That had shades of 2010 in it…

So much about last night’s 5-4 loss to the Phillies had the 2010 playoffs written all over it: holding a relatively-large lead late(ish) in the game, Jay Bruce misplaying a ball lost in the lights, the Phillies coming out the winners…

It wasn’t really until that eighth inning blunder by Jay that the déjà vu really set in, and up until then it was a relatively good game.

After trading runs in the first two innings, the Reds staked Johnny Cueto to a three-run lead with a Joey Votto single (his second RBI hit of the night), a Zack Cozart double, and a Billy Hamilton suicide squeeze.

And it really should have been enough, given how Cueto was pitching (six innings, two runs) and the run the bullpen had been on recently.  But then the awesome luck that has been plaguing the Reds struck again.

After a scoreless inning by Ryan Mattheus, Jumbo Diaz became victim of the wonderful defense that showed up last night (two errors by Todd Frazier) after getting the first two outs of the eighth.  Ryan Howard lined a hit to Jay in right field, but as he tried to play it, the ball bounced under his glove and rolled to the wall for a double.  Which would not have been an issue had Maikel Franco not followed with a just-fair home run to tie up the game at four.

And by that point, the Reds’ bats had quieted enough that it the game was going to go one of two ways: the Phillies walk off in the ninth, completing the comeback in gut-wrenching fashion, or the game lasts 15+ innings, with the Phillies walking off.  Because that’s what happens when the Reds play in Philly.

Last night, it was the former that played out.  After Jonathan Papelbon blew through the top of the Reds’ order on 10 pitches, Tony Cingrani came on with the hope of doing the same.  Except, that’s not quite what happened.

A lead-off double to Odubel Herrera got him in trouble early, putting his feet to the fire as he would have to try to prevent the run from scoring.  However, of course, that didn’t happen.  After a sacrifice bunt, Darin Ruf pinch hit for Papelbon and lined the game-winning hit to right field.

I guess it was too much to ask that the sweep of the Nationals would propel the Reds to an extended winning streak.  Or that the calendar turning over to June would not cause them to revert back to being an ineffective team.  And maybe this is just a blip, like that win against the Giants being a blip amongst a million losses.  But it is still frustrating to be watching this team play that kind of baseball, given how quickly they’ve seemed to fall off since the end of 2013.

Mike Leake is currently sitting with a 2-0 lead in the second game of the series, but since it’s against the Phillies nothing is certain.  Hopefully they can make amends for last night and hold on to the lead this time.

Go Reds!

Reds sweep Nationals behind trio of rookie starters

I did not see this weekend going the way it did – and I don’t think the Nationals did either.

The Reds have been scuffling, to put things mildly, and went into the weekend series having dropped 10 of 11 and just, in general, not playing inspired.  And on top of that, three rookies were scheduled to start for the Reds, being essentially thrown to the wolves, given how the Nationals have been playing (helped by Bryce Harper’s hot May).

Things got off to a good start, though, as Anthony DeSclafani followed up his start against the Indians with another good start, earning the win in Friday night’s game.  And the theme continued the rest of the weekend – which included me getting to finally see the Reds win this year (although I’m still 2-8…)!

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Saturday, Raicel Iglesias was making his fourth start for the team (I’ve seen three of them) and pitched alright, up until the sixth inning when he was approaching 100 pitches and tiring.  Up until then, he had held the Nationals to just two runs, and entered his last inning of work with the score tied 2-2 (Joey Votto had hit a 2-run shot in the third inning to put the Reds up early).

That’s when the wheels started falling off, and fell off fast.  He got two quick outs – with a single in between – but then was hurt by the bottom of the Nationals’ order: Danny Espinosa (single) and Michael Taylor (home run) to go from a no-decision to the pitcher of record.

But, where the Reds would have likely rolled over and been done in previous games, they fought back in the bottom of the inning to close the gap to a single run.  Joey led off with a walk, and Todd Frazier hit a ground-rule double to put two in scoring position.  Jay Bruce and Brayan Pena each drove in a run to chase Gio Gonzalez, but that was all…for that inning.

