CINCINNATI - The Reds' long-awaited playoff appearance lasted less than a week. Three ugly losses left them wondering how this could happen, and happen so fast.
The two-time defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies swept the Reds right out of the playoffs last night with a 2-0 victory. The league's top offense again failed to do anything against one of the Phillies' trio of aces, this time getting shut down by Cole Hamels' five-hitter.
The Reds hadn't been in the playoffs since 1995, when they reached the NL championship series only to get swept by Atlanta because they couldn't handle the Braves' sensational rotation. Finally back in the postseason, they left with nothing to show for it.
The Reds were virtual newcomers to the postseason, and the few playoff veterans in the clubhouse - shortstop Orlando Cabrera among them - wondered aloud how Cincinnati's core of young players would react to all the twirling towels and tingling moments.
Not very well at all.
Cincinnati couldn't get a hit off Roy Halladay in the series opener. The Reds couldn't catch or accurately throw the ball in Game 2, committing four errors that helped the Phillies rally for a 7-4 win and a 2-0 lead.
Back home, the Reds tried to dip into their illustrious past to keep the present going. Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, the second baseman on the Big Red Machine of the 1970s, threw a ceremonial first pitch. Thousands of white towels were twirling at Great American Ball Park.
Manager Dusty Baker's biggest move in Game 3 quickly backfired. Cabrera aggravated pulled muscles in his left side during Game 2 and was forced to leave, so the Reds considered replacing him on the playoff roster with defensive specialist Paul Janish.
Cabrera took batting practice Sunday and reported that he was OK to play. Baker put him in the lineup, and it cost the Reds.
Cabrera sailed a throw high to first base for an error that let in an unearned run in the first inning
Given how the offense was struggling, it was a huge deficit already.
The Reds led the NL in most major offensive categories despite fading down the stretch because several players were limited by injuries. Third baseman Scott Rolen had a balky back and two homers since Aug. 1. Second baseman Brandon Phillips had a bruised hand. Cabrera had the injured side. Jay Bruce had an abdominal strain.
It caught up with them in the playoffs. Rolen went 1 for 11 with seven strikeouts in the series. He struck out to end the series.
MVP candidate Joey Votto struggled. He didn't get much to hit and managed only a single in 10 at-bats. Votto failed to get the ball out of the infield last night, grounding into a double play in the ninth following Phillips' leadoff single.
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