UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while wondering why Fox didn’t give us a shot of Derby Lane with all those touristy views they gave us in St. Petersburg the last three days. Derby Lane, the emporium of greyhound racing in the U.S., reminds me of the greyhound named after me and Chicago Cubs assistant general manager Gary Hughes. Gary’s Real McCoy was an All-American sprinter, but on the one day I got to see him run he finished seventh (out of eight). Too much pressure, I guess.
Who was that guy pitching for the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday? He wore No. 36 and he looked a lot like Edinson Volquez, except on the mound against the Tampa Bay Rays.
This Volquez impersonator was superb during the Reds’ 4-3 victory, enabling them to take two of three from the Rays, Cincinnati’s first interleague series win after losing the first four. This Volquez didn’t overthrow and try to strike out the world.
This Volquez was a pitcher, not a thrower. This Volquez threw strikes instead of falling behind on every hitter he faced. This Volquez didn’t walk the world.
THIS VOLQUEZ was a calm, poised, in-control major-league pitcher, the pitcher he was three years ago when he won 17 games and made the All-Star team.
Fox broadcaster Chris Welsh said Volquez had a closed-door conversation over the weekend in manager Dusty Baker’s office with Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer when the team was in Baltimore.
His message was something like, “With hyour stuff, keep it simple, stupid.” And it clicked. Volqeuz was a wise and intelligent pitcher on this day.
With a smooth, one-piece delivery, Volquez held the Rays hitless until left-hander Casey Kotchman poked a weak ground ball single to left field to lead off the fifth.
Volquez pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up three runs and four hits while walking only three and striking out seven - without really trying to strike everybody out.
And it was needed because the Reds were facing James Shields, who had pitched three straight complete games and in three interleague games was 3-0 with a 0.33 ERA.
The Reds didn’t exactly cuff him around, either. For his seven innings he struck out 10 Reds, who struck out 14 times during the game, four by Jay Bruce.
IT WAS ONE big blow that determined this one, a home run struck by Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan, who missed the last four games with back spasms. The pain this day was delivered by Hanigan to Shields.
It came in the fourth when Joey Votto opened the inning with a single and Scott Rolen, 0 for 10 in the series and playing a rare day game after a night game, also singled.
It looked hopeless, though, because Sheield struck out Bruce on three pitches and also struck out Jonny Gomes.
Two outs, two on - and Hannigan delievered a three-run blast, his third homer and first since he hit two in one game against Milwaukee during the opening series of the season.
THE RAYS scored twice in the sixth. With one out, Johnny Damon singled, his 2,654th hit to pass Ted Williams on the all-time list. Volquez walked Ben Zobrist.
Then came a dubious blooper down the right field line by Evan Longoria that fell for a double and scored two runs and cut the lead to 3-2. And the tying run was on second with one out. Matt Joyce lined hard to second base, but Brandon Phillips caught it and doubled Longoria off second.
The Reds scored an important run in the seventh on a momentary lapse by Shields. He issued his only two walks of the game, back-to-backers to open the inning to Gomes and Hanigan.
Once again the next two Reds made outs, Stubbs when he tried to sacrifice bunt and hit into a force play, and Paul Janish on a strikeout.
But Fred Lewis delivered a two-out single to left, scoring a run for a 4-2 lead. And maybe the Reds have found their leadoff hitter in Lewis, who has been on base 21 times in his last 38 plate appearances.
That run was needed when Volquez gave up a one-out home run in the seventh to B.J. Upton, who was 0 for 9 at the time and put the score at 4-3.
Volquez left at that moment, replaced by Logan Ondrusek, whose second pitch in the ninth inning Tuesday was rocked for a game-winning walk-off home run by Longoria.
This time Ondrusek retired five straight and turned it over to closer Coco Corero, who gave up a one-out single in the ninth to Joyce, then ended it with a double play started by Janish.
So, the Reds were 3-3 on their two-city trip to Baltjmore and Tampa Bay. After a day off Thursday, they finish interleague play with three games in Great American Ball Park this weekend against the Cleveland Indians, who swept three from the Reds in Cleveland in mid-May.
AND DON’T forget those Ask Hal questions for Sunday. Need them now, by noon Thursday. Send them to email@example.com.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while wishing Logan Ondrusek had faced Eva Longoria instead of Evan Longoria in the ninth inning Tuesday night as the Cincinnati Reds lost a tear-inducer to the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3. But I hear Eva Longoria is a heavy-hitter, too.
As advertised and promised, the Johnny Cueto-David Price match-up was a pitching clinic. The Price was right and Cueto was Johnny-on-the-spot.
As so often happens, though, neither pitcher was around at the finish when the game was decided, a lead-off walk-off game-winning home run by Longoria, the second time on this trip that the Reds lost on a walk-off home run (Derrek Lee did it to them in Baltimore).
IT LOOKED as if the Reds wouldn’t score on this night. Price retired the first 14 Reds until Jonny Gomes reached on an error with two outs in the fifth (It should have been a hit, the ball was hit so hard at the shortstop. But official scorers won’t rule anything a hit unless it is a clean hit).
The next batter, Ramon Hernandez, singled sharply to right field for the first hit. But Drew Stubbs struck out on three pitches.
Meanwhile, Cueto retired the first seven before issuing a walk to Sam Fuld with one out in the third.
Tampa Bay’s first hit was a leadoff home run by Johnny Damon in the fourth and it looked as if that 1-0 score would withstand the game’s entirety.
PRICE WAS a strikeout machine, throwing mostly fastballs (29 of his first 30 pitches were fastballs) against a fastball-hitting team.
But the Reds broke through in the eighth with two runs. Stubbs, who had struck out his first two times, ripped a triple over center fielder B.J. Upton’s head. Edgar Renteria tied it with a single to left. Chris Heisey, asked to bunt, failed miserably on his first two efforts, then struck out. Then Price struck out Brandon Phillips, his 12th strikeout.
Joey Votto, who hadn’t touched a pitch while striking out twice and walking once, slashed a 0-and-2 double to score Renteria to give the Reds and Cueto a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, Cueto struck out Upton, but John Jaso singled and Fuld singled. Cueto got the second out and manager Dusty Baker decided to bring in left-hander Bill Bray to face left-hander Johnny Damon. Cueto had not thrown 100 pitches and he didn’t want to come out, but Baker wanted the lefty-lefty match-up.
Bray made Damon look bad with two outside pitches, but on a third outside pitch Damon reached out and poked a blooper to left. Shortstop Renteria lost it in the lights and Heisey tried to make a diving catch, but it ticked off the tip of his glove and both runners scored for a 3-2 Rays lead.
Game over? Not yet.
Jay Bruce, who hadn’t homered since June 1, led the ninth against closer Kyle Farnsworth with a home run over the 410 sign in center. At the time, Farnsworth was 16 for 17 in saves with a 2-1 record and a 1.99 ERA. He had given up only one home run.
So it was a 3-3 tie entering the bottom of the ninth and Longoria reversed Ondrusek’s second pitch into the left field seats. At the time, the struggling Longoria hadn’t had a hit in the series.
He began the series not wearing batting gloves. When that didn’t work, he put on a pair for his at-bat in the seventh and flied deep to left. Still wearing his work gloves, he cleared the left field wall in the ninth.
CUETO PITCHED 7 2/3 innings and gave up three runs (two coming when Bray was pitching), four hits, walked one and struck out six.
For his effort he was handed a no-decision.
Defensively, third baseman Scott Rolen made three straight amazing plays in the fifth inning.
So the series is tied at a game apiece, with Edinson Volquez drawing Wednesday afternoon’s assignment to see if the Reds can win their first interleague series of the year after losing their first four. It won’t be easy. Tampa Bay pitcher James Shield is even better than Price.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while remembering the Reds’ last trip to St. Petersburg in 2003 when they stayed at a hotel reputed to be haunted and pitcher Scott Williamson said he saw a ghost in his room. Somebody asked him if it was Luis Apparition.
A funny thing happened to the Cincinnati Reds Monday night in the dump they call Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays: they won the first game of an interleague series.
It was their fifth interleague series of the year and the first time they won the first game, thanks to Mike Leake and some potent batwork that produced a 5-0 victory.
Leake held the Rays to no runs and four hits, with two walkd and three strikeouts for his six innings.
Sam LeCure, the man who should replace Edinson Volquez in the starting rotation (my opinion), pitched two scoreless innings and Nick Masset closed it out in the ninth.
AND IF I’M Tampa Bay pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, I’d be changing my deodorant or cologne. The 24-year-old rookie has now lost four straight and in those four games the Rays have scored one run.
On Monday, Hellickson struck out nine Reds in six innings, but all it did was add wear and tear on his young arm.
And the Rays are not a feeble offensive team. In their previous game, they beat the Houston Astros, 14-10. They had won four straight and eight of nine and owned the fourth best record in baseball behind Philadelphia, the New York Yankees and Boston. And the Rays owned the best interleague record this season, 9-3 when the night began to Cincinnati’s 3-9. But Tampa Bay was 0-6 all-time in games against the Reds.
But this was a night during which everything went the Reds’ way, aided by one of the best players in baseball, Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria.
Longoria made a two-out error in the fourth that enabled the Reds to score a run. And the Rays had only one real rally, that coming in the sixth when Ben Zobrist doubled and Longoria walked to open the inning.
Matt Joyce lined one deep to left that looked as if it might fall for extra bases, so Longoria took off from first. Center fielder Drew Stubbs chased down the ball and Longoria ran past Zobrist, who was standing near second base. So Longoria was called out for passing a base runner, a rare big-league occurrence.
AND FOR ONCE it was the Reds scoring in the first inning instead of the opposition.
Freddie Lewis, playing left field and batting leadoff, reached base his first three times up and led the first inning with a single. Brandon Phillips, brandishing a bat as hot as a coke furnace (four hits), doubled to score Lewis and extend his hitting streak to seven games. Jay Bruce, 4 for 34 at the time, singled to right to score Phillips and make it 2-0-.
Lewis had two hits and a walk and should have had three hits, but Tampa Bay left fielder Sam Fuld made a stupendous back-to-the-infield snag of a long drive by Lewis.
Jonny Gomes, the designated hitter, received a loud ovation when he came to bat for the first time because he was hugely popular in Tampa Bay after he was the team’s No. 1 draft pick and played for the (Devil) Rays for six years.
They even cheered him in the fourth when he opened the inning with his 11th home run. The Reds scored another run in the inning on Longoria’s error and back-to-back hits by Lewis and Phillips to make it 4-0.
The fifth run arrived in the seventh when Phillips singled again, Joey Votto singled and second baseman Zobrist permitted a double play ball to roll between his legs and into right field for an error.