And while the Reds bullpen did what its been struggling to do all year (that is, keep the opponents at bay), the bats came alive in a 4-run eighth inning thanks to two-run doubles from Zack Cozart and Billy Hamilton (the bottom of the order, nonetheless) to put the Reds up for good.

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Sunday’s game had quite a similar feel, as the Reds took an early 2-0 lead on Todd’s 16th home run of the season, and Brandon Phillips’ 3rd, giving Michael Lorenzen a little bit of breathing room.  Like Iglesias, he did alright until he started tiring; for Lorenzen, the wheels fell off in the seventh.

While struggling with control a little bit, it didn’t really come back to haunt him until the his last inning of work, when he walked three guys to load the bases with just one out.  On came J.J. Hoover to try and prevent as much of the bleeding as possible.  Unfortunately, the play he was looking for – a double play – didn’t come until the second batter he faced came to the plate.  Which meant that the previous batter – Michael Taylor, again – had done something to put runs on the board.  This game, it was a 2-run single that tied up the game.

But, just like Saturday, the Reds’ bats stayed hot and they pounded out six runs in the bottom of the inning, while batting around and going through three Nationals’ pitchers.  That was one of the funnest innings to watch, so far this year, as it felt like, finally, the balls the Reds were hitting were finding holes instead of gloves, and runs were scoring without the aid of the long ball (three singles and two doubles).

And the bullpen, once again, shut down the Nationals for the next two innings, preserving another win where the Reds put up eight runs (hopefully not wasting offense for the coming week).  And, finally, winning a game on Sunday – which makes the drive back to Cleveland so much more enjoyable :-)

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The Reds head out to face the Phillies.  And hopefully take some of this momentum with them – no playing down to the competition, please! – as the calendar turns over.  And Johnny Cueto is making his first start in a couple of weeks, hopefully rested up and ready to pitch well.

Go Reds!

Bats missing in Cleveland, too

A bad start to the road trip turned into a bad overall roadtrip as the Reds rolled in Cleveland Friday night and left town dropping three (more) in a row, to stretch the losing streak to eight game.  (As in, they haven’t won since a week ago Thursday night against the Giants…)

Probably should have know that was how it was going to go early last week, as the Indians took three of four from the ChiSox before coming home to face the Reds, who had scored one run in two games against the Royals in their series leading up the weekend.

Friday night was a horrible game, with Mike Leake getting hit around, and knocked out early, while Carlos Carrasco continued the Indians’ run of good starts by keeping the Reds’ bats quiet after they jumped out to an early lead.  I admit that I found other things to watch that night, as whenever I turned on the game, bad things happened.  Which irritated me because of how little I get to see the Reds play, I was looking forward to at least a good game Friday night, if not a Reds win.]

Saturday afternoon I was treated to the former, but not the latter, as Anthony DeSclafani nearly out-dueled Corey Kluber in a 2-1 loss.  Kluber came in having struck out 30 in his last two games, so I was sure it was going to be another ugly game.  Instead, the Reds eeked out an early run and Disco returned to his April form by pitching through trouble for five innings.

Things turned in the sixth, however, as he tired and the Indians were seeing him for a third time.  After two quick outs, Jason Kipnis (who has been on fire this month) singled to start a rally.  After walking Carlos Santana, David Murphy drove in the game-tying run that suddenly had the Indians-half of the stadium getting loud.

He was done after seven, pitching an extremely good game, particularly compared to what his May has looked like, and handed things over to Tony Cingrani to try and bridge to the point where a closer would be needed (positive thinking, right?).  Instead, Cingrani struggled to get guys out and gave up the winning run on a one-out double by Kipnis, which about deflated the Reds-half of the stadium.  Cody Allen came on for the Tribe and got the three outs needed to get the save and secure the series win for Cleveland.

