May 2011

On to Cleveland, tough road trip

That wasn’t really the way the Reds would have liked to go into the longest, and potentially most difficult, road trip of the season.

It was a 5-3 loss to the Pirates to get swept in the two-game series. It was a 5-1 game after 7 1/2 innings when the Reds added one in the eighth and one in the ninth, but it never felt like one of those dazzling comebacks was in the air.

The Reds went 11-5 in a 16-game stretch against all NL Central clubs. If there is any good news for you the fan, the Pirates don’t return to Cincinnati again this season. The Reds don’t see them again in Pittsburgh until July 18-20.

Up next are 10 games in a row vs. two first place teams and a contender. If the Reds can get through Cleveland, Philadelphia and Atlanta and have a .500 trip, they should fly home happy when it’s over.

“It will be our toughest one all year, but I think we’ll be fine,” right fielder Jay Bruce said. “We’re playing well, so we just play our game and not worry about anything else, just take care of business.

Notes:

*Johnny Cueto looked brilliant over his first two starts but certainly had some difficulties at times today, especially in the second inning. During a 31-pitch inning, he reached a three-ball count to four of the six hitters faced and walked two.

*Still bothered by a head cold, Jay Bruce was hacking and coughing by his locker after the game. But the day off Wednesday did him some good. Bruce was the only Reds hitter to have a robust afternoon at the plate. He was 3-for-4 with a leadoff homer to right field in the second inning and a leadoff homer in the bottom of the ninth.

*Ramon Hernandez’s 11-game hitting streak is over after a 0-for-4 game.

*Brandon Phillips has a season-high hitting streak of 10 games after his two-hit day.

*The Reds are 1-5 vs. the Pirates this season, but 19-7 vs. the rest of the NL Central.

*The Reds haven’t dropped consecutive games since May 1-3 vs. Florida and Houston.

Quotes:
“The day off helped me, I think, kind of get some energy back. But obviously we should have won. The Pirates have given us a tough time so far.” — Jay Bruce

“Aggressiveness is fine but at the same time, there are no outs and it’s 4-1. You’ve got to make that almost standing up. He’s trying to make something that just wasn’t the appropriate time trying to make it happen in that situation. Invariably, it seems like every time you get thrown out, the next guy gets a hit.” — Dusty Baker on Brandon Phillips getting thrown out at second base leading off the seventh trying to stretch for a double.

“[Cueto] had those three-ball counts and the ball was missing off the plate, kind of cutting on him. It was a tough ball for Brandon and the 3-2 count on Walker – this guy has been a thorn in our side big time. I don’t know what he’s hitting against us but it’s a ton. We have to figure a way to get him out. He’s the guy doing most of the damage.” — Baker on Cueto’s second inning.

“We just kind of waited him out today. He has tremendous stuff. He’s got a lot of pitches that have a lot of movement and we just kind of waited for our pitch. We know that he has a tendency to throw balls and go into long counts, so that was our gameplan – wait him out, wait for pitch we could handle, don’t swing at his pitches. It worked out.” — Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit on Cueto.

“Very big for us. We know every time we come in here and every time we play the Reds in general, it’s going to be a battle from first to ninth inning. It’s important for us not to let off the throttle when we get up and let games go that our in our grasp. ” — Pirates 2B Neil Walker, who was 2-for-4 with two doubles. Walker had a two-out, two-run double off Cueto in the fifth.

Heisey starts

Since so many clamored for it, thought I’d headline it.

Reds lineup vs Pirates

Heisey 8
Renteria 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Cairo 5
Lewis 7
Hernandez 2
Cueto 1

A lot of people (and you know who you are) are harping about the lack of playing time for Chris Heisey. Today’s lineup probably doesn’t totally satisfy you because Heisey isn’t in left field. But the manager wanted to give Drew Stubbs a break.

“I’m going to need Drew all the way through Milwaukee (end of May, early June),” manager Dusty Baker said. Unless something happens, he’s not going to get a day off. We’re in a stretch of 20-straight games and 33 in 34 days, and this is May. He’s a racehorse. You can’t run those horses in the ground. I have to preserve him and his legs.”

As for the Heisey question that’s been asked and answered time and again, by all parties involved, here are some long-form quotes from Baker about how he uses Heisey and what his big picture thoughts about him:

“Everybody was screaming for Nix to play before. They were screaming for Dickerson to play and then they screamed for Gomes, how come Gomes isn’t playing every day? Then they were screaming about sending Stubbs out of here and they were screaming about sending Bruce out of here.”