AND BECAUSE Milwaukee, St. Louis and Pittsburgh were idle Monday, the Reds picked up a half-game on everybody, leaving them 3 ½ games behind first place Milwaukee and a half-game ahead of fourth-place Pittsburgh.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, missing the Maryland crabcakes in Baltimore’s inner harbor and missing an invitation from the curator of the Babe Ruth Museum for a personal tour and an offer to swing one of the bat’s Ruth used in 1927 when he hit 60 home runs.
It looked as if the Baltimore Orioles were swinging Babe Ruth bats this weekend when they hit nine home runs off Reds’ pitching to win two of three in Camden Yards.
And it seems as if once a week the Reds score in double figures, but spend the rest of the week scouring the Yellow Pages for runs. Hint: They’re listed under ‘R.’
ON SATURDAY, the Reds ripped five homers (perhaps they borrowed Ruth’s bat?) and won, 10-5. Then on Sunday, facing a pitcher who came into the game with a 2-9 record, the Reds spent the afternoon leaving the basepaths littered with footprints, but not scoring enough.
Two of their runs came when Baltimore pitchers walked four straight batters.
They lost, 7-5, and put runners on base in every inning, but they stranded 14. For the series, the Reds left 31 runners standing on bases, begging to be driven home.
BALTIMORE STARTER Jeremy Guthrie, he of the 2-9 record, has many losses because the Orioles don’t score runs for him, scoring the ninth least runs for an American League starting pitcher.
The O’s solved that problem for Guthrie by reaching Homer Bailey for five runs and building a 5-0 lead by the fourth inning.
It was Bailey’s first start after coming off the disabled list and he was not sharp, more like a dull razor.
But the defense didn’t help when he gave up four runs in the fourth inning. The rally started when the first batter, Adam Jones, lifted a pop-up to the infield.
First baseman Joey Votto, not wearing sun glasses, lost the ball. Bailey, realizing at the last instant that Votto couldn’t see it, made a late dive but missed and it plopped in the grass for a dubious single.
After that, Votto wore sun glasses — and why do major leaguer players constantly do that? They don’t wear sun glasses on a sunny day until after the fact, until after they mess up.
OF COURSE the next batter, Pedro Guerrero, singled. The third batter, Derrek Lee homered to almost the same spot he homered Friday night, a 12th-inning game-ending walk-off home run.
From there, the Reds chipped away. They scored one in the fifth when Brandon Phillips homered. They scored three in the sixth on Chris Heisey’s single for one run and two more on bases-loaded walks to make it 5-4.
But they left the bases loaded when Drew Stubbs grounded into a force. Baltimore relief pitcher Jim Johnson had thrown 11 pitches, 10 for balls, when Stubbs swung (why, why, why???) at a 1-0 pitch to hit into the inning-ending force play.
BUT THE ORIOLES retrieved a run in their sixth off Jose Arredondo on a two-out single by Nick Makakis, who has a 16-game hitting streak. And the Orioles made it 7-4 in the seventh off Aroldis Chapman.
Chapman returned to the team from the DL for this trip and made his first appearance Ssturday night in a non-pressure situation. With the Reds up by five, he pitched the ninth and struck out the side.
On Sunday he struck out the first two — five strikeouts in a row — but with two outs, Luke Scott hit the first home run hit off Aroldis Chapman in the majors.
Ramon Hernandez homered to lead off the ninth against O’s closer Kevin Gregg before Miguel Cairo, pinch-hitter Scott Rolen and Heisey all went down harmlessly.
Rolen had his regular day off after a night game and Jay Bruce was out of the lineup with the flu.
IF RE-ALIGNMENT happens, Reds fans best pray their favorite team isn’t relocated into the American League.
The Reds have played four interleague series and lost all four — 0-3 in Cleveland, 1-2 at home with Toronto, 1-2 at home with New York and 1-2 in Baltimore. They have three more the next three days at Tampa Bay, then three at home against Cleveland.
AND IT IS time, right now, for the Reds to get their act in high gear. The Milwaukee Brewers are starting to step it up. They lead the second place Cardinals by three games, while the third/fourth place Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates are four games behind. Manager Dusty Baker talks about keeping teams in sight, not letting them disappear over the hill, but the Brewers are showing their tail lights.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, sharing the chairs with two loyal participants on my FoxSportsOhio.com chats, Nate from Toledo and Scott from Columbus — and thanks for the Montecristo, Nate, and thanks for offering to help pay for the pizza, Scott. Enjoyed the company, guys.
Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker loves Derek Lee. Well, he USED to love Derek Lee — until Friday night.
Lee played first base when Baker managed the Chicago Cubs and Dusty still fondly calls him D-Lee.
I shudder to think what Baker might be calling him tonight. Lee, now a first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, hit a game-winning walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th off Jose Arredondo to beat the Reds, 5-4.
That, though, didn’t beat the Reds.
Edinson Volquez beat the Reds. And the Reds beat themselves.
And here is a note I’ll put in Baker’s suggestion box when he isn’t looking: Take Volquez out of the rotation and put Sam LeCure in it.
Volquez was Vintage Volquez — again. He was monotonously consistent, consisten at running counts to 3-and-2 and running up hs pitch count.
He left after 4 1/3 innings, having used up 101 pitches while giving up four runs, seven hits and five walks — four walks in the first two innings
THAT’S WHEN Baker brought in LeCure — with one out in the fifth inning with two on and one out. LeCure struck out catcher Matt Wieters, who already had two doubles off Volquez. Mark Reynolds was walkedi intentionally to fill the bases and LeCure struck out rookie Blake Davis, who had his first major-league hit and first major-league RBI off Volquez in the second.
LeCure then pitched a 1-2-3 inning against the top of the O’s order in the sixth.
The Reds took Volquez off the hook by battling back to tie it, 4-4, in the sixth.
They scored three in the fifth. Ramon Hernandez singled and Chris Heisey drew a one-out walk. Brandon Phillips doubled for two runs and Votto doubled for another.
AND THEY TIED it in the sixth on a double by Jonny Gomes, who took third on a wild pitch and scored on a broken bat single to left by Paul Janish.
Then the Reds’ bats went dormant, as dead as Jimmy Hoffa.
IN THE SEVENTH, with two outs, Scott Rolen singled to center and Jay Bruce hit one over the center fielder’s head, a sure-fire run. But the fire went out when the ball bounced over the wall for a ground rule double and Rolen, who would have scored easily if the ball had stayed in play, had to stop at third. Gomes grounded out to end that threat.
Rolen led the 10th inning with a single and Baker decided to let slump-wrapped Jay Bruce to swing away instead of sacrifice. Bruce struck out, Gomes flied to center and Drew Stubbs took a called third strike as Rolen remained at first base, anchored as solidly as the Statue of Liberty.
BRANDON PHILLIPS opened the top of the 12th with a bloop single to right. With two outs, Bruce drove one to the outfield and third base coach Mark Berry decided it was time to gamble for the go-ahead run.
He was a gambler without a green eye shade and rolled up sleeves as he waved Votto homeward. The throw beat Votto by the distance between the Chesapeake Bay and home plate, an easy out to end the inning.
Four pitches later, the game was over. Facing Arredondo, Lee worked the count to 1-and-2 and drove the next fastball into the left field seats.
The Reds had 12 hits, two each by Phillips, Rolen and Hernandez, but stranded 10 and didn’t score over last six innings.
It was another bad loss and the post-game Maryland crabcakes tasted pretty bad.Tweet
CINCINNATI — Drew Stubbs was removed from the leadoff spot for Wednesday afternoon’s game, but it was temporary. Real temporary.
He was completely out of the lineup for the second game after the Reds dropped a 4-2 decision to the New York Yankees — even though a Stubbs single was one of only four hits the Reds put together.
In Stubbs’ spot for the night game, Manager Dusty Baker inserted Chris Heisey in center field and in the leadoff spot.
What a move, what a move, what move.
For the hit-starved and run-starved Reds, Heisey’s at-bat to lead off the first inning for the Reds, was like prying the first olive out of a bottle. Once the first olive rolls out, the rest pour out easily.
Heisey homered to lead the bottom of the first, then homered two more times, and the olives/runs/hits by the Reds flew all over the park — 14 hits in a 10-2 victory.
AND HEISEY, the drum major of this hit parade with his five RBI and four runs, led a band that included two hits by Paul Janish, two hits that included a home run by Jonny Gomes (two hits and two hits Ramon Hernandez.
AND AIM SOME credit Johnny Cueto’s way, too. Cueto pitched seven innings and held the Yankees to one run (a home run in the second), two hits, two walks, six strikeouts and one wild pitch.
Cueto displayed his new herky-jerky Luis Tiant-type wind-up, nearly turning his back to the hitters before delivering. What was that?
“Johnny being Johnny,” said Baker. “If it works and you can hide that ball, that’s great because most pitchers are going to the same conventional wind-up and it makes it a lot easier to pick the ball up. Back in our day, the guys you didn’t like to face were the guys with somewhat unconventional wind-ups. I don’t know where he came up with it, but it sure is working.”
Cueto, smiling broadly throughout a post-game interview, said of his delivery, “I’m learning something new every day in the big leagues, so now I am trying to give some trickiness to the hitters.”
BAKER INDICATED that Stubbs might bat lower in the order when the Reds play their next six games on the road against American League teams and will use the dreaded DH.
“We’ll be using Jonny Gomes mostly as the designated hitter, so that leaves left field to Freddie Lewis and Chris Heisey, so we can bat them leadoff,” said Baker.
“This should relieve a little pressure from Stubbs (2 for 16) and Freddie Lewis has swung the bat well lately (7 for 9 with three doubles and two RBI during a five-game hitting streak before Wednesday),” said Baker. “When you are scuffling in the leadoff spot, those ABs add up rather quickly, especially if you aren’t walking much.
“It’s a temporary thing and we’ll see how it goes for interleague play,” Baker added. “Most of these things come to you when you’re trying to sleep and that’s when things come to you. I’m always trying to figure something out, the best option, or whatever, and that’s a good time.”
Somehow Baker needed to dream up some runs and hits. Before Wednesday night’s game, if runs were cereal flakes the Reds wouldn’t have enough to fill a table spoon — until the second-game explosion against Brian Gordon, making only his second major-league start.
Brian Gordon? That’s why Heisey was in the lineup.
The Great Masses of baseball fans scream for Heisey to play every day, not realizing that Baker is protecting the 26-year-old second-year player.
When Baker spots a pitcher who fits Heisey’s swing and approach, Heisey plays. When there is a pitcher who will make Heisey look foolish most of the time, Heisey sits.
“That pitcher tonight (Gordon) was the perfect fit for Heisey — he doesn’t throw hard and he pitches up. It’s the pitchers who throw low and away that give Heisey trouble.”
In the first game, the Reds were down 2-0 in the fifth inning, the Reds scraped together two runs on an errant throw home and a sacrifice fly to tie it, 2-2. But in the next half inning, Robinson Canoe blooped a single and Mike Leake gave up a two-run home run to Jorge Posada.