Sunday’s game was nearly a reprise of Friday’s, with the added drama that Johnny Cueto was skipped in favor of Raicel Iglesias due to “right elbow tightness” (often a precursor to Tommy John surgery, because of course).  Iglesias had pitched well against the Braves, but then had a couple of rough bullpen appearances in the meantime, so it was going to be a toss-up as to how things went.

And that turned out to be not-so-well.  He allowed two runs to score over three innings pitched, was a victim of his own wildness (three walks) but moreso of some terrible defense, as Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips both had bad plays (Joey’s wasn’t ruled an error) that led to the third-inning runs.  The Tribe added three more runs throughout the game – two on J.J. Hoover thanks to his own sloppy defensive play (not covering first) and a miscue by Brandon that cost them a double play, and one on Aroldis Chapman, because of course.

All the while, Trevor Bauer pretty much sat the Reds down in order for six innings.  The only real blemish on his pitching line was a seventh-inning solo home run by Marlon Byrd that kept the Reds from being shutout, but he almost matched Kluber with eight innings pitched, except as he tired he got into some trouble and Francona called on Mark Rzepczynski to bail him out.

There was a slight hint at a comeback when, with one out, Jay Bruce scored on a Brayan Pena double.  But Allen buckled down and pitched out of trouble to secure the win, extending the Tribe’s winstreak to six while sending the reeling Reds home without a win on the roadtrip.

They have since dropped a game to the Rockies (by a 5-4 count), so these couple weeks of not fun baseball seems to be continuing for the Reds.  And throwing in the possible injury to Cueto, and the decision to (finally) place Devin Mesoraco on the DL for his hip impingment, the season just seems to be unraveling right before our eyes.

I don’t even know if there is time for them to turn things around or not (it’s still May, after all), but I’d really settle right now for a stretch of good pitching, timely hitting, and good, close games.  (None of these blowouts, those are tiresome.)  Maybe they can quickly get things turned around on this homestand?

Go Reds!

Reds’ bats don’t make trip to KC

It was kind of the expected outcome, after they put up 8 runs Sunday, that the Reds would struggle a bit against the Royals.  But to score just 1 run over two games while collecting 13 hits en route to being swept in the short two-game series?  Didn’t quite expect that.

Tuesday night had the makings of a good game, on paper at least, as Johnny Cueto was matching up against Yordano Ventura.  Except that Cueto’s recent struggles continued (three runs over seven innings) while Ventura essentially shut down the Reds (4 hits over seven innings).

For a game that lasted just over two hours, it was hard to watch (follow) the whole thing, simply out of frustration with how different the two teams were playing.  The Reds best (and, really, only) chance to score came in the third, when Jay Bruce and Devin Mesoraco lead off with singles.  But then a sacrifice bunt (ugh) wasted an out, and they were left stranded on second and third.  Meanwhile the Royals managed to take advantage of scoring opportunities whenever they had them (Mike Moustakas mostly, he drove in two of the three Royals’ runs).

After such a lackluster game, I had a little bit of hope that last night’s game would have gone better.  Except for that Jason Marquis was pitching.  And as bad as he’d been pitching, it got even worse: he didn’t make it out of the fourth inning after giving up four runs (three in the fourth inning, when he got chased).

And things didn’t get much better when the bullpen came in: Ryan Mattheus closed out the fourth inning, then gave up a run in the fifth.  And after scoreless innings by Burke Badenhop and Michael Lorenzen, Raicel Iglesias gave up a couple more runs in his inning to essentially ice the game.

Except it really was over before that.  Unlike Tuesday, however, the Reds had more than one “real” opportunity to score.  Really, they had a chance to blow things open early on when they loaded the bases in the first inning, with just one out.  But, because it is how things go with this team, they failed to capitalize.