“Every good basketball team has a sixth man. John Havlicek was a sixth man before he was a regular. He still has some things to learn – to me – hitting wise before he’s an everyday play, but he will be. He knows it. I told him. Sometimes you have to be that sixth man before you can be a fifth man.”

“Coming off the bench is hard to do and so very important. Who would you rather have come off the bench every day and be the secret weapon, Heisey or Gomes at this point? I’m trying to be patient waiting on Jonny. I know how he can carry the club. He’s putting a lot of pressure on himself being his option year. If he’s not playing some, he’s not going to get it at all. He’s the only guy I’ve got here that knows how to DH when we get to the American League, which is not easy to do.”

“Show me a lineup around that doesn’t have somebody in there that’s not productive in the lineup. There ain’t one around. We can look for what we ain’t doing. In the meantime, how many have we won now? That ain’t too bad. We’re trying to get better. We will. We’re not clicking on all cylinders yet. We’re getting there.”

“If you’ve noticed, Heisey stands by me every day during the National Anthem. If things weren’t cool, would he stand by me every day?”

Not much for Morton

Charlie Morton.

And that’s about it, good night everybody….

OK…and we’re back. Morton certainly made it look easy with a five-hitter and 5-0 shutout over the Reds. The guy was 0-2 with a 6.91 ERA against the Reds last season now has two complete games against them this year.

“We’ve got to figure him out because he’s given us the blues the last couple of times out,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Notes:

*Joey Votto wasn’t trucking too fast as he was running from first to third inning on a Brandon Phillips double and it wasn’t from lack of effort. Even if he was, it was doubtful he could score.

“He’s hobbling a little bit. We don’t want everybody to know it,” Baker said of Votto. He did not elaborate on the nature of the issue, however.

*The game lasted only two hours, 17 minutes — fastest for the Reds this season.

*Morton recorded 14 groundball outs.

*Bronson Arroyo gave up five runs in seven innings — all coming via two homers by Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen. He was the first Reds starter to lose since May 3 — a stretch of 13 games.

*That previous mentioned double extended extended Phillips hitting streak to nine games with a double in the first inning.

*The Reds five-game winning streak and seven-game home winning streak is over.

Quotes:

“I look forward to pitching against this team. I respect everyone in this lineup – every single hitter. To pitch well here, it’s not an easy part to pitch in. To pitch well against them, is it slightly more rewarding? Yeah, it is.” — Pirates RHP Charlie Morton

“He was more of a power pitcher last year, throwing four-seamers and most of the stuff was hard. I heard last year they didn’t really allow him to throw his two-seamer. This year, they have a different pitching coach and now he’s throwing that two-seamer, which is a sinker. When your sinker is working and the groundballs aren’t going through, it’s tough to really center the ball. When you do, it’s on the ground.” — Dusty Baker

The quality starts keep coming

Reds lineup vs. Pirates

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Lewis 9
Gomes 7
Hanigan 2
Arroyo 1

*UPDATED lineup above with Fred Lewis in RF now, batting sixth and Scott Rolen moving up to the 5th spot. Jay Bruce was scratched because he is sick. Bruce was feeling under the weather during Tuesday’s game vs. the Cubs.

“You could see it in his eyes,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “You kind of want to quarantine him so it doesn’t spread around. That’s the thing that you hate the most, as a team; when things become an epidemic.”

*Reds starting pitchers are 8-0 with a 2.37 ERA in the last 13 games since May 3. There have been five straight quality starts and nine of the last 10. No doubt this has been the biggest reason for the recent boost to the team.

*The club’s 13 come-from-behind wins are second in the Majors behind the Rockies’ 15.

*Fox Sports Ohio has picked up the June 8 Reds game vs. the Cubs that begins at 12:35 p.m. ET. The move was made because ESPN converted the Reds’ June 12 game at the Giants to an exclusive Sunday Night Baseball broadcast.

A wet and wild Reds win

What a nutty game. What a messy game, too.

The rain and some inclement conditions made for a wild and wacky night, but the Reds still splashed and dashed their way to a 7-5 victory over the Cubs for a two-game series sweep and five-game winning streak.

There were five errors committed in this one, with four of them charged to the Cubs. That resulted in all seven of the Reds runs being unearned. After seeing the Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals and Astros play already, I can definitely state with some authority that there is a lot of bad defense being performed in the NL Central.