Ball game. Reds lose the first game, 4-2.
“You are on thin ice in close games when you aren’t clicking on offense,” said Baker. “We’ve done a good job of keeping them in the ballpark and Posada’s was the first one but a costly one. They got a jam-job hit to left and a home run — a bloop and a blast and that was it.”
THE REDS HAD few bloops and a lot of blasts in the 10-2 second-game massacre.
HOMER BAILEY AND Aroldis Chapman passed their last tests at Class AAA Louisville and are expected to join the Reds soon — Chapman for the upcoming road trip and Bailey will pitch Sunday in Baltimore. It was Travis Wood’s turn to pitch Sunday, but he was optioned to Louisville Wednesday to make room for the activation of pitcher Sam LeCure. LeCure will pitch out of the bullpen and pitched the ninth inning of Wednesday afternoon’s game.
The Bats lost Tuesday, 6-3, to Pawtucket, but it wasn’t the fault of either Bailey or Chapman. Bailey started and went six innings, giving up three runs and eight hits while walking only one and striking out three. Chapman pitched the seventh and went 1-2-3 with a strikeout.
“Bryan Price (pitching coach) talked to Ted Power (Louisville pitching coach) and got verbal confirmation that they both threw the ball well,” said Baker. “That’s what I told Chapman — to go down there and pitch well and he’d have a chance to come back soon. If he didn’t throw well, he’d have to stay there and earn his way back. And that’s what he did.
“I told him straight up that just because he is Chapman, just because he is big for marketing, our decision will be on how he pitches,” Baker added.
“All this increases our problem as to what to do and who to send out,” said Baker. “Somebody who doesn’t deserve to go with have to go. But they’ll be able to help us again in the near future.”
EVERYBODY WAS calling Wednesday’s two games a doubleheader. Not so. Not in the true sense of what a doubleheader actually is.
What the Reds and New York Yankees did Wednesday was play two games in one day. It was NOT a doubleheader.
They played a game at 12:35, then cleared out the stadium and reopened the gates at 5:20 p.m. for a new crowd to witness a separate game at 7:10.
That is not a doubleheader. A doubleheader is two games, back-to-back, with the same crowd — two games for the price of one. For the split games Wednesday, separate admission is charged for each game.
When teams actually scheduled doubleheaders, nearly every team played a true doubleheader on Sunday and doubleheaders on the Fourth of July and Labor Day, plus some makeup games were played. Teams routinely scheduled 25 doubleheaders a year, charging one admission for two games.
For true doubleheaders, the first game was played and then after 20 to 30 minutes, the second game began — barely time for a bathroom break.
“We didn’t have split games when I played, just straight doubleheaders,” said Baker. “With us having two sellout games I can understand why the organization split these two games.”
Asked what he tells his players about playing a game, then having nearly four hours off between games, Baker said, “I tell the at least they have a couple of hours to take a nap or wind down. Personally, I’d rather just get right back at it 30 minutes after the first game so you don’t get sore.”
BRANDON PHILLIPS should have one more career home run on his record, but something happened in 2003 to deny that.
And Phillips has not forgotten it.
MLB Network put together a show and rated the Top 75 Catches of All Time. When it got to No. 14, it showed Pittsburgh left fielder Brian Giles running to the wall to leap and snag a baseball that was two rows deep into th seats.
When I told Phillips about it, I said, “Do you know who hit that ball?”
“Heck, yes,” he said. “It was me. I was playing for the Cleveland Indians. That was one nasty catch, just crazy. But it’s all part of the game. I couldn’t believe it. It was just a great catch. And he ran a long, long way to get there.”
ONE LAST PLEA this week for those dandy Ask Hal questions for Sunday’s paper. Send them before noon Thursday to firstname.lastname@example.org and see if your question makes the cut.Tweet
CINCINNATI — It was a couple of hours before a persistent downpour forced postponement of Tuesday’s Cincinnati Reds-New York Yankees game in Great American Ball Park and the media was gathered around the desk of Reds manager Dusty Baker.
With Albert Pujols out for four to six weeks, won’t the St. Louis Cardinals suffer cardiac arrest and slump toward the bottom of the National League Central?
Baker won’t fall into that trap and he took the mountain-top road when asked about it.
“I don’t know about that, we’ll see in six weeks,” he said. “A lot of times somebody else picks it up. They still have that dangerous Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman and Skip Schumaker and Jon Jay is a good player. I’ll let you know at the end of six weeks because it is hard to predict what is going to happen.”
Baker, though, couldn’t resist pushing onward on the subject, especially when somebody mentioned that the Cardinals lost starting pitcher Adam Wainwright for the entire season during spring training and the Cardinals continued to hang tough.
“Yeah, well, Kyle Lohse picked it up and Kyle McClellan picked it up,” Baker said.
THEN AFTER A pause, Baker said, “I ain’t really worried about the Cardinals. If we do our job and get our thing together and worry more about what we need to do and not worry about anybody else, that’s how you do well.”
A persistent writer said that the Reds had to look at this six-week period as a time to take advantage of the St. Louis misfortune and Baker said, “No, not at all. I don’t look at it that way. Not at all. There was a period early this season when Pujols wasn’t hitting, like he wasn’t even there at all. But Berkman and Holiday were damn near one-two in the league in hitting.
“You take Berkman out of the equation and see where their offense would be,” he said. “That’s the biggest acquisition they made during the winter. I worried about if he would return to form, which he has.
“The Cardinals have three big bats in their lineup with some guys to get on in front of them,” said Baker. “There aren’t many teams that have three or four big bats in there like they do.”
IT WAS POINTED out that the Reds have had their injury problems, too, especially in the starting pitching department and Baker said, “Yeah, we were treading water for a while and as soon as it looked as if we might start swimming we were treading water again.”
More than the Cardinals or the Milwaukee Brewers, Baker is looking at the present — the Reds string of interleague games.
So far, they are 1-6 in interleague play and they are in the midst of 12 straight games against the American League East.
So far they are 1-2 against Toronto and 0-1 against the Yankees, with two more against New York at home, then three at Baltimore and three at Tampa Bay.
Then they have three at home against the Cleveland Indians of the AL Central, against whom the Reds are 0-3 this year.
“We have to figure out how to win in this interleague, especially against this American League East,” he said. “It appears to be the toughest division in baseball, to me. Historically it has been for a long time. They have some awfully good teams in that division.
“There aren’t many National League teams that are faring very well against American League teams right now,” Bakder added.
Before Tuesday’s games, the NL was 25-37 against the AL and the Cardinals (4-2) were the only NL Central team with a winning record in interleague play.
BAKER ADDRESSED (sort of) his thoughts on the way he uses outfielder Chris Heisey, The People’s Choice to be the regular left fielder.
Heisey started five of the last seven games, but Jonny Gomes was scheduled to play Tuesday night. As a starter over 21 games, Heisey is hitting .240 with 15 RBIs. As a pinch-hitter, he leads the league with a .381 average (8 for 21) and leads the league in pinch-hit RBIs with eight.
“I have my opinion on this and other people have their opinions,” said Baker. “I can’t worry about everybody else’s opinion. I have a job to do and I work with what I think my personnel can do. There was a time last year when everybody wanted Laynce Nix to play and there was a time everybody wondered why Jonny Gomes was or wasn’t playing. Now there are people wondering by Freddie Lewis isn’t playing.
“I can’t worry about confirming what I think because that’s why I’m getting paid to do this job,” he added. “I’m down here with these guys. I’m not in the stands, I’m not calling in the talk shows, so I’m not concerned what anybody thinks about anything. Let’s just see where we are while we’re in the thick of things and see where we are at the end.”
People wonder why Baker keeps playing Gomes and he said, “I continue to try to wait on Jonny Gomes because we need run producers right now and he has been a run producer for us. Anybody else the fans name has played well, but they haven’t been run producers.”
BAKER RECALLED how when he played for the Atlanta Braves as a young player and batted behind Hank Aaron.
“I’d watch pitchers throw Hank hanging breaking balls, nothing change-ups and sinkers that didn’t sink,” he said. “Then I’d come up there and they’d throw me nasty, unhittable pitches. So I went to Hank and I said, ‘How come they are pitching me the way they should be pitching you?’ And Hank said, ‘Because they aren’t afraid of you, they aren’t pitching with tension.’”
LAST WEEK I received a great number of excellent questions for Ask Hal, better than usual, and most of them are good. Need some more now. Send ‘em ASAP to email@example.com to make this Sunday’s paper.Tweet
CINCINNATI — The plane ride from Los Angeles to Cincinnati last Wednesday night was a pain ride for Johnny Cueto.
He walked off the plane with his carry-on bag and a pain in the neck, a pain that has persisted.
And it cost him his start Monday against the New York Yankees. He came down with a stiff neck, but it was easy for manager Dusty Baker and the Cincinnati Reds to do a quick Ali Shuffle.
With Thursday off, Monday was the normal turn for Travis Wood so Baker erased Cueto’s name and scribbled in Wood’s name, with a plan for Cueto to pitch Tuesday night.
Wood pitched the first inning like a guy totally unprepared or totally scared or as if he talked to Edinson Volquez — four runs and five hits, enough to beat the Reds, 5-3.
“It is the Yankees coming in, but I tried to be as calm as I could, just like it was any other game,” said Wood. “But maybe I was amped too much and didn’t know it. I was able to settle down and string together a few good innings.
“There were two pitches in that first inning and I asked (catcher Ryan Hanigan) if they were good pitches where we wanted them and he said they were, that they just put good pitches on them,” Wood added. “Then there were a couple I mislocated and they hit them as well.
“I was on my normal rest and I’m always ready to take the ball, so I wouldn’t say that switching my day affected me at all, he said.
FROM THE SECOND through the seventh, Wood gave up no runs and three hits with one walk, but it was too late.
Why late? Because the Red’ offense has gone into June hibernation. If they went to a run factory with a pocket full of money they couldn’t buy a run.
Over their last four games, they’ve scored seven runs total — 3, 2, 0, 2 — and they’ve lost three.
The Reds were beaten by Ivan Nova, but he looked more like Super Nova — one run, four hits over eight innings. He is a 24-year-old right-hander who has made 20 major-league starts and he mesmerized the Reds on an Easter basket assortment of off-speed stuff — change-ups, sinkers and breaking balls
THE REDS DID force the Yankees to bring in closer Mariano Rivera after the ninth began because Brandon Phillips singled and Joey Votto was hit by a pitch by two different pitchers.
That’s when Rivera entered. Jay Bruce grounded to first, scoring Phillips. Scott Rolen singled to deep short and Chris Heisey forced Rolen at second as Votto scored to make it 5-3.
Pinch-hitter Edgar Renteria struck out on a 2-2 pitch to end it.