Although they had another chance to score, with two on and two outs in the fourth inning, it wasn’t until the seventh inning when they finally broke through.  Zack Cozart singled with two outs and Brandon Phillips, who had three hits in the game, doubled him home to break the extensive team scoreless streak.

Unfortunately, that was all they managed.  The whole series.  It’s starting to feel like, as inconsistent as the team has been since, really, mid-2013, it’s starting to ramp up big time.  Almost a snowballing effect.  The pitching and hitting almost never seem on the same page, and there are too many guys not hitting well for the offense itself to be clicking at all (instead of, say, three guys hot at the same time, a couple guys warm, and that being enough to cover the guys who are slumping, it feels like, maybe, two guys are hitting well and the rest of the lineup is ice cold).

The only good thing to come out of the series?  The fact that maybe, just maybe, Marquis’ starts will be given to Iglesias or Lorenzen.  I’ve come around to the opinion that, if there is going to be a pitcher I hold my breath while watching every time through the rotation, I’d rather it be one of the young guys with potential than a veteran who had a nice spring, but hasn’t done much since Opening Day.  Not that I’m completely ready to throw the towel in on the season (one nice, extended winning streak, or stretch of series wins with a couple of sweeps thrown in, wouldn’t hurt though), but it really is getting frustrating to watch.  Which I don’t like, because being able to watch (follow) my team play baseball in the evenings after work is something that I want to enjoy.

After tonight off, the Reds are in Cleveland for a weekend series filled up with some nice pitching matchups: Leake and Carrasco go tomorrow night, DeSclafani and Kluber Saturday evening (that could be really good or really tough to watch), and Cueto and Bauer close the series out on Sunday.  I have tickets to two of the three games (Saturday and Sunday) and hope to see some good ones, and hopefully at least one Reds victory.  (And, to be honest, am hoping to not see a million and a half strikeouts Saturday night, as Kluber has struck out 30 over his past two games and the Reds aren’t exactly adverse to striking out…)

Hopefully the off-day is good for them, and the bats have at least made the trip up north, since they clearly didn’t make it on the short hop west.

Go Reds!

Reds’ pitching fails against Giants

(To be fair, with the exception of Sunday, the bats failed miserably as well.)

After what seemed like a promising start to the (long) weekend series against the Giants, things didn’t quite go as hoped for the Reds.  Two blowouts, followed by a sort-of back-and-forth game that came down to a bullpen that could not keep the Giants’ bats quiet.

Jason Marquis’ totally awesome (sarcasm) Friday night start seemed to spark the Giants’ bats, as they scored 30-some runs over the last three games of the series, while holding the Reds to 2, 2, and 8 runs over those same games.

Which was quite unfortunate, because it was a beautiful weekend for baseball.

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Saturday night was Johnny Bench bobblehead night, which meant another day of waiting in line, following by laps around the ballpark, then the game.  Which I was looking forward to because Mike Leake was pitching!

Except he regressed quickly, and painfully, from what had been an extremely successful stretch of games, going back almost a month.  Starting with Brandon Belt, who is becoming quite the Reds killer, the middle part of the Giants’ order had their way with him – and every single other pitcher they faced, it seemed.

And even after the game ended – and 11-2 loss – the Giants’ bats just did not cool off.  Sunday afternoon, the game got started the same way, with the middle of the order hitting Anthony DeSclafani all over the place in the second inning.  Before fans knew it, the Reds were down 6-1 after three innings (and a rain delay, because of course) and it was feeling like the past couple of nights.

But then things got interesting, when the Reds loaded up the bases, then got two singles around a HBP to drive in three runs before the first out of the inning was recorded.  After a pitching change, Billy Hamilton hit a sac fly to drive in a fourth run to neutralize the second inning and put the Reds within a run.

Unfortunately, that was as close as they managed to get, as the bullpen could not keep the Giants off the board: Raisel Iglesias and Tony Cingrani each gave up a run in their two innings of work (with Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce getting those runs back via the home run), then Jumbo Diaz got into the game by letting Belt hit a(nother) home run, which was matched by a Joey Votto double (and some fun defense).