“We capitalized on mistakes tonight,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “I sound like a broken record talking about defense. That’s the one difference between our club and a lot of clubs is that we generally don’t beat ourselves. It was tough conditions tonight, real tough conditions.”

Notes:

*Once again, I was getting panicked tweets from fans looking for any way possible to move Edinson Volquez out of the rotation. Sure he gave up three first inning runs. There was one single, a stolen base and two-out hit-by-pitch that barely touched Aramis Ramirez. Volquez missed on a first-pitch fastball for a homer by 2011 Reds killer Carlos Pena.

*What did Volquez do after that? Allow only one more hit over the next five scoreless innings. After the first, he retired a stretch of eight in a row and 10 of 11. His line: 6 ip, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 HB, 1 HR looks like a quality start to me. Like I’ve said before, Volquez isn’t where he should be, but his stuff is far too good to be pushing the button on a trap door out of the rotation.

*Baker had no intention of pinch-hitting for Volquez with the bases loaded in the fourth inning down by a 3-0 score. Good thing. Volquez hit a first pitch from Matt Garza off 1B Carlos Pena’s glove for an error. Garza retrieved the ball and threw an error ball into the visitor’s dugout, which let three runs score and put Volquez on third base.

“We’re in this streak of 20 in a row, and that comes in to play, too,” Baker said explaining a reason he stuck with Volquez. “That comes into our minds because we have 15 more to go. You certainly don’t want to get upside down that early in the ball game. … During the streak our pitching has been outstanding, taking us deep into ball games.”

*Ryan Hanigan’s sac bunt was quite the adventure in the eighth inning. RHP Kerry Wood’s throw to third base wound up all the way down the left field line as two runs scored. Assist to the ball for getting the chair out of the way as the ball rolled his way.

*I can imagine Cubs fans cringed in the eighth when Kosuke Fukudome missed the cutoff man and the relay guy with his horrible throw from right field on Joey Votto’s double. It allowed Paul Janish to score from first base.

*And in another weird moment in the sixth and two outs, Miguel Cairo struck out and headed to the dugout thinking it was the third out. Players were heading off the field. Turned out, it was a wild pitch from Garza and Cairo ran back out and reached first base while Ramon Hernandez went to second base. Umpires missed rule 609-b, which essentially says that Cairo should have been out once he leaves dirt circle around home plate. It didn’t amount to a rally since next batter Drew Stubbs struck out.

*Ramon Hernandez has an 11-game hitting streak and is batting .425 (17-for-40) during it. He had a single in the sixth inning.

*Paul Janish’s eighth-inning single snapped a 0-for-17 skid.

*The Reds have 13 come-from-behind wins this season.

Quotes:

“Y’all should be used to it. People that leave the stadium early, I feel sorry for you guys. You’re missing a great game. It just feels good for our team to stay within ourselves, stay positive and good things will happen. We really believe in ourselves. When everybody is picking everybody up, things like this really happen.” — Brandon Phillips on the frequent Reds comeback wins.

“I had it played out before it happened in my head. Make a good pitch here, the guy bunts it back, go to third. The balls going to be wet, so just be sure to make a good throw and I threw it to the wall. If I get the ball to Ramy, I think we have a chance to get the double play.” — Cubs RHP Kerry Wood, on his error in the eighth.

“That was unbelievable. You stay around here long enough, you’re going to see a lot of things. Boy, this feels like we’re in August, but we’re only in May. We’ve played some exciting, drag-out, knock-down baseball where every day it’s a challenge. These guys will rise to it, and the more they do it the more they believe they can do it.” — Dusty Baker said.

Getting it done in the division

Reds lineup vs. Cubs

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Rolen 5
Lewis 7
Hernandez 2
Volquez 1

*Even though the Reds have been rolling despite him of late, a really good start by Edinson Volquez could be another nice boost for this club. He has yet to have a start with less than two walks and he he’s had more than two in every start but Opening Day.  He’s walked nine over his last two starts, totaling nine innings.

*Right now the tarp is on the field, but I have not heard an evening forecast for this game.

*Drew Stubbs has hits in 8 of his last 9 games and is batting .368 (14-for-38) in that stretch.

*Scott Rolen is 8-for-17 (.471) since coming off of the DL on Friday.

*Ramon Hernandez is riding a 10 game hitting streak and batting .421 (16-for-38) during what is the longest hitting streak by a Reds player this season.