After Wood left, Jose Arredondo started the eighth and did what he seems to always do — walked the first batter, Curtis Granderson.
“We’ve talked about that, Arredondo walking the first batter,” said Baker. “After that, he pitches well. We just have to get him to throw strikes to that first batter.”
That’s when the Reds turned into a tee-ball team. Granderson stole second when shortstop Paul Janish dropped his glove too soon to tag Granderson and the ball skittered into center field, enabling Granderson to take third. He then scored on Arredondo’s wild pitch.
“Janish makes that play 99 percent of the time,” said manager Dusty Baker. “And that turned out to be a big run. But the only action we had was in the first and in the ninth. We’re not hitting. We’re not getting our first man of any inning on base to make the pitcher pitch out of the stretch so we can make some things happen.”
AFTER THE YANKEES scored four in the top of the first, Drew Stubbs and Phillips both singled to open the bottom of the first. But the Reds scored only one because Votto hit into a double play (that scored Stubbs) and Jay Bruce grounded to first.
One wonders, of course, what Cueto might have done on this night, with or without a stiff neck.
“Stiff neck. Bothered me for about five days,” Cueto said in his broken English before Monday’s game. “When I throw I feel a little pain. I’m going to throw tonight (Monday) and maybe I can pitch tomorrow.”
Said Baker, “A minor problem. Instead of waiting until the last minute and telling Woody (Travis Wood) to strap it on and let’s go, we made the decision Sunday night. It is Woody’s normal day and it gives Cueto another day to heal.
“He’ll see a chiropractor and get a massage and some heat on it and hopefully he’ll be ready tomorrow night,” Baker added.
AROLDIS CHAPMAN was seated on his dressing stool in the Reds clubhouse before Monday’s game, but he isn’t back. Not yet.
Chapman will drive his Lamborghini with the Ohio license plate ‘105 MPH’ (hopefully not at that speed) to Louisville Tuesday and pitch two innings for the Bats.
And Homer Bailey will start the game, two appearances Baker hopes will be the last on rehab for both.
“And Sam LeCure has been pitching well, three scoreless innings in his last appearance for Louisville,” said Baker. “We have some key decisions to make coming up, but that’s better than not having any decisions to make at all.
“We have some quality guys coming back and it will feel good to get whole and set things up the way we had them set up about three months ago,” Baker added. “Chapman will do some long-tossing and bullpen work today and get some hands-on from (trainer) Tomas Vera. Hopefully he’ll have another good outing and we can make a positive decision.”
BAKER WAS HAPPY to hear that former Reds manager Jack McKeon is returning to the manager’s office, taking over the Florida Marlins as interim manager.
McKeon is 80 and becomes the second oldest manager in major-league history, second only to Connie Mack, who managed the Philadelphia Athletics until he was 89 in 1950. Mack never wore a uniform, always sat in the dugout wearing a three-piece suit and a fedora.
“I happen to like Trader Jack, so I’m happy to see Jack back, but sorry to see one of my colleagues resign and lose his job,” said Baker. “Maybe they are looking for the same magic from Jack that he had before when Jack came back.”
Baker felt that first-hand. It was 2003 and McKeon took over the stumbling Marlins and led them to the playoffs, where they beat Baker’s Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series, then went on to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.
Unfortunately (for me and all fans), the Marlins already have visited Great American and won’t be back and I’ll miss some nice clubhouse office visits with Jack and me smoking up the premises with Padron Anniversario cigars.Tweet
CINCINNATI — Some fans insist the Cincinnati Reds are helpless without a No. 1 pitcher, without an ‘ace,’ without a stopper.
Permit me to introduce you to Bronson Anthony Arroyo of the Key West, Fla. Arroyos.
Pause here to permit a question: Do all you fans who want to the Reds to pound the pavement in search of a No. 1 pitcher consider Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals a No. 1 pitcher?
Sure you do, despite his record this year.
So consider this. Since 2004 when Carpenter became a starter with the Cardinals, he has put together 111 quality starts.
How many do you think Arroyo has in the same period? Well, after Sunday’s eight innings of one-run pitching in a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, Arroyo has 150.
Say hello to Mr. No. 1, Mr. Ace, Mr. Stopper.
AFTER THE RED were on the brink of getting swept, Arroyo stepped to the forefront — eight innings, one run (a home run), five hits, one walk, five strikeouts.
This comes from a guy who pitches 200 innings every year, wins 16 or 17 games and has never missed a start in his major-league career.
If that isn’t a No. 1, then somebody tell me what the guy has to do to be a No. 1, other than throw 98 miles an hour, which isn’t going to happen. Ever. In fact, the home run he gave up in the fifth inning to Adam Hill was a 71 miles an hour dangling participle of a curveball.
Arroyo, though, kind of agrees with some fans that he isn’t a No. 1, isn’t an ace, isn’t a stopper, despite the facts.
“Ah, honestly, I wouldn’t say I’m a No. 1,” he said. “The closest thing we have right now to No. 1 is Johnny Cueto. What I mean there is a guy who can go out there, without his Grade A stuff, and still give teams fits because he throws hard. And he’s dialed in right now.”
Of himself, Arroyo smiles and says, “If I feel good on certain days and get in a groove, I can feel like I’m a No. 1 at times. But across the board, I’m going to be consistent. But I have a lot of innings on my arm so I’m not what I was maybe four or five years ago.”
So was Sunday one of those days when he felt like a No. 1?
“When you leave the ball game after eight innings and it is 2-1 you feel like a No. 1,” he said.
MANAGER DUSTY BAKER probably said it best when he said of Arroyo, “You know how Bronson gets? He can go four or five starts and get shelled, then he can go seven or eight in a row and nobody hits him. It’s all about location, velocity and feel.”
When Baker mentioned location, he meant the location of Arroyo’s pitches, but he could have meant the location of the games, too.
The last two times Arroyo faced the Blue Jays, they were in Toronto’s Rogers Centre and he gave up 17 runs and 19 hits in only 4 2/3 innings.
This one was in Great American Ball Park — location, location, location.
“Everything is about location and off-speed,” said Baker. “He had great location. Nothing was over the heart of the plate. It was inside or outside or up or down.”
Of Arroyo’s status, Baker said, “He is the stabilizer of the staff, a guy to stop losing streaks.”
ARROYO GAVE up the leadoff home run to Hill in the fifth to fall behind, 1-0. Disaster lurked when the next two Jays singled to put runners on first and third with no outs.
But John McDonald tried a suicide squeeze bunt and pushed a pop-up between first and home that Reds first baseman Joey Votto snagged on the run, then fired to third base to double up Juan Rivera.
On the bench, Baker said to his team, “That was a game-saver right there. It was a foiled squeeze and ended up being the run that might have beat us right there. You need some breaks like that to win.”
The Reds had two on with one out in the eighth, a chance to post some insurance runs, but Miguel Cairo struck out, Fred Lewis was walk d to right.
That left it at 2-1 for closer Coco Cordero after Arroyo vacated after 103 pitches.
“You’re always nervous with a one-run lead when they have their three best hitters coming up in Jose Bautista, Adam Lind and Aaron Hill, who had already hit a home run,” said Baker. “Two swings of the bat and they could have the lead.”
But Cordero got Bautista on a hard liner to second, got Lind on a grounder to first and ended it by getting Hill on a fly to right for his 15th save in 17 opportunities.
Baker gave third baseman Scott Rolen off on Sunday and not only put Cairo at third base, he put him in Rolen’s No. 5 spot in the batting order — another fortuitous move by Baker, who constantly tugs the right levers.
With the Reds down, 1-0, in the sixth, Joey Votto popped a one-out single, one of three singles that stopped his 0 for 10 skid.
With two outs, Cairo drove one into the left field seats against Carlos Villanueva, who was 4-0 coming into the game.
That made it 2-1 and it stood.
“Rolen is feeling pretty good, swinging good,” said Baker. “I didn’t want him out of there, but I want him in there Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday against the New York Yankees. We have an off day Thursday. I’m just trying to keep him so I can keep him (in the lineup).”
And of Cairo, he said, “That was so real big, especially since I had him in the fifth spot today, the best lineup I could come up with today, and today it worked big-time.”
MANAGER DUSTY BAKER hopes what Aroldis Chapman did for the Class AA Carolina Mudcats Saturday was something he can repeat — one more time in the minors and then for the Reds.
Chapman pitched two perfect innings — no runs, no hits, no walks, three strikeouts. His rehab time runs out in two days, so what’s ahead?
“We haven’t made a decision yet,” said Baker. “What Chapman did Saturday is what I asked him to do. I wanted him to finish strong and earn his way back here. Pitch your way back and don’t use your name to come back, pitch your way back.”
Baker said it is likely Chapman will pitch one more time in the minors, either Monday or Tuesday, before his rehab time expires.
“We’ll see,” said Baker. “If he’s Chapman before the wild streak, we can use him big-time. That would set us up big-time.”Tweet
CINCINNATI — So much for the resurrection and resurgence of Cincinnati Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez.
And it looked as if it would be such a great night for him when he went 1-2-3 in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays, with two strikeouts.
“He was sharp, on his game, in that first inning,” said Manager Dusty Baker.
With his past catastrophic first innings, this one was like pitching a perfect game.
But it was a mirage, a mirage with no fig trees or watering holes included in the imagination.
Volquez pitched five innings and gave up four runs and seven hits, walking two and striking out eight. And he tossed in a balk and a hit batter to complete his resume on a night the Reds were helpless in a 4-0 loss. But it all unraveled and as Baker said, “He got a pitch up and out over the plate to Jose Molina, a pitch up and out over the plate to Rajai Davis and a pitch up to Corey Patterson and they all hurt him.
“Actually, they took it to us more than we took it to them,” Baker added. “I don’t think we got our leadoff man on base in any inning.
The offense was no help on a night when Volquez needed help. They had seven hits and left the bases loaded in the seventh when pinch-hitter Edgar Renteria lined to right. They put two on with one out in the ninth against 6-foot-10 closer Jon Rauch, but Ramon Hernandez lined hard to the wall in left for the second out and pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes took a called third strike to end it.
The big question, though, is what to do with Volquez. Homer Bailey will have at least one more start on rehab in Louisville on Tuesday. Do the Reds keep Volquez in the rotation until Bailey is ready? There aren’t many options.
But one thing is certain — when Bailey is ready, Volquez and his clean-cut head are vulnerable to a drop to the bullpen or a deeper drop back to Louisville.
It was a doubly painful night in that both Milwaukee and St. Louis won, so the Reds dropped three games behind first-place Milwaukee and two games behind second-place St. Louis.
So the Reds have lost two straight to the Blue Jays and to avoid a sweep the Reds are putting the ball in the hands of Bronson Arroyo, who has pitched in the past against Toronto as if they were a slow-pitch softball team.