The Reds did lose a run when Skip Schumaker hit a ground-rule double with Billy on base – had the ball stayed in play, he’d have scored easily – and had really bad luck on fly balls.  Bruce missed a grand slam by inches, and so many other players (I lost count after about four, on Saturday) hit the ball hard, and deep to the outfield, but right where guys were standing, or able to easily get to.  (Which was the opposite as what the Giants were doing.)

So all the momentum coming in from the Braves series, and the Thursday game against the Giants, was undone quickly and made for yet another frustrating weekend.  Throwing in two off-days this week (thanks, schedulers), there is a lot of downtime for fans to dwell on the past weekend (but, hopefully, not the upcoming two-gamer in KC), but hopefully also extra time for the team to regroup.

Because this weekend they are in Cleveland and, maybe, hopefully, I will get to see my first Reds win of the season.  But first, they have to get past the Royals, which I don’t know that I necessarily have a good feeling about.  Except they are sending Johnny Cueto out to the mound, so there’s always a chance of good things happening.  As long as the bats make the trip (and the 8 runs yesterday aren’t their allotment for the week).

Go Reds!

Reds take series from Braves

After Monday night’s relative letdown, the Reds bounced back to take the final two games of the series from the Braves.

Last night was a little frustrating to watch/follow and Todd Frazier gave the Reds an early 2-run lead with his 10th home run of the season, but Anthony DeSclafani continued his recent struggles (second time through the league and all that) and made things interesting.

In the third inning, Kelly Johnson and Alberto Callaspo tied the game up with a double and sacrifice fly.  The Braves then took the lead in the next inning after Jace Pederson lead off with a double and came around to score with two outs on a Nick Markakis double.

It was looking like this game was going to be another in which the bats stayed (relatively) quiet and wasted a (relatively) decent pitching performance (3 runs over 6 innings).  Except the Braves pretended they were the Cubs in the seventh inning when they muffed a Zack Cozart bunt attempt to give the Reds an extra out to work with.  And, against all odds, they took advantage: Marlon Byrd tied up the game with a sacrifice fly that otherwise would have been the third out of the inning.

And that set the stage for some ninth-inning heroics.  After Jason Grilli recorded an out, Brayan Pena singled (his third hit of the game) and was replaced by Michael Lorenzen as a pinch runner.  Devin Mesoraco was brought on to pinch hit and doubled to left field with Lorenzen booking it around the bases.  And as Andrelton Simmons bobbled the relay through, Lorenzen crossed home plate and the Reds came out ahead by a score of 4-3.

This lead into tonight’s rubber match, which featured Rasiel Iglesias making his second start.  And he did much, much better against the Braves than the Cardinals, throwing 8 innings of 1-run baseball, including the first 5 innings without allowing a hit.

In the meantime, the Reds offense was putting up some runs on Braves starter Eric Stults.  It started with Joey Votto driving in a run in the first inning, and continued with a couple of home runs (Marlon Byrd, and Todd Frazier, because of course!).  Zack Cozart added an RBI of his own in the fifth, as the game cruised along.

It wasn’t until the eighth inning that the Braves got on the board, when Jay Bruce misplayed a Pedro Ciriaco hit into a triple.  With only one out, it was almost a given that he would score, which happened when Markakis grounded out.  But that was really the only blemish on Iglesias’ line, as he only allowed two hits (the other was Eric Young, Jr.’s sixth inning single to break up the no hitter) and worked around three walks.

The game, and series, ended with Tony Cingrani throwing 11 pitches to sit down the three batters he faced in the ninth inning.  In the end, the 5-1 victory gave them a win in the series, and the season series, and hopefully provides some momentum going into the four-game set with the Giants this weekend.

Go Reds!

Missed chances haunt Reds

So coming off a weekend that saw the Reds drop two of three (and three of their last four), and the Braves in a little skid of their own, it was just a question of which side would budge first in game 1 of the series.