*Made a faux pas in last night’s blog. Yesterday was game 13 in a stretch of 16-straight games vs. NL Central rivals and that’s where the Reds were 10-3. It was the fourth day in a stretch of 16 games without a day off. I accidentally merged two different notes together. Sorry folks.

*The Cubs are expected to call up OF Tony Campana, a graduate of Springboro H.S. in Ohio and the Univ. of Cincinnati. Campana was a 13th round pick in the 2008 Draft. This would be his big league debut if he appears.

*RIP Harmon Killebrew.

Ambush!

 Sometimes it seems, the Reds do their best work from behind. They laid low — very low in fact — for the first half of Monday’s game against Carlos Zambrano. But a 4-0 deficit after 5 1/2 innings quickly became a 7-4 win over the Cubs. It came on seven runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Jonny Gomes had the big offensive moment with his two-run homer that capped the scoring. The Reds sent 12 to the plate in the sixth and had nine-straight batters reach safely with one out

“This team’s got a lot of fight,” Gomes said. “One hit through five and some change. You saw that again tonight. It’s a magical team with a bunch of hot hitters and a bunch of real good hitters and they’ll shine at any time.”

Notes:

*It’s the second time since Friday that the Reds have bounced back from a 4-0 deficit. It also happened on Friday vs. St. Louis. It was also the Reds’ 12th come-from-behind victory this season

*Gomes homer in the sixth was his first since April 17 and it gave him first RBIs since April 30. Oddly enough, he did not see the ball clear the fence on the fly and thought he had a ground rule double and stopped at second base. The umpire told him it was a homer before Gomes headed home.

*Bailey did a nice job in the first to work out of his own mess. He walked the bases loaded with one-out but also struck out the side. It was a 32-pitch inning but he went on to retired 10 of the next 11, which included a double play.

*Superb one-hop throw to the plate from CF Drew Stubbs in the eighth to nail Alfonso Soriano, who tried to score on a Marlon Byrd single. The throw beat Soriano by a step as he slid into the plate.

*Reliever Sam LeCure has not given up a run of his own in his last 5 appearances since moving to the bullpen.

*Francisco Cordero had a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 8th save while working his fourth straight game. That was career save No. 298 for Cordero.

*Reds starting pitchers are 8-0 with 2.20 ERA over the last 12 games.

*The Reds have won four-straight and eight of nine. Thirteen games into this stretch of 20 in a row, they’re 10-3.

Quotes:

“It’s interesting. If you’re on a last-place team, no one’s paying attention to your struggles, but if you’re playing on a first-place team and everyone’s banging it kind of gets exposed a little bit. I might get some days off with the struggles, but I’ll never get some days off with a lack of effort and not hustling. At the end of the day, that’s going to shine.” — Jonny Gomes, who entered the night batting .186

“I knew something was off, mechanically, after that second batter. I threw one pitch after the bases loaded, figured out what it was and was able to correct it on the fly. I wish it wouldn’t have taken three hitters to do that, but nonetheless we were able to get out of it without any damage.” — Homer Bailey on escaping his bases loaded jam in the first by striking out the side.

“That was kind of like a thunderstorm that came in and all of sudden, we had seven runs and a chance to get some more.” — Dusty Baker

Chapman to DL

The Reds announced Monday that Aroldis Chapman went on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder inflammation. Jordan Smith was recalled from Triple-A Louisville.

Obviously, Chapman has been wild with nine earned runs and 12 walks over his last four appearances — including his four walks over five batters in the ninth during  the 9-7 win over STL Sunday. The 23-year-old has 20 walks and 15 strikeouts over 13 innings and has a 6.92 ERA over 16 games.

Reds lineup vs. Cubs

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

More notes

 *The Reds are 23-17 entering tonight’s game. You know what their record was at this point in 2010? It was 23-17.

*In the last 11 games, the Reds rotation is 7-0 with a 2.00 ERA.

*Over his last 5 games on rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville, 3B Juan Francisco (strained left calf) is 8-for-26 (.308) with one home run and seven RBIs.

*The Reds are the only team in the Majors that have 11 players with at least 10 RBIs this season.

*Members of the Class A Dayton Dragons roster and coaching staff will be at the game today as guests of the Reds.

*Interesting news out of Los Angeles. Former Reds COO John Allen was named by MLB today to assist Tom Schieffer, recently appointed monitor of the Dodgers, in the oversight of the business, finances and day-to-day operations of the Dodgers. Allen was COO of the Reds from 1999-2007.

