May 2012

Big series win, winning trip

The Three Stars after a 5-2 Reds victory that gave them two of three in the series and a 4-3 road trip. That was a big one to get in my mind.

Click here for the game story

No. 3 star: Raul Ibanez, NY — 2-for-4, two-run HR. Ibanez was 5-for-12 in the series with two homers. His two-run homer off of Johnny Cueto in the sixth gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

“Raul has been on fire,” Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan said. “That pitch wasn’t terrible but it came back and you have to tip your hat. He’s been hitting breaking balls, heaters away and heaters in. he’s just hot right now.”

No. 2 star: Johnny Cueto — 7+ ip, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 110 pitches, 68 strikes. Cueto had base runners on each of his first six innings but he got out of jams, including two double plays, to outduel CC Sabathia.

“We were battling the whole game long. [Sabathia is] their No. 1 guy and I am the No. 1 guy here too,” said Cueto, who improved to 5-1 with a 1.97 ERA. “We both wanted to work hard and see who ends up with the win at the end. I got it done. This is a hitter’s park. They’re a really good team. I’m really happy with how the game came out at the end.”

No. 1 star: Ryan Ludwick, 3-for-5, 1 HR, 3 RBIs. — Ludwick, who came in batting .183 and was bothered lately by a sore left elbow, needed a game like that badly. His solo homer to start the seventh was a quick answer to the Ibanez homer in the sixth. Ludwick added a two-run double in the ninth that gave Aroldis Chapman less pressure to deal with in his first save situation of the year.

“It was nice to be able to contribute,” said Ludwick, who hadn’t homered since April 24. “I haven’t done a whole lot of that lately.”

News and Notes:

*I have extensively covered the closer situation in a story on MLB.com. I have quotes there from Baker, Marshall and Chapman. It should update shortly from the pre-game version.

*Today marked Chapman’s second MLB save. His first was 7/6/11 vs. STL in a 13-inning game.

*Ryan Hanigan’s homer in the seventh was his first of the season and snapped a homer-less drought of 129 ABs. His last homer came Aug. 19, 2011.

*Drew Stubbs dropped a perfect bunt single towards third base lead off the Reds’ sixth. It was Stubbs’ third bunted hit of the season.

*Reds are 11-3 in series finales and 6-1-3 in their last 10 series.

Quotes:

“To be able to come into their house and get two out of three, job well done. I feel like we can pat ourselves on the back a little bit leaving here. It was a good road trip.” — Ryan Ludwick

“I never felt bad. I felt great the whole time. It never went through my mind the fact that I was pitching the days before. I was getting ready. I was feeling good. Cueto did a great job so I knew I was going in either the eighth or the ninth. I was concentrating and getting ready for that.” — Aroldis Chapman on pitching for 4th time in 5 days.

“We had a talk with some of the hitters during the game and what their scouting report was and what they were trying to do to them. Stubbs was chasing high stuff earlier and we said get it below the waist. Somebody else was swinging at balls in the dirt and [we said] bring it up. You have to make adjustments during the game. To become an accomplished hitter, you make adjustment not only from at-bat to at-bat but pitch to pitch.” — Dusty Baker on the hitters getting three-straight walks against Sabathia in the seventh.

“CC did what we needed him to do, we just need to find a way to score some more runs. I don’t think we’re the only team that’s had trouble facing Cueto. We just needed to find a way to score some more runs off him.” — Derek Jeter

5/20 at NYY

Reds lineup vs. Yankees

Heisey 7
Stubbs 8
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Ludwick DH
Frazier 5
Hanigan 2
Cozart 6

Cueto 1

Drama-filled 9th, change coming?

Lots of drama came during the ninth inning of a Reds 6-5 victory over the Yankees.

After Sean Marshall struggled to lock down another save chance —  with two runs and four hits allowed in the ninth — Jose Arredondo had to come in to get two outs for his first big league save. You can read more later on MLB.com, but Dusty Baker is contemplating putting Aroldis Chapman in the closer’s role.

“Like I’ve said before, you’ve got to graduate to that position. Who knows? Maybe graduation time is here,” Baker said postgame. “We’ve got to talk about it. As a matter of fact, I’ve already talked to him about it. We’ll see. Marshall is a team man. It’s not what he signed up for. He was forced into it. He signed up to be our setup man in the eighth.”

“The only conversation we had was about what I was thinking or how I would feel as the closer,” Chapman said through interpreter Tomas Vera. “I said I’d feel great with however you guys want to use me. The conversation we had, nothing was affirmed about what was going to happen. It was just a conversation.”

Click here for the full game story on MLB.com.

On to the three stars….

No. 3 star: Ivan Nova, NY — 6 ip, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 12 K. Nova may have given up the five runs, but he was keeping the Reds down with K’s.

“He throws pretty hard. Most guys with good breaking balls that throw hard generally strike out more hitters,” said Joey Votto.

