentage, booted Victorino’s two-out grounder to put two runners on in the fifth. Rolen, a seven-time Gold Glove winner, bobbled Polanco’s grounder, loading the bases.
Utley followed with a two-run single to cut it to 4-2. The stoic Utley slapped his hands together at first base in an uncharacteristic display of emotion while the sellout crowd roared. Arroyo fanned Howard to end the inning.
A pair of throwing errors by Utley gave the Reds a run in the second.
Bruce led off the fourth with a towering shot into the second deck in right to make it 3-0. Bruce was the only runner to reach against Halladay in Game 1 when he walked with two outs in the fifth.
Phillips doubled to start the fifth and scored on Joey Votto’s sacrifice fly.
Acquired from Houston on July 29, Oswalt went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 13 games with the Phillies. Oswalt — not Halladay or Hamels — was Philadelphia’s best pitcher down the stretch. The three-time All-Star was 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in his last 10 starts.
Notes: Polanco returned to the lineup after missing the opener with a sore back. … Phillips had never hit a leadoff homer. … The Phillies have sold out 133 straight games, including the playoffs. … Reds SS Orlando Cabrera left after four innings. He aggravated his left side turning a double play. … The six combined errors set an NL division series record. The four by Cincinnati tied a team mark. The Chicago Cubs also made four errors against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a first-round playoff game on Oct. 2, 2008.