May 2010

Civil Rights Game Saturday

This has to be a 10-best day of the year in Cincinnati. It’s in the mid-to-high 70s with a nice breeze and not too humid. It should be a perfect night for a game.

Saturday lineup vs. STL

Cabrera 6
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Gomes 7
Stubbs 8
Hernandez 2
Leake 1

*In his last eight games, Jonny Gomes has raised his batting average from .167 to its current .281 entering tonight. Gomes is 14-for-30 (.467) in the stretch with hits in seven of the games. I can’t recall if he’s ever beaten out two infield hits in one game like he did Friday night. You could tell he was supremely pumped up once he legged out that hit to the shortstop in the ninth inning.

*I forgot to mention in my story last night that Albert Pujols’ homer in the third inning ended the Reds’ pitching staff’s 21 scoreless innings streak. 

*For current Reds players, there hasn’t been a lot of success in a small sample vs. Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright. They’re 9-for-49 (.184). Brandon Phillips is 3-for-16 (.188). Ramon Hernandez is 2-for-5 (.400). Jay Bruce and Orlando Cabrera are the only batters with one homer each against Wainwright.

More to come later…

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Friday vs. Cardinals

Friday lineup vs STL

Cabrera 6
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Gomes 7
Bruce 9
Stubbs 8
Hanigan 2
Harang 1

*For those who are curious, this is Albert Pujols’ split vs. the Reds this season:

.409/.519/.773 with two home runs, nine RBIs, five walks (incl. two intentional), five strikeouts.

A writer in St. Louis during the last series pointed out that Dusty Baker managed teams have intentionally walked Pujols 20 times over his career.

Question of the day: When is it OK for the Reds to pitch to Pujols this weekend (besides when there is no one on)?

*Asked about the importance of the series with the Cardinals, Baker did not play the ‘it’s early’ card.

“It’s never too early when you’re facing somebody in your division, especially a perennial-type foe that’s usually near the top somewhere. You figure it’s three less games you’re going to play them at some point in time whether you’re trying to pad the lead or cut the lead.

“This is a good test for us. It’s a good test for our young players to be in a pressure situation.  It’s an invaluable learning experience to be in a pennant race.”

Some numbers:

The Reds lead the NL with a .988 fielding percentage and come into Friday without an error in eight games. They haven’t gone at least nine games without an error since 1997. Of course, fielding percentage can be a little misleading because it’s only about balls gotten to.

Over the last seven days, the Reds lead the Majors with a .318 team average, ahead of the Twins .299 and the Phillies and Nationals — which were batting .298.

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Some historical notes

From the Reds:

CUETO & BAILEY: RHP Johnny Cueto threw a 1-hitter in Tue’s 9-0 win at Pit (0bb, 8k), followed by RHP Homer Bailey’s 4-hitter in Wed’s 5-0 win at Pit (0bb, 6k)…they became the first Reds duo to throw consecutive shutouts without issuing a walk since 1925, when Jakie May (7/27 vs Cardinals) and Dolf Luque (7/28 vs Phillies) did it…they are the first Major League teammates age 25 or under to throw consecutive shutuouts since Bal’s Mike Mussina (23) and Ben McDonald (24) did it vs the Rangers in July 1992 and the first Reds pitchers that young to do it since Frank Pastore (22) and Mike LaCoss (23) in April 1980 vs SF and at Atl, respectively…Cueto and Bailey are the first Reds pitchers to throw consecutive complete-game shutouts since Jose Rijo and Tom Browning did it on 6/9 (4-0) and 6/10 (5-0), 1989, both at Dodger Stadium…twice in their history have Reds pitchers thrown 3 consecutive complete-game shutouts, from 6/18-6/20, 1908 at Phi (Bob Ewing, Billy Campbell, Andy Coakley) and from 6/21-6/23, 1963 vs Hou (Jim Maloney, John Tsitouris, Bob Purkey)…all courtesy Elias Sports Bureau.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0: With 9-0 and 5-0 wins on Tue and Wed at Pit, the Reds have produced consecutive shutout victories for the first time since a 3-0 win vs Hou on 4/29 of last season, followed on 5/1 by a 4-0 victory at Pit…haven’t had 3 consecutive shutout wins since 6/21-6/23, 1963 vs Hou (3-0 by Jim Maloney CG, 3-0 by John Tsitouris CG, 4-0 by Bob Purkey CG)…the Reds’ current 19.0-inning scoreless streak matches their longest of last season (4/28-5/1)…haven’t thrown more than 19.0 consecutive scoreless innings since a 25.0-inning streak of zeroes from 8/11-8/14, 2000.

Big weekend ahead for Reds

Forgive my lack of bloggage, but I obviously didn’t take the trip to Pittsburgh. I guess no one can accuse the Reds of taking the Pirates too lightly this time. It’s funny that when the rotation was set before the start of the season, the club wanted to separate Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey because they were too unpredictable in how long they could go and Dusty Baker didn’t want to overtax his bullpen. That plan got altered when a struggling Cueto needed an extra day of rest a couple of turns ago.

Ironically, for the last two days with Cueto and Bailey pitching, the bullpen door stayed closed.

Now, comes the first-place Cardinals — who are only one game ahead of the Reds but have been a cold splash of water to the face twice already.

The Reds are 2-4 in 2010 vs. St. Louis and the Albert Pujols/Matt Holliday-led division leader was twice a buzz kill by taking two of three in both series. 

Remember all of that fan optimism coming out of Spring Training? That evaporated rather quick when the Cardinals opened the season here. Then a couple of weeks ago, the Reds had swept three at Houston and took one more at St. Louis before dropping the final two.

It’s still rather early to make too much of it — but taking at least two of three from the Cardinals would be pretty big for the Reds going into the summer. It would also put them into first place. With larger crowds expected for the Civil Rights Game weekend, it also might get some returning customers (aka believers, bandwagon types) back to GABP for some of the lesser marquee matchups.

Questions of the day: How will the Reds fare this weekend vs. the Cards? What would be acceptable to you?

*If you haven’t noticed, I’ve done a few stories in connection with the Civil Rights Game. Please check them out.

Kids connecting through Match Program 

Harmon a trailblazer in long history of Reds

There will be another story up today about the Reds Hall of Fame and Freedom Center.

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Postgame extra: More Leake

A 5-3 win over the Cubs gave the Reds two of three in the series and has them over .500 at 16-15. They remained 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Cardinals.

The really good – Mike Leake

Based on the previous entry, the second time around vs. the Cubs presented few problems for Leake – 7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 WP, 1 HR — 91 pitches/61 strikes. He allowed one walk and faced the minimum through his first five no-hit innings.

“I was curious,” Leake said of facing the Cubs again. “In college I faced some of the teams more than once. For three years, I faced the same guys. It comes down to making your pitch. They could have a book on you but as long as you’re hitting your spots and mixing it up, it’s still tough to hit.”

*I really had that feeling Leake was going to get the no-no. Usually, I’m pretty unconvinced until the seventh but he was cruising and his pitch count was low. I have yet to see a no-hitter in person.

Through six starts, Leake is 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA. Not bad for a guy who has no minor league experience, eh?

“Remarkable is a generous word but it really has been considering he hasn’t touched minor league ball,” Joey Votto said. “I really like playing behind him. I can speak for the rest of the team. It’s been a really short period of time so far but he’s really earned some respect from us.”

“He was throwing strikes,” catcher Ramon Hernandez said. “He paints, especially his sinkerball. He really got a lot of groundballs. He got ahead of a lot of guys and made the other team stay very aggressive so he could make more pitches and early outs. They were figuring out he was throwing strikes.”

“He’s a little dude with a big ol’ heart. With his heart, he’s 6-6 or something,” manager Dusty Baker said.

Baker was asked if Leake was the real deal or just having a very good first six starts.

“I don’t care. He’s been the real deal for six weeks,” Baker said. “Without him, where would our bullpen be and our team be?”

The concern going forward will be not to rely on Leake too much, even if he is the rotation’s best pitcher through five weeks.

“We’re monitoring him and watching his pitch counts very carefully. If there is extra day’s rest in there, we give it to him. you don’t know how he’s going to be in august or September because he’s never been to august or September. We’ll take his April and may. Hopefully we take care of him so he’ll still be strong in August and September.”

That’s it for me for a few days. I will not be on the trip to Pittsburgh. I will have stories coming in a leadup to the Civil Rights Game. Hope you can check them out.

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Test for Leake?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Reds Sunday lineup vs. Cubs

Cabrera 6
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Gomes 7
Stubbs 8
Hernandez 2
Leake 1

This will be the first time Mike Leake will be facing a team for the second time. Pitchers can often have success the first time around the league like Leake has had because he’s not as known. Now teams have a book and background information to take into the second time around.

The last time Leake faced the Cubs, in his big league debut on April 11, he allowed one earned runs and four hits over 6 2/3 innings. He did give up seven walks and struck out five. He’s since cut down on his walks.

Is it tougher for a rookie seeing a team the second time?

“It depends on what adjustments he makes to them and the adjustments that he sees they’re making to him. That’s the thing,” Reds manager Dusty Baker. “It could go both ways. No. 1, which he does very good, he reads swings. He’ll see if they’re trying to go to right field or taking pitches early or swinging early. They’ll show you their game plan pretty quick.”

Ramon Hernandez has worked well with Leake and he will be able to help with the adjustments as he also watches what the hitters are doing. It could be an interesting day and a nice test for Leake.

“That’s what Greg Maddux was so good at,” Baker said. “He would notice the difference in your stance, if you’re bent over, if you’re closed or if you’re open. That’s what he used to study in video. Everybody studies themselves, most of the time it’s bad or wrong and try to correct it — instead of studying the opposition. He’d notice all of those little differences.”

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Going from first to third…

Reds manager Dusty Baker was given a sheet that showed the rankings of teams in the category of going from first base to third base on a single. The Reds led the Majors with 25 times, five ahead of the Twins. The Blue Jays were ranked last with two!

“Everybody gets on our base running, but we’ve been really conscious of running,” Baker said. “We’re doing something right. We get thrown out sometimes but we’re first. Imagine when we start hitting. Or that when the guys that can really run start hitting.”

The Reds are batting .282 as a team with runners in scoring position (ranked fourth in NL), an improvement from the .251 mark they had last season. They’re ranked first in the NL by hitting .296 with RISP and two outs.

“That’s why I’m so positive,” Baker said. “In spring that’s what we really wanted to work on. Let’s keep working and keep fighting. My dad always said ‘pressure busts the pipe.’ It’s hard when you’re accepting pressure. You want to be in position to apply pressure.”

“I don’t have a bunch of burners but I don’t have a bunch of plodders either. That’s why it’s so very important that we be patient and help [Drew] Stubbs. Imagine the impact he can have as our premier burner.”

Baker was chock full of paper to prove another point about Stubbs. He had print outs from BaseballReference.com that showed that Ozzie Smith batted .211 in his second year, then .230 and .222. He had Davey Concepcion, who batted .205 and .209 in his second and third seasons. Mark McGwire batted .201 in 1991.

“In today’s world, they would not have been patient about that. Mike Schmidt hit .196 in 132 games,” Baker said.

“I’m willing to give rope because I know what’s there. I’m known to give rope. I’m criticized for giving rope. You just don’t get it out of everybody at the same rate or the same pace.”

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Brisk day at GABP

I’m no meteorologist but I doubt that tonight’s first pitch will approach the 81 degree first pitch at GABP on Friday. It feels like a crisp fall afternoon for Bengals football. I heard the low will be 38 but I’m guessing it will be the in the 40s and low 50s during tonight’s game. Enjoy.

Reds Saturday lineup vs. Cubs

Cabrera 6
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Gomes 7
Bruce 9
Stubbs 8
Hanigan 2
Harang 1

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Cabrera leading off

Reds Friday lineup vs. Cubs

Cabrera 6
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Gomes 7
Stubbs 8
Hernandez 2
Bailey 1

Dusty Baker foreshadowed change at the leadoff spot following Wednesday’s game. Drew Stubbs hasn’t gotten going with 30 strikeouts in 92 ABs, while batting .174.

Question of the day: Something had to be done, but what do you think of this move? Do you like Orlando Cabrera in the top spot? If not, who would be better among the in-house options?

Some quotes from the principals involved:

“It’s reassuring for me to know that even when things aren’t going your way, Dusty and those guys still have confidence in me to get back where I need to be. It’s illustrated by their moving me down a little bit, taking the pressure off like they did earlier. Hopefully, it will allow me to get it going again.” — Drew Stubbs, who met with Dusty Baker in the office today.

“We’ve been through this before. I need Stubbs’ defense in there. He’s the best center fielder I’ve got. Hopefully his offense comes around.” — Baker

“I don’t think it is [a big deal]. You only leadoff once in the first inning and that’s it. After that, everybody is the same. Hopefully, we keep winning. That’s the whole point of the situation – to change the lineup. We’re trying to get some people on base for the people behind us.” — Cabrera on leading off. He did 35 times last season 251 times for his career.

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Postgame extra: wild, wacky series

It was a wild, wild series with the Mets and it was capped by a 5-4 win in 10 innings on Orlando Cabrera’s walk-off home run off of the left field foul pole. That meant Cincinnati won two of three and moved to 14-14.

This series featured:

*Three games decided by one run and on a home run.
*11 homers combined by both teams — all solo shot. There were 8 by the Reds.

*All three games were tied in the ninth inning.

“As long as we win, that’s the objective,” manager Dusty Baker said. “This was some series here. We walked off. They walked off. We walked off again. Good thing we’re not playing them tomorrow or it would be their turn to walk off again. That was a great series.”

*The Reds have nine wins in their last at-bat this season. That’s just nutty.

“This is special,” Cabrera said. “I don’t think I’ve been on a team like that – that wins so many games in the last at-bat. It’s good and it’s bad. We put ourselves in some crisis situations sometimes. The good thing is we bounce back. Hopefully we can stay focused and keep a lead.”

The good from Wednesday:

*Brandon Phillips infield single to first base in the first inning. He hustled hard and beat the pitcher to the bag with a head-first slide.

*Miguel Cairo snapped a 0-for-13 skid. It was a soft roller past the shortstop.

*Jonny Gomes was 2-for-4 with a single in the fourth and a solo home run in the fifth that gave the Reds a 4-2 lead.

*Another nice outing for Nick Masset, who pitched a perfect eighth inning with two strikeouts.  He got David Wright to fan on a 95 mph fastball and then got Ike Davis to whiff on an 82 mph changeup.

*Cabrera got his team-leading 16th RBI with his home run.

Not so good:

*Ramon Hernandez ran through a stop sign from 3rd base coach Mark Berry on Cabrera’s two-out RBI single to right field. Hernandez was easily nailed at the plate by Gary Matthews’ throw for the third out with Joey Votto on deck.

“Maybe he thought he was Speed Racer all of a sudden,” Baker said. “He didn’t see the stop sign and he didn’t hear anything. Sometimes that happens but it shouldn’t happen with Joey on deck.”

*Drew Stubbs was 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. In 92 ABs, Stubbs is batting .174 with 30 Ks. Baker is considering change at the leadoff spot.

“I may have to re-think things now with Stubbs struggling some,” Baker said. “He came to me today and said his legs were feeling good again. He was having a little problem earlier.”

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