In the end, it came down to a failure (of both teams) to break things open when given the chance, and one misstep by the Reds bullpen, for the Braves to come out ahead in a 2-1 pitchers duel.

Unlike the last time they matched up, where Mike Leake was awesome and Shelby Miller not so much, both pitchers threw relatively well last night: Leake allowed one run over six innings, Miller 1 over seven.

It was not without their own problems, however.  Miller was victimized first, and early, as he faced a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the second inning that would have given the Reds a chance to blow the game open.  But, it’s the Reds, so of course they managed to get one run out of it: a Tucker Barnhart sacrifice fly to left center field.

And this came back to hurt them, as Miller settled in to pitch five more scoreless innings (four of which were the 1-2-3 variety, because this offense :-\ ).

Luckily, Leake was (almost) just as good, keeping the Braves off the board while the ESPN announcers were heaping lots of praise on him (love that).  It wasn’t until the fourth inning when his scoreless streak (dating back to his start against the Braves last weekend) was broken.  By Andrelton Simmons, of course, who hit a lead-off home run to tie the game at 1.

Leake wasn’t quite as sharp as Miller in the middle innings of the game: while the Reds were failing to get on base, the Braves were failing to capitalize (it was almost like watching two sides of the same team).  They loaded the bases up against Leake in the fourth inning, after Simmons’ homer, but failed to drive anyone in.  And they did it again in the sixth, with the help of the replay crew not overturning an out call at the plate.

It was looking like this rain-delayed affair was going to head into extra innings (and I would miss the end of the game because I was going to bed after nine, regardless).  Except that Aroldis Chapman seems to be starting his yearly brief run of looking human and being entirely too hittable.  Sunday, it was allowing a walk-off hit with two outs against the ChiSox, last night he only got one out before getting into trouble

And it was, of course, thanks to a bench player who came in as a pinch hitter: Phil Gosselin, whose name I recognize somewhat, suggesting he’s probably done this to the Reds before.  He watched two sliders go past him, then jumped on a fastball up the middle to reach base with one out.  A Nick Markakis single moved him to second, then he stole third easily on Chapman (this is a problem), setting up the winning play of the game – a wild pitch that sailed to the backstop, fielded by a slipping Barnhart who was unable to even attempt a throw to Chapman covering home.

Ballgame.

Game 2 is underway tonight, all tied up at 2-apiece, so it’s looking like another case of “which team will budge first?”  I just hope whichever team does it, does it early on to avoid the stress that last night’s game had going for it.

Go Reds!

Lorenzen earns first MLB win

Michael Lorenzen’s second start went a lot better than his first, culminating in a 7-1 Reds victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates to kick off the penultimate series of the road trip.

Like his first game, he was victimized by the home run.  But unlike that game, only one Pirates player took him yard: Starling Marte, in the second inning, to drive in and score the Pirates only run of the game.

The biggest trouble he found himself in was in the fourth inning, when his second time through the order, with two outs, he loaded up the bases with a single and two walks to the middle of the Pirates’ order (Marte, Alvarez, Kang).  He also worked himself into trouble in the seventh, as he was running out of steam, letting the first two batters he faced reach base before being replaced by Jumbo Diaz, who took advantage of an inning-ending double play from the second batter he faced, Corey Hart, to avert damage.

In the meantime, the Reds’ bats were making up for Sunday’s pathetic showing against the Braves, getting out to a 2-run lead early thanks to Todd Frazier’s ninth home run of the season, and a Brayan Pena double play that drove in a non-RBI run.

Marlon Byrd added on two more – of his total of four for the game – on a two-run homer in the next inning, which was more than enough with how Lorenzen, and the bullpen arms that followed him, were pitching.

But in the spirit of wasting offense (but hopefully not), the Reds piled on in the ninth inning when Antonio Bastardo came on to pitch.  Three runs later – a Billy Hamilton RBI single, and the Byrd double to clear the bases – the Reds were up 7-1.