*For those who have been wondering and asking, Joey Votto’s “This is SportsCenter” commerical for ESPN will debut next Monday, May 23. The Reds next appear on Sunday Night Baseball for that network on May 29.

Just the quotes…

All quotes today for this postgame blog. Get complete stories about the game, sweep, Chapman and postgame incident on MLB.com/Reds.com.

“Nobody can just keep beating you all the time even though he had a heck of a run. They helped us out with a couple of defensive plays. He looked like the same Carpenter to me. It might have been our turn. That was a big sweep right there. They came in 1 ½ up and left 1 ½ out. Had it been adverse results, we could have been 4 ½ out. That was a big, big series for us.” — Dusty Baker on beating Chris Carpenter for the first time since 8/15/06.

“The word is getting around the league now because they were just up there taking. They got advance scouts like we do. It’s a matter of him focusing and remaining confident. Everybody’s confidence is so fragile sometimes. Hopefully he can have a good outing. That’s what we were hoping for today so he could get back on track again.” — Baker on Chapman, who walked four batters in the ninth.

“I think it was because I hit Pujols 0-2. Gerald Laird was all loud in the dugout. He was yelling at me and pointing at me and saying a whole bunch of stuff. I will say it again. Out of all those guys they have there, those great hitters and great players, Gerald Laird did not even play and he’s the one yelling at me because I hit Pujols 0-2…0-2. I wasn’t trying to hit him. I’ve got to face Holliday next. They can take the lead with one swing. Lance Berkman is one of the great hitters in the National League. All I know is [Laird] was loud and saying something to me. I said something back to him.” — Francisco Cordero on the postgame shouting to the Cardinals dugout.

“I looked in the dugout and Pujols was sitting down. He was quiet because he knows I wasn’t trying to hit him. This stuff happens. Obviously we swept them and are up a game and a half in the division. Whatever happened last year was last year. It’s a new year. We’re just trying to play baseball. It’s not wrestling. It’s a baseball game. That’s all we’re trying to do here.” — Cordero

“We don’t like it when somebody like Albert gets hit, especially in that type of situation. A lot of guys took offense to it, didn’t like it. That’s baseball. You pitch inside, but you better have a clue when you come inside. They took offense to it, we took offense to it, and the soap opera continues between these guys. There’s always something when you come in here.” – Cardinals acting manager Joe Pettini

“When you’re up by two, do you really want to put the tying run on first base with one out and Holliday and Berkman – one of the hottest hitters of the season so far? On his part, it wasn’t professional.  Coco got off because it was the whole inning. It was really loud and everybody heard what he’s saying, stuff you’re not supposed to say to nobody. We’re just trying to play the game, to get an out. We’re not trying to hit anybody. We’re just trying to get the victory. A guy that didn’t play in this series coming out and trying to be all – I guess stepping up for everybody to be the toughest. He really got the wrong point and the wrong time to be a toughest when you don’t have to don’t have to be. If you know the game a little bit, you have to be smarter and see what’s going on the baseball field.” — Ramon Hernandez on Laird

“Everybody has their day. Carpenter is one of the best pitchers in this game and we just hit his mistakes and took advantage of the situations. That’s what good teams do. I just love the way we’re playing right now. Regardless of who’s pitching, I feel like we can go out there and beat everybody.”
— Brandon Phillips.

“I don’t want to sound trite, but there’s no significance. We lost three games. We have five and a half months to play. Heck, we may not even be in it in September. They might not, we might not. It’s just so early.” — Cardinals RF Lance Berkman

Sunday vs STL

Reds lineup vs Cardinals

Stubbs 8
Janish 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Rolen 5
Lewis 7
Hernandez 2
Wood 1

*Gomes is 0-for-13 lifetime vs Carpenter, and Lewis is hitting well and left handed. Therefore no surprise there that he is starting.

*Ryan Hanigan was supposed to be in the starting lineup today but is still bothered by a sore right hand. Hanigan was hit on the base of his hand by a Fernando Salas fastball in the eighth inning on Friday night. There was still some swelling where his hand and wrist met. X-rays were negative for a fracture.

“It’s got some fluid in there. It’s tender,” Hanigan said. “Nothing to be too concerned about, I can play. I’m trying to get one more day. Hopefully, it will be significantly better tomorrow. If something were to happen, I could play.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 449 other followers

%d bloggers like this: