I thought this was a fine piece of writing by John Erardi of the Enquirer.


Harang's, Reds' fortunes slip-sliding away

Aaron Harang knew the Reds' season was likely on the line Thursday when the Padres had the bases loaded in the seventh with no outs and Mike Cameron at the plate. The score was 0-0. The count was 3-2.

Hold the damage to a minimum, Harang told himself, and we come back to win it; been doing it all year. A strikeout would be huge, because now the Reds would be a double-play ball from a miracle.

What home team wouldn't be juiced by that?

"Not many guys with the bases loaded there are crazy enough to throw a slider on a 3-2 pitch and be confident in it," Harang said.

"But I was. I know Cameron's a big pull hitter; he has power. He's looking for something over the plate to drive."

Leave it right there.

A slider on its way home.

A season hanging in the balance.

The last month hasn't been the best of times for Harang.

He has given up four runs in each of his last four starts, and has only one victory in his last nine decisions. He hasn't pitched badly, but when your team is right there, you need more than just "not badly."

The Reds' starting pitching hasn't been its problem - the blame for this season lies with the hitters and the defense and the bullpen - but Harang knows he hasn't pitched well enough for a miracle to happen.

Harang - 28 and in only his third full big-league season - remembers how in 2002 his Oakland A's reeled off 20 wins in a row and made the playoffs.

Harang was 5-4 that season.

The game he remembers best was in Detroit, when he left the game trailing 7-1 in the fifth inning and the A's rallied to win 12-8.

"Eleven runs in four innings," he still marvels.

Harang didn't make the A's playoff roster in 2002.

It was all the more reason he wanted to lead the Reds there this year.

Back to the Thursday's seventh inning. It began with what appeared to be Harang having Todd Walker set up, but Walker's ground ball found a hole. Then Harang walked Adrian Gonzalez ("I was rushing," Harang said). And then came a high-bounding bunt off home plate that had third base written all over it, but Walker barely beat catcher Jason LaRue's throw.

And now came Cameron.

Bases load, 3-2 count.

"Gotta challenge him," Harang said to himself. "Gotta throw one with authority, hard where I want it to go."

Harang breaks off a slider.

It isn't a bad one, but it catches too much of the plate.

Crack! ...

It's a line drive over the head of Edwin Encarnacion at third base. Two runs score.

And, for all intents and purposes, it is the ballgame.

"If I throw that slider two more inches outside, he hits it off the end of the bat and it's a little flair to Edwin or he swings and misses it," Harang said.

Instead, the Reds are down 2-0, and after a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk, Harang commits the cardinal sin and walks the pitcher with the bases loaded.

By the time the inning is over, the Reds are down 4-0.

"If you're not in the (race), you don't feel as much pressure," Harang said. "But when you're in it, you have to come out and beat teams that are ahead of you We didn't do that today."

All the pitching clichés applied: He "tried to do too much"; his mechanics "got out of whack"; he was over-throwing at times, steering the ball at others.

"Those first six innings, everything was effortless," he said.

And then, poof.

E-mail jerardi@enquirer.com