UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Sun Room (it was 95 in The Man Cave) and I was already suffering after an outdoor speaking engagement in front of a CompuNet group Wednesday afternoon at High Noon in Fifth Third Field and although it was on the concourse in the shade it was hot, hot, hot.
It Johnny Cueto wears a t-shirt with an ‘S’ on the chest, it stands for ‘Stopper,’ although it could stand for ‘Superman.’
With the Cincinnati Reds in Desperation Mode, shut out two days in a row by the Legitsburgh Pirates, it was up to Cueto to not only stop the bleeding but to put a tourniquet around it and squeeze tight.
And that he did. On a brutally hot day - just another average day in Cueto’s native Dominican - Cueto was all over the PNC Field on the pitching mound, bolting off the mound for an incredible play on a swinging bunt and dashing around the bases to help his team beat the Pirates, 3-1.
OF COURSE, IT was a help that the Reds managed to score three runs after they scored zero for Dontrelle Willis on Monday and zero for Mike Leake on Tuesday.
The Reds ripped a page from the Pirates playbook, realizing you don’t have to hit the ball into the Allegheny River to win baseball games.
Chris Heisey batted leadoff and player center field for a resting Drew Stubbs and opened the game by reaching second base on an error, the first of three times Heisey would reach first base. Playing smallball early in the game because manager Dusty Baker was offering his kingdom for a run, Edgar Renteria bunted Heisey to third.
Joey Votto scored Heisey on a sacrifice fly and there it was in all its illustrious glory, the first run in the series after 18 straight scoreless innings and they didn’t even need a hit to get it.
THE PIRATES GOT their only run when they scored in the fourth and it could have been a lot worse because they had runners on second and third with no outs. They only scored one, that on a grounder to first base by Garrett Jones and Cueto still led, 2-1.
Cueto helped himself to get a third run in the Reds fifth when he reached on an error by the shortstop with two outs. Heisey singled him to second and when Renteria singled to left field, third base coach Mark Berry waved Cueto homeward from second base and he made it.
For his six-plus inning, Cueto held the Pirates to one run, four hits, two walks and struck out four. He started the seventh, but third baseman Scott Rolen couldn’t handle Michael McKendry’s hard line drive for an error, Bill Bray came on.
Matt Diaz immediately singled, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Then the Pirates did a strong imitation of the Reds in recent days. They didn’t score.
Alex Presley bunted into a force play at third. Logan Ondrusek replaced Bray and got Chase d’Armaud on a fly to left and struck out highly dangerous Neil Walker, whose 13-game hitting streak ended Wednesday.
THAT WAS IT for the Pirates. Ondrusek got the firtst out of the eighth, then Aroldis Chapman came in to face two left-handers, Lyle Overbay (grounder to second) and Garrett Jones (strikeout).
All that remained was for Coco Cordero come in for the ninth and go 1-2-3 for a stressless save.
So the Reds salvaged one game in the series before taking Thursday off, then beginning a high-octane homestand, 10 games that will determine their immediate future as the trade deadline sneaks closer. They have three over the weekend against the Atlanta Braves, four against the New York Mets and three against the San Francisco Giants, all at Great American Ball Park.
It is put-up-or-shut-up time.
HEADING TO Fifth Third Field in Dayton tonight to be part of another Dayton Dragons’ sellout. I’ll be in the fourth row of section 110 so stop by and say hello - and if you have some water, I’ll probably need it.
YOU HAVE JUST a few hours to those nifty Ask Hal questions in by noon Thursday for Sunday inclusion. Send ‘em to firstname.lastname@example.org/Tweet