July 2010

Happy 4th

A Happy Fourth of July to everyone. It’s a great day to remember the founding of the country and those who continue to work on our behalf to preserve it.

It’s going to be a smoking-hot afternoon at Wrigley Field. Several hours before game time, it’s already roasting.

I have a flight after the game tonight — I rate my chances of making it 30-70 at this point. Stay tuned later as we will learn who makes the All-Star team on TBS beginning at Noon ET.

Sunday lineup vs. Cubs

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

*Chris Dickerson is here, currently taking fly balls in the outfield with Billy Hatcher hitting balls his way. Dickerson wasn’t here the previous the three days. Dickerson (right hand/wrist surgeries) recently resumed swinging again after he had to shut it down because of a setback.

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Postgame quote parade

It was another game from the bizarro world as the Reds lost 3-1 to the Cubs. Why was it a little weird, you ask?

*The Cubs tied a franchise record by stranding 17 men on base. They were 3-for-16 RISP and still won.

*Johnny Cueto walked five and allowed seven hits but had five scoreless innings while throwing 101 pitches. His ERA in his last four starts is 0.70.

*Randy Wells no-hit the Reds for six innings until Chris Heisey’s leadoff single in the seventh. Of course, he was mired in a scoreless tie until the top of the sixth.

Quotes —

“He had trouble getting strike one. That was the problem. He threw a lot of near-strikes. Ramon said he was not missing by much, especially on the inside.  But they were balls. They weren’t going for him. Usually he can spot that inside fastball with a lot of efficiency.” — Dusty Baker on Johnny Cueto.

“It’s one of those days I didn’t have it. I made a few pitches over the heart of the plate. They got a few key hits that blooped in. I hit a batter and walked one. It just wasn’t my day.” — Reliever Jordan Smith, who gave up three runs in the sixth after Cueto departed.

“Thank God, I put the ball in play and nobody caught it.” — Cubs LF Alfonso Soriano, who broke the scoreless tie in the sixth with a blooped single that dropped in front of diving center fielder Chris Heisey.

“We had people on. We got three of them in and won a baseball game. Let’s be happy with that.” — Cubs manager Lou Piniella.

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Stubbs, Baker meet about hitting

Reds manager Dusty Baker had center fielder Drew Stubbs in his office this morning to talk about hitting and Stubbs’ recent struggles. His average is down to .233 and he’s struck out 11 times in the last 24 at-bats over seven games.

“He’s been a little bit defensive,” Baker said. “He keeps waiting to see if it’s a ball or strike and you don’t have that kind of time. You have to start your swing and stop it versus going from a stop to a start. He’s a smart kid. We’re talking about hitting in a mathematical sense.”

Baker, who started Chris Heisey for Stubbs, realizes he’s criticized for playing Stubbs regularly in center field. While Stubbs is ranked seventh in the NL with 85 strikeouts, he’s sixth in the league in steals and has 36 RBIs. He’s batting .289 since moving to the seventh spot on May 7. And defensively, no one on the Reds can cover more ground in center field.

“His upside potential is amazing,” Baker said. “I know people get on me for playing him. But this isn’t a Willy Taveras situation. People were upset because we were playing Willy. But we were playing Willy because we knew we were trying to trade Willy. You can’t trade somebody if he’s not playing.”

Taveras, of course, was the much-maligned center fielder the Reds employed last season. He was traded over the winter to Oakland. He’s since been released twice.

Stubbs said he’s confidence has remained strong.

“This is a constant battle to stay sharp in this game,” Stubbs said. “This is such a tough game. You’re going to go through your series of ups and downs. The key is to maximize the time you’re feeling good and rolling up there and minimize the times that you’re not.”

*One thing fans don’t get to see or hear as much is Baker’s knowledge of the game, especially how he gained that knowledge. Although he likes to surround himself with younger people and his hip to the current culture, he is also a link to baseball as it was played in the 1960s and 70s. It’s that experience he passes on to younger players like Stubbs.

“When I was rookie, Ron Fairly was with the Cardinals,” Baker said. “He called me into another room and gave me a two-strike approach. I was on the other team. Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda — those guys taught me how to hit with runners in scoring position. Back then, guys would talk a lot especially if they knew you could hit. Pete Rose took me to his house to talk about hitting. I left a runner on third once with less than two outs and Bob Watson took me over to his house. He said ‘don’t be leaving money out there.’ He taught me a theory and philosophy on how to pick them up.”