In his last three starts against the Jays, Arroyo has given up 23 earned runs and 26 hits in only 7 2/3 innings. The last two were for the Reds and in Toronto — one-plus inning, 10 runs and 11 hits, then exactly one year later to the day, 3 2/3 innings, six runs eight hits.
DUSTY BAKER WANTED to know if Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Adam Lind is from Anderson, Ind.
“Yes, he is,” Baker was told.
“That’s where Carl Erskine is from and where he owns a bank now,” said Baker, referring to the former Dodgers pitcher who averaged 15 wins over his 12-year career. “I’ll bet Lind is putting his money in Carl’s bank.”
If Lind continues his current pace, he’ll have a lot of money to entrust with Erskine. After hitting a game-winning home run against the Reds Friday night, Lind is hitting .413 with eight homers and 17 RBIs over a 13-game period since coming off the disabled list.
Funny thing. Baker didn’t ask me if I’m related to Toronto infielder Michael McCoy, who played eight years in the minors before getting a chance last year.
He is hitting .224 with one homer and four RBIs in 67 at bats — and, no, we’re not related.
JOEY VOTTO doesn’t display outward humor very often, but it surfaced the other day in the clubhouse. A group of media were congregated around Scott Rolen’s dressing stall when Votto walked by and said quietly with a smile, “Don’t you guys know who the MVP is?”
ROLEN, BY THE WAY, appears to be healthy again and his batwork is proof enough.
Over his last eight games, he has at least one extra-base hit in six of those games (five doubles, a triple and a home run Friday). His home run Friday was his first in 157 at-bats, the longest dry period of his career. And he entered Saturday’s game with an RBI in five straight games (seven RBIs).
When a writer asked Baker about Rolen’s recent power surge, Baker said, “Health. The guy has had power his whole career and you just don’t get at age 35. The main thing is he is healthier. He is still strong. He was healthy and then he got sick.”
ONE OF BASEBALL’S rarest occurrences is an inside the park home run, especially in the tight quarter that is Great American Small Park.
But Drew Stubbs hit one Friday, even though he hesitated between first and second, believing the ball would be caught. The right fielder Jose Bautista and center fielder Corey Patterson both stopped just when they both reached the point where the ball was coming down. When they pulled up, the ball struck the wall and rolled away from both.
Stubbs is so fast he turned his jets back on and finished his tour standing up.
“I had one in college (Texas) and one in spring training in Arizona last year,” said Stubb. “Honestly, I’d rather hit one out of the park so I can trot rather than have to sprint around he bases. It is tough to hit one in this park, something different has to happen. In this case the ball kicked way from the outfielders and they were both stunned.”
THE PHONE in Baker’s office rang at 4:30 and without skipping a beat, Baker smiled and said, “Probably my wife with an update.”
“Hello,” he said. (Pause). “Ah, OK, 3-0 in the first. All right, good-bye. I knew that was her.”
The update was on how Baker’s son, shortstop Darren, and his team were doing in a Tournament of Champions event in Sacramento. “Single eliminat,” he said. “They’re up 3-0 in the first, but that doesn’t mean nothing.”
DOWN ON the farm, Louisville’s Daryl Thompson allowed only one run on six hits over six innings while walking one and striking out nine in a 2-1 victory over Toledo. Dave Sappelt had two hits and the game-winning RBI in the tenth inning. Jeremy Hermida and Chris Valaika each had two hits.
The baseball adage is good pitching beats good hitting, but Louisville manager Rick Sweet disagrees and says, “Goo0d hitting will beat good pitching. We’ve got the best hitting team in the league and the numbers back that up.”
The Bats are second in the standings with a 39-30 record, but they are 7 ½ games out of first place. They have a team batting average of .281 with five players batting over .300 (Dave Sappelt .361, Jeremy Hermida .354, Devin Mesoraco .323, Zack Cozart .323, Yonder Alonso .316).
AROLDIS CHAPMAN pitched two perfect innings at Class AA Carolina Saturday. He gave up no runs, no hits, no walks and struck out three during a 5-1 win over Jackson.Tweet
CINCINNATI — Fresh from a smash-bang west coast trip where they won five of seven and injected themselves right back into the National League Central skirmish, the Cincinnati Reds on Friday began a string of 15 straight interleague games.
It didn’t start with an on-key note. Despite an exciting inside the park home run by Drew Stubbs and a decent start by Mike Leake, the Reds fell to the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-2.
And there is an interesting facet to those 15 games — they are against Toronto, the New York Yankees, Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Cleveland, in that order, three games each.
What is interesting is that the first 12 games are against four teams that train in Florida, meaning the Reds have not seen them at any point this year, except on the tube.
With that in mind, manager Dusty Baker said he hasn’t thought about the advantage the Reds will have in the first six games, all at home, where the designated hitter won’t be used.
“The hard part about dealing with these teams is we never get to see our opponents,” said Baker. “We didn’t even get to see ‘em in spring training. So we’ve done a lot of scouting and watching games on TV. And it’s very, very important what we get from our advance scout and what he gets from his friends to help us not to find out about somebody through trial and error.”
Here’s a hint — don’t give Jose Bautista (21 homers, 44 RBI) or Adam Lind (14 homers, 42 RBI) anything good to hit.
The Reds paid a heavy price Friday when they pitched to Bautista in the seventh with a runner on second and no outs while leading, 1-0.
Bautista doubled to left to tie it, then Lind crushed a 420-foot home run onto the grassy knoll beyond the center field wall for a two-run game-winning home run (make that 15 homers, 44 RBI).
THE PROBLEM is that Bautista and and Lind bat back-to- back, just like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, and Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman.
“When you have a multi-homer situation, that makes it tough,” said Baker. “It is sort of pick your poision. You hold your breath whoever you are pitching to.”
That fateful inning started on a controversial note. Corey Patterson, the player Reds’ fans loved to hate when he was here, led off the seventh inning.
He squared around to bunt and pitcher Mike Leake hit him with a pitch, but it appeared Patterson left his bat across the plate in a bunt attempt, making no effort to pull it back.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought, too,” said Baker. “But the umpire (Jerry Meals) wouldn’t ask for help. That was the whole ball game right there, that quick three runs. If you went to the bathroom, you missed the whole game.”
Leake, who lamented only two pitches — the double to Bautista and the home run to Lind — said he didn’t mind hitting Patterson with the pitch, “Because it’s better than a walk. And I think he drew his bat back and didn’t try to bunt. But he isn’t a guy you want to put on base.”
Patterson stole second to put himself in position to score on Bautista’s double.
ON THE 5-2 trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Reds starting pitchers were 5-0 with a 1.63 ERA and three times didn’t allow an earned run. Over the previous 10 games they were 7-1 with a 1.91 ERA.
“That’s what we’ve been waiting on,” said Baker. “That’s the key to this game. The better your starting pitchers are, they better chance you have to win. You saw that stretch we went through — hoping to never return again — when it was tough to get our pitches through four or five innings. We just want them to get deep in games.”
And Leake was good Friday - for six scoreless innings. All three runs off him came in the seventh and three of the five hits he gave up came in the seventh. Leake made it 10 games out of the last 11 that a Reds starter pitched into the seventh inning, but there was little offensive support on this night.
HOMER BAILEY’S rehab start Thursday for Class AAA Louisville goes down as most forgettable in his diary.
In 4 1/3 innings against Toledo, he gave up three runs and 11 hits, with no walks and two strikeouts.
TORONTO BROADCASTER and former major-leaguer Buck Martinez stopped into Baker’s office before Friday’s game and Baker said, “Hey, homey. How are you? That’s my homey right there. How many home runs did you hit against us in that doubleheader, five or six? Damn you.”
Baker and Martinez are homeys because they both grew up in Sacramento. When Martinez was asked about the home runs, he smiled broadly.
“We both played American Legion ball and we had an All-Star series, North Sacramento against South Sacramento. He played for North Sacramento and they were from the inner city and thought they were pretty bad dudes and would tear us up,” said Martinez.
“We kicked their tails and I had a few home runs in the two games,” he said.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while watching the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers wearing throwback uniforms (1944). Suggestion. If teams are going to wear old-time uniforms, they should make the players wear their pants just below the knees with socks showing and forbid necklaces and Oakley sun glasses.
As Phil Collins sings in Against All Odds, “Take a look at me now.”
That should be the theme song of the Cincinnati Reds as they came marching home from a west coast trip where many thought their pennant hopes would go to die. Instead, they won five of seven, including Wednesday afternoon’s 7-2 annihilation of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Defiance native Chad Billingsley, 5-2 with a 3.85 ERA for his career against the Reds when he took the mound Wednesday, was walked all over like an old throw rug — seven runs and nine hits over four innings.
MANAGER DUSTY BAKER, celebrating his 62nd birthday, chose Wednesday’s day game after a night game prior to an off day to give Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce and Paul Janish days off.
Chris Heisey was in center and batted leadoff, Fred Lewis was in right field and Edgar Renteria was at shorstop, with Jonny Gomes in left.
Lewis had two doubles and walked with the bases loaded with two RBIs. Heisey? Not so good — 0 for 5 with three strikeouts.
Gomes? The man who is beat over the head with a two-by-four about his defense, made what may have been the best defensive play of the year by a Reds outfielder. With two on and two outs in the third, James Loney sliced one to left. Gomes made a long run, made a stretched-out dive and caught the ball while in mid-air, belly down, then slid on his stomach across the foul line and into a barrier, holding on to the ball and saving two runs.
Starter Travis Wood needed all the big batwork and superlative defense, because he was about as dull as a razor blade on its 100th day of use — lucky to give up just one run while yielding five hits, five walks and hitting a batter. He needed 114 pitches to stagger through six innings, ending the streak of starters pitching into the seventh inning at nine straight.
Wood wobbled in the first inning, needing 30 pitches to get through it, but only gave up one run. He walked three that inning (one intentionally), including a walk with the bases loaded for the only run off him.
Jose Arredondo, who struggled on most of the trip, gave up a run in the seventh during his one inning of work.
STUBBS’ DAY OFF came a day after he had three hits, two stolen bases, a sacrifice bunt, an RBI and a run scored. But Baker told Stubbs, who hadn’t missed a game this year, BEFORE his big game Tuesday that he was getting Wednesday off.
But it didn’t matter because the Reds can do little wrong these days as they climbed back to four games over .500 for the first time since May 31.
SCOTT ROLEN, who has struggled most of the season with his bat and his ouchy shoulder, is swinging the bat with astute authority. Even his outs are loud, but on Wednesday he had hits his first three times up, including two doubles, three RBIs and two runs scored.
After going 2-2 in San Francisco and sweeping three from the Dodgers, the Reds come home to interleague play, needing to guard against a letdown this weekend for a three-game series against Toronto and three pitchers who are household names only in their own households.