And the box score was relatively balanced out, with seven starters getting a hit, and the top 5 spots in the lineup getting two, which was nice to see after how helpless they looked against Juilo Teheran Sunday.  And hopefully that continues a bit longer than just the one game, tonight…

Although up 6 runs by the time the bottom of the ninth rolled around, they were only up three to start the inning, so Aroldis Chapman had been up getting ready.  And he ultimately got the call to try and end the game.  It wasn’t his usual sharp outing, as he walked the base loaded before managing to get out of the inning and preserve the lead, but luckily that cushion was there just in case something bad had happened.  (Because something like that would just go along so well with the past few days of Reds news.)

The series continues tomorrow with Mike Leake facing Garret Cole, looking to reprise his performance from last Thursday.  And hopefully he will get some sort of offensive support (despite the outburst tonight that makes me worry a little that he won’t).  Because banking a few wins now would be nice, given some of the teams they will be facing the end of this month, and next month.

Go Reds!

Unexpectedly-expectedly Reds split series with Braves

After getting past Shelby Miller Thursday night, I had some relatively high hopes for the Reds this weekend, sending Anthony DeSclafani and Johnny Cueto to the mound in games bracketing a Jason Marquis start.

Unfortunately, things went exactly the opposite as expected: instead of taking 2 of those three games, the only game they managed to win was Marquis’ start.  Because of course.

It wasn’t for lack of effort.  Friday night DeSclafani was staked to a 3-0 lead, thanks in part to Brandon Phillips driving in 2 runs in the first inning, before immediate coughing up four runs over the fourth and fifth innings.  Including a 2-RBI double to Atlanta’s starter Mike Foltynewicz.  It was easily his worst outing of the season – last Sunday he struggled just in the one inning, Friday it was dancing around 4 hits and 5 (5!) walks.  Hopefully it is just a case of “guys now have film on him, time for him to adjust” or something, a regression back to a mean, and not “he’ll never get back to where he was in April.”  Because the Reds really need him in the rotation, with Homer broken and all.

I literally slept all the way through the game Saturday night.  It was an early – and long – day for me running errands to get things done before traveling next weekend, without time to take a nap.  So by dinner, when I settled in to watch Star Wars (it’s Star Wars weekend, after all), I was so close to hitting the wall I’d been avoiding.  And the movie hadn’t gotten to the Cantina scene before I was all-but passed out.

I woke up to a text from a Braves-fan friend/acquaintance, who I’d exchanged some friendly banter with the night before, including the assurance that the Braves would have no problem beating Marquis, saying “told ya so” in reference to the Braves making meh pitchers look like Cy Young candidates.

And I was kind of upset I had opted for Star Wars over baseball, in looking at the box score – so many home runs!  And two (TWO!) Jay Bruce triples!

But that kind of run support – 8 runs – in the presence of a just-barely-quality start (3 runs over 6 1/3 innings) further adds to Marquis’ position as Exhibit A why W-L record alone is not good for evaluating pitchers.  Seriously, 3-1 with a 5+ ERA?  Johnny Cueto (and Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey c. 2013, and Aaron Harang…) would like a word with the bats.

I predicted that that offensive outburst would be followed up by…pretty much what happened.  With Johnny Cueto entering Sunday’s game having not won yet at Turner Field (and on a 3-game winning streak), versus a struggling Julio Teheran (who has excellent numbers against the Reds), it was a change to change the storyline.

Except, that didn’t happen.   Opting to nap outside to catch some rays and take advantage of a rare, beautiful Sunday afternoon, I was following the game on my phone and, well, got irritated every time a game push-update dinged.

First, an RBI double by Freddie Freeman.  Which, alright, 1 run would not have been difficult to overcome.  Then Kelly Johnson hit his second 2-run home run of the series to put the Reds down 3-0 early.  Cueto only semi-settled in from there – giving up a Johnny Gomes (yes, that Johnny Gomes…I do miss the crazy energy he brought to the team) solo home run and a Connor Maybin RBI single to put the Reds in a 5-0 hole after six innings.