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Different looking lineup

Saturday lineup vs. Cubs

Phillips 4
Heisey 8
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Hernandez 2
Nix 7
Janish 6
Cueto 1

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Nothing trivial about this rout

The Reds’ 12-0 win over the Cubs certainly qualified as one of the oddest games I’ve seen all year. It was a 1-0 game through six innings.

As I watched Ryan Dempster retire 13 in a row while the Reds had only two hits and one run through six innings, I could see frustrated Reds fans take to Twitter and complain, a lot.

No one was whining after the top of the seventh. It took around 35 minutes and nine runs scored — while only three hits were notched. The Cubs did most of the work for the Reds by allowing six walks, one passed ball and one error.

*The biggest walk was Arroyo’s four-pitch free pass that ended Dempster’s day. That one opened the gates and began the rout.

*Arroyo had only 89 pitches through six innings but the long seventh iced him long enough to have to come out. He, Logan Ondrusek and Micah Owings combined for a two-hit shutout.

“I knew it was probably going to be a close game for a while because Dempster has been throwing the ball good all year,” Arroyo said. “Luckily for me, we got a chance to break it up and give me a kind of a days’ rest where I could take two innings off and get ready for my next one.”

*Joey Votto hit his 19th homer of the season in the eighth. That moved into a tie for the NL lead with Pujols, who plays later tonight.

*It’s hard to believe that on Thursday, the Reds notched 16 hits over 10 innings and scored only three runs. What a country.

*The Reds have won three in a row and nine of the last 11.

Some trivia — 

*Five different Reds hitters each had two RBIs.

*Gomes ans Bruce scored twice in the seventh. That hasn’t happened for this team since Felipe Lopez and Sean Casey did it on Aug. 5, 2004 at San Francisco.

*The nine-run seventh was the Reds’ most in a single inning since scoring 10 against Arizona on Aug. 19, 2005.

*The six walks were the most in an inning since August 10, 2005 against the Cubs at Wrigley.

*At the halfway point of 81 games, the Reds are 45-35. This time last year, they were 40-41.

More quotes that didn’t make my MLB.com story —

“We feel good about where we’re at. Everybody is swinging the bat well. Hopefully we’ll get good pitching the rest of the series and continue on in New York and Philly.” — Bronson Arroyo

“We’ve been in games like that with our pitchers. They keep us in the game. Starting pitchers are doing a heck of a job, that’s for sure. If they’ll be patient, we’ll be patient. We’ll come out on the better half in the end.” — Jonny Gomes on the early pitchers’ duel

“We have a tough 81 games to come down the stretch. We just want to finish strong, No. 1, and hopefully pick up a couple of games in the meantime. Every game we win now is one last game on the schedule.” — Dusty Baker

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Friday by the lake

Thumbnail image for wrigley field 070210.jpgHope everyone has a nice, and safe, holiday weekend.

Friday lineup vs Cubs

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

*Orlando Cabrera is 14-for-38 (.368) lifetime vs. Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, Brandon Phillips is 2-for-18 (.111) and Joey Votto is 3-for-13 with two homers (.231).

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Postgame extra: Wood was good

The Reds kind of got away with one Thursday during a 3-2 win over the Cubs in 10 innings. There were 16 hits, and only three runs? Yowza.

The good —

*Travis Wood had a mighty nice debut and he was the biggest reason the Reds won the game — even if he wasn’t in the final decision. Wood took a two-hit shutout into the eighth inning before two walks undid a chance to win. He threw only 91 pitches and had four single-digit pitched innings.

*Wood retired 13 in a row at one point and 15 of 16. He topped out at 92 mph several times and had a full arsenal of cutters and changeups working.

“For a guy to come up in his first start and throw 10-11 pitches per inning for seven innings, especially at Wrigley Field, it’s something you really don’t see too much,” catcher Corky Miller said. “He did what he was supposed to do.”

*Scott Rolen turned a strong inning-ending double play in the eighth after the game was tied on Derrek Lee’s broken bat grounder. Had it not been turned, the Cubs would’ve taken the lead.

