CINCINNATI (AP) -Jerry Narron's final act as the Cincinnati Reds' manager was to change relief pitchers. Again.
Ultimately, he knew that all those trips to the mound could be his downfall.
The Reds fired Narron on Sunday night, a few hours after an 11-7 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals left them tagged with the worst record in the major leagues and made ownership decided that change was needed.
Although ownership and general manager Wayne Krivsky declined comment after the firing was announced late Sunday, Narron had already singled out the bottom line during the weekend series.
``We feel like we're in every ballgame,'' he said, after the Reds' only victory of the series on Saturday. ``It comes down to if we can get some outs after our starters come out of the game.''
Most often, they couldn't. And that's the biggest reason why Narron was gone.
Advance scout Pete Mackanin, who managed the Reds' Triple-A team in Nashville from 1990-92, was chosen interim manager. He was the Pirates' interim manager for the final 26 games of the 2005 season after Lloyd McClendon was fired.
The switch came a few hours after Seattle's Mike Hargrove resigned, saying he no longer had a passion for the job.
Narron was the second big league manager to be fired this season. Baltimore's Sam Perlozzo lost his job on June 18 after the last-place Orioles couldn't shake another losing streak.
The Reds have been far worse, setting a pace for their first 100-loss season since 1982. With no improvement in sight and attendance starting to lag, the club decided to make a change before an off day.
Narron told the Dayton Daily News that he was informed after the game that the team wanted to go in a different direction.
``It was an honor to manage the Cincinnati Reds, a team with such great tradition, and I'm sorry I was not able to get this team to win,'' he said. ``It breaks my heart.''
The 51-year-old Narron tried to set a take-charge tone early in the season, when he moved Ken Griffey Jr. to right field and dropped him out of his accustomed spot at No. 3 in the batting order. Griffey didn't like it, but Narron went ahead with the moves.
He also benched third baseman Edwin Encarnacion during an April game for failing to run out a pop up.
Narron couldn't do much about a bullpen that led the NL in losses and repeatedly failed to hold leads in the late innings. Reds relievers have lost 18 games, most in the league.
With the franchise headed for its seventh straight losing season - its deepest slump in a half-century - the Reds made another move to shake things up. They've had three general managers and now four managers in the past five years, an instability that makes it difficult to succeed.
Since winning the World Series in 1990, the Reds have had seven managers and made only one playoff appearance - in 1995 under Davey Johnson.
The Reds expected a return to prominence when they moved into Great American Ball Park in 2003, but it didn't happen. They fired general manager Jim Bowden and manager Bob Boone midway through the season.
Dave Miley got the next chance, but was fired midway through the 2005 season. Narron, his bench coach, took over on an interim basis and kept the job after leading the team to a 46-46 finish the rest of that season.
The Reds went 80-82 last year, the team's first under owner Bob Castellini. It was their best result since 2000 and earned Narron a two-year extension through 2008.
Castellini allowed the payroll to rise $10 million to $69 million this year, hoping to contend in the weak NL Central. He also allowed Krivsky to give $71 million in contract extensions to starting pitchers Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo, the franchise's biggest spending splurge since it brought Griffey home in 2000.
It all fell apart fast.
The rotation started strong but faded. Arroyo has yet to win a game since May 6, left-hander Eric Milton has had reconstructive elbow surgery, and highly acclaimed rookie Homer Bailey has been roughed up in his last two starts.
Bailey failed to make it through the fourth inning of the 11-7 loss on Sunday that highlighted the Reds' shortcomings. They made three more errors and their bullpen turned a close game into another drubbing.
It became the prelude to Narron's firing.

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