Knuckleballs and missed chances

R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball messed with Reds hitters just as much as missed chances tortured them during a 4-2 loss to the Mets.

New York seized control of the game with a four-run seventh. The Reds were 1-for-9 RISP and had 11 men left on base. A shot at a .500 record was missed as the Reds fell to 51-52 as their short-lived winning streak ends at two.

 “We had chances a couple of times. They got the hits when they needed them and we didn’t,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said


*Mike Leake deserved better again with 6 1/3 ip, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. He’s allowed 3 ER over his last two starts and has two losses.

*Dickey had only 57 pitches thrown through five innings and finished with 86 pitches/61 strikes over 6 2/3 innings.

*Paul Janish was 3-for-4 with a run scored in his first game after being recalled from AAA Louisville.

*Brandon Phillips made a nice diving stop to rob Carlos Beltran to end the top of the third inning.

*Logan Ondrusek did not fare very well. Upon entering in the seventh with a runner on first base and two out, Ondrusek gave up three-straight hits and allowed the one inherited run and two of his own runs. He had a 1.53 ERA going in and no runs allowed in his previous 11 appearances.

*Jose Arredondo had a shaky start to the ninth with a hit batter and a walk but he escaped with a 5-4-3 double play and a line out to first base to give the Reds a chance in the bottom half.


“I remember he throws different kinds of knuckleballs – some hard and some soft. You know the basic rule – see it high, let it fly. See it low, let it go. But it’s tough when never see it every day of the week. You can see it high still, and the ball still moves a little bit and you won’t get a good piece.” — Todd Frazier on R.A. Dickey

“During the beginning of the game, once you see him, the more you get used to him and you know what to expect. Once he comes out of the game, the next pitchers that you see, it’s pretty tough on you. When you have a dude come in throwing 100 mph when you’re so used to seeing 70 mph, you be like, ‘Man, wow.’ It messes your timing up. There’s no excuses, but Dickey messed me up for the remainder of the game. I was so used to swinging at the high pitch.” — Brandon Phillips

“Hopefully we’ll put together a string of five or six or seven together soon just to take some pressure off people. The good thing is this division is still up for grabs. Even though we’re not even close to mid-stride, all these other teams are letting us stay in it. We seem to keep battling and hopefully we can put something together.” — Mike Leake

“I don’t worry about it. I’m going out there when the phone rings and just getting people out. I faced the Reds many a time when I was with the Cardinals, so I’m familiar with their hitters. With Bruce, I know he comes up big a lot of times so I didn’t want to give in to him.” — Jason Isringhausen on the decision to pitch around Jay Bruce for a two-out walk in the 9th to face Phillips with the bases loaded. Phillips struck out to end the game.


Oh, well, nice while it lasted. (Why bring Leake back for the seventh?)

I think we’re in the midst of seeing Baker bend over backwards to avoid what I will still contend was the major factor that dug a hole for the team throughout much of the first half: that is, overusing and simply exhausting the bullpen to the point where it became ineffective. Even with better results of late, the Red bullpen still has the worst won-loss record in the NL (even worse than their Astro counterparts) and while sometimes the bullpen isn’t wholly to blame for its own won-loss record and the team’s abysmal record in close encounters, what does, I think, point an unequivocal finger back at themselves is the fact that they rank in the bottom tier of bullpens for the success percentage they’ve racked up, team saves out of team save opportunities, only Houston possessing a significantly lower percentage of success. So I can just see a head honcho gathering at some point where Baker was administered a scolding for his overuse of the bullpen. What we see now is Baker sticking with his starters too long (Arroyo repeatedly; Leake and Bailey frequently; Willis just the other day; and even Cueto once of recent memory) trying to squeeze out of them every pitch possible. And, of course, when he does dip into the bullpen, he still often gets in close games results similar to those last night with Ondrusak’s inability to get an out before the game had slipped away. Please understand: I’m not blaming Baker. The failures of both starters for long stretches and of the bullpen on and off through the season has placed him in an impossible bind that no manager could escape from. And that bind, at the moment, has forced him to stay with tiring starters too long when you and I and millions of other eyeballs can clearly see they are spent.

I’ll blame Baker. His leaving the starters in too long isn’t related to wanting to protect the bullpen. If it was, he wouldn’t be as inclined to bring a relief pitcher in for one hitter or even one pitch. Last night, he had to use two relief pitchers in the seventh, instead of one, because the starter got in trouble and Baker thought he had to mix and match. I’m surprised no one in the reporter pool asked Baker about this last night as it has become a serious issue for the Reds recently. In just the last week, Baker has allowed leads to be blown by leaving Arroyo, Leake and Willis in too long. Yet all the reporting we get is about missed opportunities. And before this issue gets ascribed to just a moaning fan base, the Reds PAID employees who broadcast their games put their finger on this. Last night, Jeff Brantley singled it out as the first issue he had last night. He said if we had started the seventh inning out with the bullpen, things might have been very different. Could the beat writers at least hold Baker accountable for his –repeated– misuse of the pitching staff by ASKING about it?

might Steve, might. I agree though, Baker totally should have known that Leake would give up a jam shot floater into right center field. What an idiot. Leake obviously didn’t have it anymore. You kidding dude? You blame the loss on Ondrusek. Players need to produce, he didn’t, that’s that.

Curt, I get your point but why always bring in the reliever after the starter’s created a problem? The bullpen has no margin for error. If it were just last night, but it isn’t … There’s been a pattern of starters/bullpen use and there’s a corresponding pattern of losses. To win 85 games, which might take the division, they have to finish 35-25. There’s no room in that for a pattern of losses. Dusty is Dusty, three time manager of the year and should have had a fourth, I’m not Dusty and my trophy shelf is empty, so I’m not big into firing him or even blaming him. But something has got to change. Oh, and maybe Bruce should hit in the clutch once in a while.

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