*Jay Bruce’s slide to break up the double play in the 10th on might have been out of the baseline but it was hard-nosed baseball right there.

“We’re taught to play the game a certain way,” Bruce said. “That’s how I play it and how we play it on this team. It does help win games. I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone or anything like that. I was trying to prevent them from turning the double play.”

The not-so-good —

*Did I mention 16 hits and only three runs? The Reds were 2-for-11 RISP and stranded 13.

“We had plenty of chances,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Rarely are you going to see 16 hits and three runs. We left a lot of guys out there but we kept the pressure on them and eeked one across in the 10th inning.”

*Nick Masset hadn’t allowed a hit in his last five appearances, but gave it up today after inheriting the 2-0 lead. After Wood’s two walks to start the eighth, a sac bunt and Tyler Colvin’s single tied the game.

Background info —

Dusty Baker said that Arthur Rhodes and Bill Bray were not available for this game. Rhodes pitched the last two games and Bray pitched two games in a row and warmed up Wednesday.

More quotes —
“I got the zone, my pitches were working well and I was able to throw most of them for strikes and things were going my way.” — Travis Wood

“I saw him when he was 18 years old and we were both in the GCL together, roommates. He’s doing what he did. He’s learned how to pitch and use his stuff. He did great today. He came in here like it was any other outing in any other place and shut the Cubs down for seven innings.” — Jay Bruce on Wood.

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Notes on Volquez, Hanigan, Gomes

*Edinson Volquez is scheduled to make his next rehab start for Triple-A Louisville on Monday at Indianapolis. But that’s not set in cement, just yet.

“We haven’t decided yet. We’re going to talk about that today,” manager Dusty Baker said.

UPDATE: GM Walt Jocketty said Volquez will start Sunday on regular rest. How many minor league starts he gets after that is up in the air.

“We’ll determine it after his next start,” Jocketty said.

*Through six games of his rehab assignment at Louisville, catcher Ryan Hanigan (broken left thumb) is hitting only .143 (3-for-21). He’s made two starts behind the plate and four as the DH. Hanigan is expected to get tonight’s game off. There remains no timetable to activate him from the DL.

“He’s catching well,” Baker said. “He doesn’t have any pain in his thumb, I’m told. We’re just waiting for him to get his stroke together. We want him here, ready, not just here to catch. His offense was a big part of our offense as well. He hadn’t gotten a lot of hits. We want him to get a few more quality at-bats and hits and he’ll be here shortly.”

*Jonny Gomes had a very big leadoff single in the eighth inning off Roy Halladay and the Phillies Wednesday. It came just before Jay Bruce’s game-winning two-run homer.

“I was just trying to get on in any way. I would’ve taken getting hit by a pitch in the neck,” Gomes said this morning.

Gomes is 8-for-45 (.178) in 12 games since the start of the West Coast trip on June 18. But over his last 50 games, he’s hitting .314 (54-for-172, 7 HRs)

“It’s those numbers that go up and down that I don’t worry about but everyone else pays attention to,” Gomes said. “I’m still grinding out a hit a day. Everyone looks at it as it was such a hot month I had and they were thinking I was going to keep on hitting .400. I don’t worry about stuff like that when you’re in first place.”

*And from the Elias Sports Bureau: The Reds’ 25th comeback win of the season on Wednesday matches the most come-from-behind wins the Reds have ever had through the end of June.  They also had 25 such wins before July 1 in 1957, 1975 and 1978.

*Several Chicago reporters were in the office this morning. With things going bad for Lou Piniella lately, Baker was asked if Chicago was a tough place to manage.

“Yeah, it’s tough,” he responded. “One reason it’s tough is because nobody lets go of the past. Everybody is still counting. I was here for four out of the 100 years. You talk to most and they act like I was here the whole hundred years. I’m only 61 years old.”

A test begins

There are always some sizable obstacles and tests during the course of a 162-game season, and this 11-game, 11-day road trip through Chicago (4 games), New York (3 games) and Philadelphia (4 games) heading into the All-Star break certainly qualifies.

Does anyone care to guess what the road trip record will be? I’m going with 6-5, which would satisfactory for a trip of this nature.

Thurs lineup vs. Cubs

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

**Wood will wear No. 30.

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