One wonders who many home runs Toronto’s Jose Bautista will launch during his three games in Great American Small Park. He is tied for the lead in the majors with 21 home runs, tied with Curtis Granderson of the Yankees.
Then it’s three against the New York Yankees, who won’t have Derek Jeter because he is on the disabled list. And now many homers with Granderson hit?
The Reds are off Thursday after playing in 33 of the last 34 games during which they went 17-16 and that included road series at Cleveland, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
SPEAKING of the Dodgers, do you know why they are called the Dodgers? Well, when they played in Brooklyn, street car tracks passed Ebbets Field and fans had to dodge the trolleys as they crossed the street to the ball park, hence ‘Dodgers.”
And how difficult is it these days for the Dodgers to play when they wonder if their pay checks might bounce? Beleaguered owner Frank McCourt, involved in an ugly public divorce, may not be able to make his $30 million payroll at the end of the month, which would force MLB to step in.
Former Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey supposedly is trying to put a group together to purchase the team, if McCourt is forced to sell.
And it is so sad to see row after row of unoccupied seats in nearly empty Dodger Stadium, where 40,000 a game used to be automatic. It’s a hard fall for a great franchise.
STILL NEED a few Ask Hal questions for Sunday’s paper and send them to firstname.lastname@example.orgTweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while wishing I was a close friend to Manny Ramirez when the Los Angeles Dodgers (or somebody) pays him the $8 million in deferred money they owe him this month.
ANYBODY WHO believes the Cincinnati Reds are dead and nearly buried for the 2011 season needed to watch their 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday night.
ANYBODY WHO believes Drew Stubbs is not a viable leadoff hitter needed to watch him Tuesday night — three hits, a sacrifice, a run scored, an RBI and two stolen bases.
ANYBODY WHO doesn’t believe in Johnny Cueto needed to watch him Tuesday night pitch his second straight game without giving up an earned run — seven innings, one unearned run, five hits.
ANYBODY WHO doubted the Reds starting pitchers and keep asking/pleading for the team to acquire a No. 1/ace needed to watch Tuesday’s game when Cueto pitched seven innings — the ninth straight game in which Reds starters pitched into the seventh inning. In those nine games, Reds starters are 6-1 with a 1.97 ERA.
ANYBODY who continually boorishly scream that Dusty Baker be fired, well, Super Glue your lips together and just go away, because it isn’t going to happen.
For those who jumped off the bandwagon and sprinted down the street when the Redes fell to third place, 5 ½ games behind — well, the bandwagon stops this afternoon at Third & Walnut in Cincinnati for all the front-runners to scramble back aboard.
With their 3-2 win Tuesday, the Reds are only 2 ½ games out of first place and they’ve clinched a winning west coast trip. They are 4-2 with the final game this afternoon in Dodger Stadium.
Cueto shut out the Giants, 3-0, last Thursday and didn’t give up an earned run Tuesday, either.
The Dodgers scored an unearned run in the first inning after Cueto gave up a leadoff single to Dee Gordon and walked Jamey Carroll.
Andre Ethier hit a double play grounder, but the relay throw from Brandon Phillips was wide and ticked off first baseman Joey Votto’s glove and rolled away as Gordon scored from second. The error was charged to Phillips, but should have been charged to Votto, who did not come off the bag to snag the throw.
Cueto pitched out of the mess by getting the next batter, Matt Kemp, to hit into a double play.
The Reds tied it in the third when Stubbs led with a single, stole second and scored on Scott Rolen’s single.
And it stayed 1-1 for a long time, with Cueto making a heads-up defensive play to help himself. With one out in the fourth, Kemp blooped a single to right over Votto’s head. Votto chased down the ball as Kemp made a big turn at first. Unbeknownst to Kemp, Cueto sneaked behind him to cover first base, enabling the Reds to nail Kemp in a rundown.
ON MONDAY, Stubbs was invisible — 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. On Tuesday, he was as visible as the Hollywood sign on that cliff in the Hollywood Hills.
Stubbs singled for his second hit with one out in the sixth. And he again stole second — 20 for 22 this year, second most steals in the league. But Phillips struck out and Votto flied to left against tough LA left-hander Clayton Kershaw.
KERSHAW WAS lifted after seven innings, much to the delight of Votto, who was 0 for 3 and made the defensive boo-boo. The Reds scored a run in the eighth off Blake Hawksworth when pinch-hitter Migeul Cairo started the inning with a single — and how valuable to the team is that guy? Stubbs, the man who struggles trying to bunt, put down a sacrifice bunt that put Cairo on second, from where he scored on Votto’s single for a 2-1 lead.
Cincinnati added what proved to be a gargantuan run in the ninth after Ramon Hernandez walked with one out. Pinch-hitter Fred Lewis singled and Stubbs drove home the team’s third run with his third hit, what turned out to be the winning run.
That run was huge when Coco Cordero performed one of his death-defying saves in the bottom of the ninth when he was handed a 3-1 lead.
With one out he walked Matt Kemp. Kemp stole second and scored on a single by James Loney. After a stolen base put the tying run on second with one out, Cordero struck out pinch-hitter Casey Blake and ended the game by getting Rod Barajas to pop up.
So put those coffins away and save those eulogies, the Reds are alive and kicking again.
TIME TO send those great Ask Hal questions for Sunday’s paper and you’ve sent some good ones the last few weeks. Send them now to email@example.com.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while noticing something very odd about the Cincinnati Reds’ lineup Monday night. Eight of the nine players did the same thing. What was it? Answer at the bottom.
SOME STRANGE memories from the Dodger Stadium area during my visits there:
—One night after a game, I was riding back to the hotel with MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon and as we left the stadium parking lot onto Elysian Blvd. two coyotes crossed the street in front of us. I thought the Coyotes played in Phoenix.
—One day while playing tennis in Echo Park, a ball bounced over the fence and into some trash. As we walked behind the fence to retrieve the ball, we found a body. The man wasn’t dead, just passed out with three empty whiskey bottles next to him. No, it wasn’t Charlie Sheen.
—One of my favorite dining spots in downtown LA is the Pacific Dining Car. But every car in the parking lot is a Mercedes, Bentley, Jaguar, Ferrari or Lamborghini. When you go there, make sure your credit card has no charges on it.
TELL ME IT isn’t all about pitching. Pitching, pitching and pitching.
For the eighth straight games, a Cincinnati Reds starter pitched into the seventh inning — something that hasn’t happened with the Reds since 1992.
On Monday night in Dodger Stadium, it was Bronson Arroyo pitching 7 2/3 innings. He gave up four runs on six hits, walked none and struck out one.
He had retired 11 straight entering the eighth inning and had a 6-2 lead when he gave up an infield hit, then a triple to flashy rookie Dee Gordon, son of former major-league pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon. Gordon scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 6-4 and manager Dusty Baker brought in lefty Bill Bray to face lefty Andre Ethier and Bray struck him out.
THE REDS had not hit a home run in six games when Chris Heisey came to bat in the sixth, the longest homerless stretch for the Reds since 2006. With two outs and nobody on, his team trailing by one run, 2-1, Heisey rectified that with a long blast into the left field bleachers - and, yes, it is time to give Heisey most of the playing time in left field. He also singled his first time up and came around to score on a Paul Janish single in the second that tied the game, 1-1.
The Reds scored the runs they needed in the seventh, an inning that began when rookie shortstop Dee Gordon booted a routine ground ball by Ryan Hanigan. Amazingly, Gordon had made three mind-scrambling defensive plays earlier in the game, two on Joey Votto.
Janish forced Hanigan at second, but second baseman Aaron Miles threw the relay into the first base dugout and Janish was given second base. Arroyo broke the 2-2 tie with a bloop single to right field that score Janish.
After Brandon Phillips walked, Votto hit one where Gordon couldn’t glove it - a deep three-run home run into the right field bleachers for a 6-2 lead.
GORDON WASN’T the only one to flash leather on this night, although those two errors by the Dodgers in the seventh helped the Reds’ rally.
Janish and Votto made back-to-back above-and-beyond plays in the Dodgers second.
OF COURSE, closer Coco Cordero had to set hearts palpitating in the Reds dugout by walking Matt Kemp to open the ninth, enabling the Dodgers to send the tying run to the plate three times.
Coco coolly struck out James Loney after a long battle, he struck out pinch-hitter Rod Barajas and he struck out Dioner Navarro — good morning, good afternoon and good night.
Amazingly, the Reds have won the first game of a series six straight times. They are 3-2 on the trip and are only 3 ½ games out of first place.
QUIZ ANSWER: Eight of the nine players in the Reds lineup used black bats. Only Stubbs used the white ash - and he went hitless with three strikeouts. A hint for Stubbs. Use a black bat tonight.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while remembering trips to Fisherman’s Wharf on a cold San Francisco night (is there any other kind?) and remembering my wife Nadine feeling sorry for the sea lions and wanting to organize a Blankets for the Sea Lions group.
THERE was nothing wrong with Edinson Volquez’s pitching Sunday night against the San Francisco Giants, very credible, but his baserunning resembled an elephant trapped in a small room.
And it cost him.
It was the fifth inning and the Reds led, 2-0. Volquez led the inning with a single. Drew Stubbs then pulled one down the left field line that ricocheted off the wall in foul territory. An ordinary runner on first base would have made it to third standing up. Volquez, though, stopped at second, forcing Stubbs to stop at first.
So instead of having runners on second and third with no outs, the Reds had runners on first and second.
Brandon Phillips struck out on a pitch in the dirt from Jonathan Sanchez. Joey Votto lined one to deep left that Cody Ross chased down near the wall.
Where was Volquez? Almost to third base, where he should have been in the first place. But he shouldn’t have been there at that moment. Ross threw to second base to double off Volquez and the inning was over.
Votto, the man who hit the ball, was visibly upset when the play ended, probably wondering if Volquez ever ran the bases in his life. Didn’t look like it.
And the Reds never scored again, losing 4-2 to split a four-game series that they easily could have swept.
WHILE HE PITCHED well enough to win, Volquez still uses too many pitches. He had 113 by the end of the sixth inning after giving up two runs and walking three and striking out five.
PIN THIS DEFEAT on the offense — six hits, one for six with runners in scoring position, seven runners left on base. The middle of the order was 0 for 9 (Brandon Phillips 0 for 4, Joey Votto 0 for 3 and Jay Bruce 0 for 2).
The Reds took a 2-0 lead in the fourth but should have scored more than two because the first four runners reached base.
Votto was hit by a pitch and Bruce walked. Scott Rolen doubled for one run and Jonny Gomes walked to fill the bases with no outs. Renteria hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0, but Ramon Hernandez hit into a double play.
End of offense.
The Giants scored a run in their fourth on a single by Nate Schierholtz and a double by Aubrey Huff, who was 6 for 35 at the time but finished this night with three important hits.
They tied it in the sixth when Volquez walked the first batter, Schierholtz, on four pitches, Huff singled and a run scored when the Reds failed to turn a double play on a ground ball to shortstop Edgar Renteria.
The Giants scored the two runs they needed in the seventh against the Reds’ bullpen.
Jose Arredondo walked the inning’s first hitter, Brandon Stewart. After he struck out pinch-hitter Pat Burrell, Arredondo gave up a double to Andres Torres, putting runners on second and third.
They wisely walked Reds-killer Miguel Tejada to fill the bases with one out.
With two left-handers coming up, manager Dusty Baker brought in left-hander Bill Bray. Schierholtz jumped on Bray’s first pitch and lined hard to center field, a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2. Then Huff singled to left and it was 4-2.
LEFTHANDER JAVIER Lopez started the eighth and quickly struck out both Votto and Bruce, then right-hander Sergio Romo came on to get Scott Rolen to pop out to first base.
All that was left was for closer Brian Wilson to do his thing. Fear the beard? With his long black beard, it is fun to sit and try to think who he looks like while he mows down your team.
Blackbear the Pirate? The Unabomber? One of the Smith Brothers of cough drop fame? Whatever, he did his job. Again.
He struck out Gomes, Renteria grounded to short, Hernandez singled for his second hit, but pinch-hitter Chris Heisey grounded to third on a full count.
It was The Beard’s 18th save to go with five wins and the Reds fell 4 ½ games behind the division leader. No, not St. Louis. The Milwaukee Brewers are now in first place.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, chomping and chewing on every snack in sight because I’m out of cigars, which makes me as jittery as a mold of lemon Jell-O.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Fox broadcaster Eric Karros, former major-league first baseman with the Los Angeles Dodgers, worked with Thom Brennaman on Saturday’s national broadcast and said, “I had a chanced to play for Dusty Baker and he is as good as there is. He has kept this team together through some amazing injuries and fans should be happy because things are going to get better.”
Reds fans happy with Dusty? If they aren’t criticizing his lineup cards, they are criticizing his custom-made toothpicks.
Some will even find fault with Baker after the Reds savaged and ravanged the San Francisco Giants Saturday, 10-2.
WHEN THEY TALKED (me, too) about the current trip on which the Cincinnati Reds are on, all the doomsdayers mentioned how poorly the Reds play on the west coast and how they had to face the pitch-infested San Francisco Giants, defending World Series champions and leader of the NL West.
They remembered a three-game series last August when the Giants swept the Reds by scoring 38 runs on 53 hits.
As everybody says and everybody knows, however, timing is everything, time is of the essence and time flies when you are having fun.
The Reds couldn’t have picked a better time to pay a visit to one of the world’s greatest cities, even with the frigid weather. The timing is perfect for playing the Giants.
The Giants aren’t hitting and aren’t scoring. They’ve searched eBay, Angie’s List and even CarFax, searching for runs.
AND TWO-TIME Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum was coming off two straight poor performances.
So Johnny Cueto shut them out Thursday, 3-0. Travis Wood held them to one run over seven innings Friday, but they scraped two off the Reds bullpen and won, 3-2, with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.
ON SATURDAY IT was Mike Leake shutting down the Giants and it was Lincecum taking the punches as the Reds went Mike Tyson on him — four innings, seven runs, seven hits. Lincecum was unable to put two good pitches together.
Meanwhile, Leake was as smooth as Sea Breeze as the Reds beat the Giants for the second time in three days.
For the second straight start, Leake pitched eight innings and he shut out the Giants on four hits with one walk and eight strikeouts during his 113-pitch outing.
And tell us again why Leake (6-2) was sent back to the minors briefly this year?
The Giants scored their two runs in the ninth off relief pitcher Carlos Fisher when Pat Burrell hit a two-run homer, the only home run hit in the first three games of the series.
THE REDS have now had nearly a full week of outstanding starting pitching, which cures a lot of aches and pains over the instability of left field and the offensive wasteland that is shortstop. Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart wait patiently in Louisville.
Pitching, though, cures a lot over what ails a team. It is why the Giants, despite a pathetic hitting team, is in first place in the NL West.
Lincecum went 1-2-3 in the first inning and it was uh-oh time. But Jay Bruce led the second with a single, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Ryan Hanigan’s single.
The Reds gave Leake the breathing room he needed in the third with two more runs, with Leake torching the rally himself with a leadoff double. Drew Stubbs walked and Joey Votto’s singled filled the bases.
One run scored on Bruce’s grounder to first base and another scored on a wild pitch — nothing pretty, nothing powerful, but two runs nonetheless and a 3-0 lead.
The Reds put it away and rid themselves on Lincecum in the fifth when they scored four runs on three hits, a two-run double by Brandon Phillips the big blow.l The Phillips hit knocked Lincecum out of the game and the Reds remain the only National League team Lincecum has never beaten, 0-3 in three starts.
Aren’t these west coast trips fun?Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while wondering how The Cathay House in Chinatown is staying open without my patronage and what are they doing with all the General Tsao’s chicken, egg noodles and won-ton soup they used to serve me?
Everybody expected a disaster movie from the Cincinnati Reds on this seven-game west coast trip and they sor of shocked everybody Thursday by shutting out the San Francisco Giants in Game One.
And there they were on Friday night, leading the Giants, 2-1, in the fifth inning in AT&T Park.
Could it be? Could they start Trip Terrible with a 2-and-0 record?
Uh, no. The Reds lost, 3-2, but how they achieved that defeat is an encyclopedia of how to leave more people stranded than the Minnow on Gilligan’s Island.
THE GIANTS TIED it in the fifth. Miguel Tejada, who could hit against the Reds while wearing a sleeping mask, came to bat with two outs and a runner on second. With first base open, how about an intentional walk?
Travis Wood fell behind 2-and-0, then grooved a fastball and Tejada drilled it to left field to tie it, 2-2.
And that’s the way it stayed into the ninth inning. Wood pitched eight innings and gave up two runs, 10 hits, walked three and struck out four for his 109 pitches.
For his hard night’s work, Wood got nothing because the Reds’ bullpen doesn’t seem to have all its eggs in the basket these days.
JOSE ARREDONDO started the ninth by walking Andres Torres on four pitches. Emmanuel Burris bunted Torres to second and this time the Reds wisely walked Tejado intentionally.
Bill Bray came in to face rookie left-hander Brandon Crawford and struck him out on three pitches for the second out.
Logan Ondrusek replaced Bray and walked Cody Ross on five pitches to fill the bases. Nate Schierholtz ended the game abruptly by pumping Ondrusek’s second pitch into left field for a walk-off single.
The Giants won this one, 3-2. Incredibly, 18 of the 29 games in AT&T this year have been decided by one run. And with their Friday win, the Giants are 18-9 in one-run games this year.
WHEN IT COMES to execution on this night, the Reds were perfect — they executed themselves every way possible.
—They had two on with one out in the second, but Paul Janish bounced into a double play.
—The Reds had two on with two outs in the third, but Jay Bruce flied to center.
—A bad inning surfaced in the fourth. The Reds did score a run, but it was like kissing your mother. They had two on with nobody out and scored only one run. Scott Rolen led the inning with a triple, Chris Heisey walked and Ryan Hanigan singled to right to score Rolen. But Janish struck out, Wood bunted the runners to second and third, but Drew Stubbs struck out.
—Think that was bad? If it didn’t get worse, than Jeremiah isn’t a bull frog. The Reds did score a run, but it was like kissing your grandmother. They had the bases loaded with no outs and scored one run. Rolen struck out, a run scored on Heisey’s weak ground out to first base and Hanigan grounded out.
GET THE PICTURE? Get the pattern? The Reds had enough chances to choke a sword swallower and did nothing.
The eighth inning was astounding. San Francisco relief pitcher Sergio Romo struck out the side and his first 10 pitches were strikes (counting foul balls). He threw 13 pitches, 12 for strikes.
The ninth inning was a Message in a Bottle, the message being, “The Reds aren’t going to win this one.”
It was 2-2 and pinch-hitter Fred Lewis led the inning with an infield hit against Giants closer Brian Wilson.
That called for Stubbs to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Oh, my. For those who constantly chirp and harp and hoot that Stubbs needs to bunt more, well, if they saw his feeble effort on this occasion they’d be saying, “Please, don’t ever try to bunt.” His two attempts were butt ugly and then he struck out.
And, of course, Brandon Phillips then grounded into an inning-ending double play — and, as it turned out, the game-ending double play when the Giants scored in the bottom of the ninth.
Put this one in a satchel and drop it off the Golden Gate Bridge with a concrete block on it.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while watching Johnny Cueto devour the San Francisco, making me hungry for a day in The City by the Bay:
BREAKFAST at Mama’s on Washington Square: eggs benedict, French toast, orange juice, pot of coffee, whole wheat toast.
LUNCH at Lori’s Diner, a 1950s throwback: Edsel Burger with swiss cheese and fried onions, French fries, vanilla milkshake served in the silver metal container they use on the mixer.
DINNER at Scoma’s in Sausalito: New England clam chowder, Cesar’s salad, sea scallops, sourdough bread, Anchor Steam beer, cheesecake.
BED-TIME SNACK: two Akla-Seltzer’s and a Pepcid.
FOR MOST OF Johnny Cueto’s still-developing career, he has been so excitable he made caffeine nervous. At the first sign of trouble, he collapsed like a sand castle under a beach bully’s foot.
No more. The kid is as cool under fire as the San Francisco Fire Department and Thursday night against the San Francisco Giants was a printout of perfection.
The Cincinnati Reds scored a 3-0 victory against the defending World Series champions and NL West leaders during the first game of a seven-game trip that could be Trip Terrible if the Reds aren’t careful.
They were very careful Thursday to hit the ground with both feet, led by the smooth and calm performance by Cueto. He pitched seven shutout innings, gave up four hits, struck out eight and walked only two.
Both Cueto’s walks came in the first inning and it was an uh-oh beginning when he walked the first batter on four pitches. But that batter, Andres Torres was caught stealing, a fortunate occurrence, because Miguel Tejada then doubled. Freddy Sanchez grounded out, but Cueto walked Aubrey Huff — so three of the first four Giants reached base. That threat died when Nate Schierholtz popped to short.
From there Cueto was The Big Boss.
HE RETIRED SEVEN straight, three straight via strikeouts in the third inning.
Cueto’s newfound courage surfaced again in the fourth when he gave up two of his four hits, back-to-back singles to open the inning. He retired the next two, but fell 3-and-0 behind rookie Brandon Crawford. Inexplicably, Crawford swung at the 3-and-0 and flied to left.
A nice Chablis would be a nice gift for Cueto to send to Crawford.
Cueto worked with a 1-0 lead for his seven innings and 110 pitches. And he was battling umpire Tim Welke, too. His strike zone was smaller than a breadbox.
