UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after a delicious dinner of Tony’s rigatoni at the Ladder 11 restaurant on Brown Street in Dayton, although I had to hold back my wife, Nadine, because she wanted to slide down the fireman’s pole that is still part of the old firehouse turned into a restaurant.
If it weren’t that the Cincinnati Reds needed the win so much, even a Reds fan almost had to feel sorry for Chicago Cubs pitcher Travis Wood.
Wood is the pitcher, along with outfielder Dave Sappelt, whom the Reds traded last winter to the Cubs for pitcher Sean Marshall.
So Saturday was the first time Wood faced his old team and first time the Reds faced their former teammate.
And as so often happens, Wood was armed and ready to make his old team wish they had never traded him.
For seven innings he had the Reds flailing futilely at his cut fastballs — seven innings, one run, five hits, one walk, eight strikeouts (seven of them called).
UNFORTUNATELY FOR Wood and the Cubs, and fortunately for the Reds, the Cubs went to the bullpen because Wood was at 99 pitches, close to that mythical 100 mark at which so many managers shudder in fear.
So Wood was taken out, leading by 2-1, replaced by James Russell, son of former Reds pitcher Jeff Russell.
As Wood watched in horror, his seven innings of hard work dissipated faster than anybody could say Ernie Banks and Billy Williams.
—Drew Stubbs, who Wood had struck out three times, said hi-how-are-ya to Russell with a leadoff double.
—Brandon Phillips singled, his third hit, sending Stubbs to third.
—Ryan Ludwick (Mr. Comeback Player of the Year) lashed a double that scored both Stubbs and Phillips and the Reds led, 3-2, and Wood’s wonderful work was blown away by more than the stiff winds of Wrigley Field.
—Ludwick was doubled off second on a fly ball to left field by Todd Frazier — and because of his diligent work of late, Ludwick can be forgiven for this momentary gaffe.
—Chris Heisey blooped a double to right and scored on a single to right by Wilson Valdez to make it 4-2.
BRONSON ARROYO started for the Reds and at first was overshadowed by Wood, giving up two runs in the second inning on an 0-and-2 single by David DeJesus.
From then on, though, Arroyo was the master. He retired 19 of the last 20 Cubs who dragged bats to the plate for no apparent reason.
THE REDS’ ONLY run off Wood came in the fourth inning, an inning in which they should have scored more than one.
With one out, Phillips doubled and Ludwick was hit by a pitch. Todd (Mr. Rookie of the Year) Frazier singled to score Phillips and cut the Cubs lead to 2-1.
But the Reds still had two on and one out. Alas, Heisey struck out on three pitches, taking the third strike, and Wilson Valdez grounded into a force play.
And that’s the way it stood until Wood left and Russell arrived and the Reds banged away, fighting the shadow of the grandstand between the pitcher’s mound and the batter’s box. The pitcher was in the sun and the batter was in the shade, making the ball difficult to see.
But the Reds banged away as if they were wearing miner’s helmets with lights to see the ball.
Now leading, 4-2, manager Dusty Baker tempted fate by sending Arroyo back out there for the eighth. What a genius. Arroyo pitched another 1-2-3 inning.
BACK WHEN JEFF SHAW was the Reds’ closer, he was so automatic that one day I told him, “I keep the last paragraph of every story I write because it says, ‘And Jeff Shaw got the save.’”
That’s the way it is with Aroldis Chapman, ‘And Aroldis Chapman got the save.’”
Of course he did. Another 1-2-3 inning, two more strikeouts — defying all adjectives and superlatives.
OK, how about this? Against National League teams this year, Chapman has pitched 51 2/3 innings and given up one earned run and struck out 97.
AND ALL THE hand-wringers and head-hangers and doomsdayers who were ready to drive their cars off a cliff when the Reds lost five in a row?
Well, the Pittsburgh Pirates lost again and the Reds lead the National League Central by 4 ½ games.
All is well in the Rhineland — and if you don’t know where the U.S. Rhineland is, ask your dad, or your granddad.Tweet