While Teheran did what most struggling pitchers do against the Reds – get things set right.  He allowed 3 hits and 2 walks over his six innings pitched, but only faced one batter with runners in scoring position all afternoon.  It was a game that, while part of me wished I could have watched it (instead of following online), would have been far to frustrating to actually watch, simply because of the ineptitude of the bats.  (To compare with Marquis, Cueto is 2-3 with a 2.72 ERA.  In terms of run-support, Marquis’ wins have come with 6+ runs of support, while Cueto had failed to have more than 5 runs scored for him.  It really is like Aaron Harang all over again…)

And to make things worse, Zack Cozart has become the Reds’ most recent victim of injury, leaving the game early with a hand injury after misplaying a ground ball a half-inning after being hit on the same hand by a pitch.  Hopefully it is one of those things where the day off is enough for him to get back into game action.

Divisional play starts back up (because the Reds haven’t played enough divisional games yet so far this season) as they head to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates for the first time since Opening Week.  Michael Lorenzen is slated to make his second start – and hopefully improve over his so-so debut – against the Pirates Jeff Locke.  And someone better make sure the bats make the trip back up north.

Go Reds!

Leake does it all in win over Braves

The Reds first foray into non-divisional play for the 2015 season concluded in a 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves as Mike Leake out pitched former-Cardinal Shelby Miller to earn his first win on the season.

It was a game that really had three distinct phases.

The first five innings was the kind of game that was sort of expected, where the starters traded zeros.  Leake allowed two hits – his only two hits allowed in the game – in innings 2 and 3, while Miller struggled a little more, with at least one base runner allowed in each of innings 3, 4, and 5.  It gave the impression that this was going to be one of those games where whichever team could scrape across a run would be the team that won.

And it was the sixth inning when the game changed appearance.  After Billy Hamilton reached on a third-strike passed ball, he advanced to second on a Zack Cozart single and scored on a Joey Votto double (his second of the night).  The Reds had a chance for more, with Miller intentionally walking Jay Bruce to load the bases with one out.  But Marlon Byrd and Skip Schumaker failed to come through, leaving the Reds up just 1-0.

But with the way Leake was pitching, that didn’t matter, as he cruised through his final three innings of work.  And was part of a back-to-back home run inning in the seventh, following a lead-off homer by Tucker Barnhardt.  Which would be the eighth and ninth hitters in the Reds’ lineup, and two guys who kind of aren’t known for their power.

The final phase of the game was the bullpen phase.  Miller was lifted after seven innings, and his replacements, Donnie Veal and Ian Thomas, both were greeted by big swings of the bat.  In the eighth, Todd Frazier led off with his seventh homer of the season, while Hamilton lead off the ninth with his second.

That gave the Reds, who called on Tony Cingrani for the ninth inning, a 5-run cushion to work with.  And although Cingrani struggled a little – giving up two hits, and walking one, including an RBI double to Freddie Freeman that wrecked the shut out – he got through the ninth and the Reds captured game 1 of the 4-game weekend series.

The unfortunate news, however, that put a bit of a damper on some of the excitement after last night’s game was that Homer Bailey is going to need Tommy John surgery.  He was recovering from flexor mass (forearm) surgery last year, and was scratched from his previous start with an elbow strain (which means TJS was not a surprise, per se).  It’s just unfortunate because he was, by all accounts, making good progress with no setbacks, then this.  Which is such a Reds thing right now, that of course it was going to happen.  Hopefully everything goes well with this surgery, and he can get himself rehabbed and back into the rotation for next season!

The Reds are just now back underway in Atlanta, hoping to get May off to a good start behind Anthony DeSclafani by making it two-in-a-row on this road trip.

Go Reds!

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