His opponent, lefty Madison Baumgarner, was nearly as stingy. But Baumgarner’s teammates provide him no aid or comfort. He came into the game with a 3.85 ERA, but a 2-7 record because his offense scores 2.6 runs a game when he pitches. On this night, they scored 2.6 runs fewer than the average.
THE REDS SCORED a run in the fourth with two outs and nobody on. Scott Rolen, playing his first game after missing four with a viral infections, doubled to right center and Jonny Gomes brought him home with a single.
Gomes had three hits but committed an extremely rare omission of hustle on his third hit. Leading off the seventh, Gomes blooped one to shallow right and it appeared foul, so Gomes stood and watched. But a stiff breeze blew the ball into fair territory and it plopped to the ground. Gomes made first base, but should have been on second.
Edgar Renteria, who was presented his World Series ring in a pre-game ceremony by the Giants (He was the World Series MVP, too), bunted for a single. With two on and no outs, Ramon Hernandez bounced into a double play and the Reds didn’t score.
There was a curious non-move by manager Dusty Baker in the Reds third when it was still 0-0. Hernandez and Cueto both reached base — two on, no outs. Shouldn’t Drew Stubbs bunt, especially in a pitcher’s park where runs are as scarce as street people with Starbucks cards? He let Stubbs swing away and he struck out. Brandon Phillips hit into a double play. No runs.
AFTER CUETO left, the Reds faced the Giants bullpen, which hadn’t given up a run in 17 innings. They scored one in the eighth when Gomes swung and missed a pitch in the dirt that skipped to the backstop, permitting Rolen to score, and one in the ninth on a single by Phillips.
Nick Masset pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Coco Cordero pitched a pressureless ninth and went 1-2-3 for his 12th save in 14 opportunities.
One down, six to go.Tweet
CINCINNATI — If the Cincinnati Reds are interested in upgrading left field any time soon, or even at the July 31 trade deadline, they might cast a glance westward to San Diego.
It appears the Padres are willing to trade outfielder Ryan Ludwick and would do oit straight up for outfielder Chris Heisey or take some minor-league prospects for him. Ludwick and Reds’ general manager Walt Jocketty already have a history: Jocketty signed him as a free agent for the St. Louis Cardinals in December, 2006.
Ludwick makes $6.7 million on the final year of his contract and the Reds would owe him about $#4 million if the deal is done soon.
Ludwick is 32 and is hitting .256 with eight homers and 37 RBIs, an upgrade over the .197/8/25 owned by Jonny Gomes.
Since shaving off his Mohawk hair-do, Gomes hit .381 with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs. But he is tempting fate. He visited the barber Wednesday morning and showed up at the park with the Mohawk-style back in place.
SPEAKING OF HAIR, Edinson Volquez shaved off his gerry-curled beaded dreadlocks hair-style before his start Tuesdayu night, sporting a bald look. And he brought his old hair to the clubhouse Wednesday in a bag.
As fellow pitcher Johnny Cueto looked on, still sporting his dreadlocks, somebody asked Volquez if he was going to make a wig out of his old hair or if he was going to offer it on eBay.
“Nobody would buy it,” he said.
“You’d be a surprised,” said a media member.
Cueto was asked if his dreads are coming off soon and he said, “Not yet. I’m not ready for that.”
AROLDIS CHAPMAN did not have a good outing Tuesday night for Class AA Carolina against Tennessee: Only two-thirds of an inning, three runs, a home run, a wild pitch that let in a run, a walk, 24 pitches, 12 strikes.
“He hadn’t pitched for a while (May 29 in Louisville),” said manager Dusty Baker. On Tuesday, Baker said Chapman would make two minor-league appearances, but on Wednesday morning that was revised.
“We have him down for four minor-league appearances and then it depends on how he feels and how well he does as to what happens after that. Maybe he’ll be back with us after the road trip (a week from Friday), but it’s all a guess,” said Baker.
IT APPEARS Scott Rolen had more than his self-diagnosed strep throat.
“I talked to the doctor yesterday and he said it is not strep throat as diagnosed by Scott,” said Baker. “It’s a viral infection in the throat and it takes three or four days to run its course. And it’s worse in the heat, so it will be better for Scott once we get to San Francisco (tonight). So in the cool air of San Francisco he should be OK to play Thursday.
“And Edgar Renteria (sore lower back) is better, too,” Baker added. “He hit on Tuesday, he ran and he threw and so he should be better and ready in San Francisco as well.
“And I’ll be better, too, in my own bed and with my family — because my allergies have been bothered me here, too. And I’ll get to get to go fishing Saturday afternoon after the game and that’ll make it even better.”
And a win or two might help even more.
PITCHER JARED BURTON, who has been on the DL (shoulder tightness) since spring training is about to resume activity, but he’ll do it in Arizona, “A process of starting spring training all over again,” said Baker. “He’ll report Sunday and start all over. He’ll pitch one inning in a game June 23, skip two days and pitch another inning and see if he progresses from there — just like spring training.”
FORMER REDS Minor-league pitching coach Bill Maloney, an outstanding man, didn’t have a good night this week.
Maloney is a minor-league pitching coach for Tampa Bay and is with the team’s Class AA team in Montgomery, Ala.
After a game this week, he was followed home from the ball park by two men. When he reached his apartment door, the men approached and demanded money. When he told them he didn’t have much, they gun-whippd him above the eye, opening a large gash.
He handed them his wallet and the muggers took the $20 he had and then shot him in the knee. After the men left, he dialed ‘911’ on his cell phone and told the operator, “I’ve just been mugged and shot.”
Said the operator, “Is this a life-threatening situation?”
Ah, your tax dollars at work.Tweet
CINCINNATI — After five days on the Mayan Rivera at the all-inclusive Dreams resort for the destination wedding of my stepson, Chad, to his beautiful fiancée, Rion, I’m back on U.S. soil, just a little worse for wear.
Four of the five days were glorious. Only Sunday was a bummer because I once again contracted food poisoning and was bed-ridden for nearly 30 hours. But it rained that day after four perfect days, so I picked the correct day to have the toilet bowl as my constant companion.
Well, it wasn’t as bad as my previous trip to Cancun two years ago when I contracted food poisoning AND a dose malaria that took me nearly a year to get out of my system.
AND I DID see one baseball game on Mexican TV — Saturday’s game between the Cincinnati Rojos and the Los Angeles Doe-yers. Even though it was in Spanish I clearly saw what happened — a 7-2 lead that became an 11-8 disaster in 10 innings.
Watching that game reminded me of a story about former Cincinnati outfielder Jeff Stone. He played winter ball in the Caribbean and purchased a TV. When he came home he left the TV and when asked why he didn’t bring it back, he said, “Ah, it only speaks Spanish.”
AFTER WATCHING Brandon Phillips make several eye-popping barehanded plays this season, it is clear to me that he won’t win a Gold Glove this year. He is going to win a Gold Hand.
RIGHT NOW, the Reds are getting a dose of what they need most — The Chicago Cubs, the one team they have dominated. Nothing much else has changed over the past week. The pitching is a mess and the team has a Pitchers Shuttle on daily trips between Cincinnati, Louisville and Carolina.
While many fans continue to moan about the left field and shortstop situation, that isn’t this team’s problem. It all starts and ends with pitching.
The Reds have faced some of the best pitching in the league over the past three weeks and usually scored enough runs to win. But the other team scores more.
“We’re second or third in the league in most offensive categories,” said manager Dusty Baker. “So left field and shortstop are not the problem.”
Indeed, left fielder Jonny Gomes has started to come around and had a three-run homer and four RBIs Monday. Shortstop Paul Janish had three hits Sunday. Gomes is hitting .389 with a homer, two doubles and five RBIs over his last five starts. Over his last seven games Janish is hitting .333 with two two-hit games and the three-hit game.
THE TEMPERATURE was 91 degrees at 3 p.m., but all the Reds pitchers were on the field doing PFP, pitchers fielding practice, most of which involved covering first base on grounds balls and fielding ground balls.
Was it because a couple of Reds pitchers didn’t cover first base in the Dodgers series, including a costly one by Carlos Fisher in the extra-inning debacle against LA?
“We do it once a month,” said Baker. “It just so happens that it follows some recent miscues. No, we do it once a month to keep it familiar, make it second nature so they don’t even have to think about it.”
READ NOTHING special into the fact that Aroldis Chapman is doing his rehab assignment at Class AA Carolina rather than Class AAA Louisville.
It is a matter of location — Louisville is on the road in Syracuse and Carolina is on the road in Tennessee, much closer to Cincinnati.
“It doesn’t really matter much as far as competition as it does just getting on the mound,” said Baker. “Right now his competition is himself, not who he is pitching against. He’s been working hard and this time we anticipate he’ll be back on track. He is a big part of our bullpen.”
Baker said the plans are for Chapman to make at least two appearances on rehab.
SPEAKING OF PITCHERS, Louisville’s Dontrelle Willis came off the DL and pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings Monday against Columbus (three hits, three walks, seven strikeouts) in a 5-0 win.
Willis threw 83 pitches, 48 for strikes, but was unhappy with umpire Jon Byrne’s strike zone. Willis was already out of the game, but was ejected by Byrne for yelling at him from the dugout as Jerry Gil finished the fifth inning.
“For Dontrelle’s first time out, that was great,” said Baker. He didn’t know of Willis’s ejection and said, “Really? I guess he’s into it. Or out of it, one of the two.”
THERE WAS A life-sized stuffed gorilla sitting on a chair in the Reds clubhouse, which automatically evoked jokes.
“When did we get Kevin Mitchell back,” said one player. Said another, “I thought Juan Francisco was back and nobody told us.”
I thought it might have been the gorilla somebody pried off Gomes’s back.
Actually, outfielder Chris Heisey was at Kings Island and won the gorilla and several other prizes shooting basketballs. Maybe the Dallas Mavericks could use him.
SCOTT ROLEN was out of the lineup again with strep throat, something he picked up from his kindergarten son.
“It takes more than a couple of days to get rid of that stuff,” said Baker. “This weather doesn’t help, either — in and out of a/c. And he wants to be here, doesn’t want to be home.”
EDGAR RENTERIA showed up Tuesday with his bad back better than the last couple of days, which was good for him because the club was on the verge of placing him on the DL.
“He’s better,” said Baker. “If he continues at this pace he should be ready for a couple of those games this week in San Francisco. If he wasn’t, we were thinking about DLing him. If we don’t have to, we won’t.”
Baker’s comment on the insidious heat that had Cincinnati under a heat advisory Tuesday: “It feels like a Third World out there.”
OK, IT’S time for YOU got get back to work. I had to use one week’s worth of Ask Hal question for two weeks in the paper due to my trip to Mexico. So the e-mail box in nearly empty of questions. Need ‘em and need ‘em now for this coming Sunday’s DDN. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do it now. Puh-leez.Tweet