No. 2 star: Homer Bailey — 6.1 ip, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 97 pitches/67 strikes.

“I pitched a good game,” Bailey said. “At parks like this, especially in right field, it’s hard to keep the ball in. If you’re going to give them up, make sure no one is on.”

No. 1 star: Jose Arredondo — Against the tough Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson, got two groundballs and notched the first save of his career. The tying run was on third base and go-ahead run was left on second base. Arredondo had a 3-0 count on Granderson but go him to bounce out to first base on a full count pitch.

“I felt really well because I’ve never had the opportunity to save the game before,” Arredondo said.

More news and notes:

*Congrats to Mike Costanzo for his first big league hit, an opposite field single to LF in the top of the sixth. Costanzo’s sac fly in the eighth proved to be the deciding run.

*Brandon Phillips notched his 500th RBI as a Red with a single in the top of the first inning.

*Jay Bruce made a wild catch in the first inning on Derek Jeter’s leadoff drive to the RF wall. Bruce got turned around on the track, but corrected in time to make the catch.

*Reds batters struck out a season-high 15 times, including 12 from Yankees starter Ivan Nova over his first six innings. The strikeouts have racked up lately. The previous high of 13 happened in three-straight games from May 9-12 and they’ve had double-digit K’s in each of the last three games.

*The Reds traded C Koyie Hill to the Cubs for cash considerations on Saturday. Hill was signed by the Reds April 28 and playing at Double-A Pensacola. He was a non-roster spring invite to the Cardinals but released on March 25.

Quotes:

“I could have done without the drama but we won the game. … Anybody that’s come in here and played the Yankees  know how the Yankees are here. They have the ability to come back and believe that they can come back. They can strike very quickly.” — Dusty Baker

“In those situations you try to get as many runs as you can because you never know. It’s a crazy game. Luckily we came out with a win and I contributed.” — Mike Costanzo

“I’d be lying if I said the anticipation wasn’t there. The first couple of pitches, it looked like the plate was 100 feet away. After the second or third pitch, it was ‘all right, now we’re back to normal.’ There’s so much history that comes with this organization and a great lineup. Once you start getting into the game, adrenaline kicks in and you’re thinking about competing, it doesn’t really matter who is in the box.” — Homer Bailey

“They bring their closer in, and we get a couple of runs off him. They bring somebody else in. We got our boy Curt up there with runners on second and third 3-2 count. That’s the kind of game you want to play in. You want to be the hero in that spot. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out like that.” — Yankees 1B Nick Swisher

5/19 at NYY

Reds lineup vs. Yankees

Heisey 7
Stubbs 8
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Costanzo DH
Mesoraco 2
Valdez 6

Bailey 1

*Ryan Ludwick, who was hit on the left elbow by a pitch Thursday, is available but got an extra day.

*Dusty Baker was asked if he’d like to see a more diversified offense with the pretense his club relies quite a lot on the home run ball.

“To tell you the truth, I’d like to see some more long ball,” Baker replied. I like to see some variation of offense but we need to get our top guys on in front of the long ball guys. I’d like some more speed, everybody wants that. We’ve been out longballed…in a homer-friendly park. Brandon has two, Rolen has two, Joey has six. We’ve got some guys behind in the pace but they’ll pick it up. We’ve got some young guys that haven’t been here that long that are still learning to hit.”

The Reds have been out-homered, 37-33, this season entering Saturday.

“If guys end up to where they’d normally be, we’ve got some homers coming,” Baker said.

5/18 at NYY

Reds lineup vs. Yankees

Cozart 6
Stubbs 8
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Heisey 7
Frazier 5
Cairo DH
Hanigan 2

Arroyo 1

*Bronson Arroyo has a 5.45 ERA vs. the Yankees lifetime in eight games, including six starts. However, he has not faced them since 2005.

*Schedule change: The Sunday, June 10 game time vs. the Tigers was changed from 1:10 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET to accomodate ESPN Sunday Night Baseball

*Alex Rodriguez is 5-for-16 (.313) with one homer lifetime vs. Arroyo. On the other hand, Derek Jeter is 4-for-18 (.222).

*Brandon Phillips is sitting at 499 career RBIs. Phillips enters 5-for-16 on the road trip with two RBIs.

*Zack Cozart is 1-for-19 on the road trip.

*Chris Heisey is 7-for-12 on the trip.

*It’s an odd, but cool experience, to start a new series in the same city. I didn’t have to check out of my hotel or make a flight or anything. Definitely no complaints.

Ugly loss

There is no way to mince the words. The 9-4 defeat to the Mets Thursday was as ugly of a Reds loss that’s been seen this season.

Cincinnati led 4-0 after the top of the fifth and gave up nine unanswered runs.

*The lineup was 1-for-8 RISP and stranded six.

*The defense committed two errors, each leading to runs scoring — including the tying run in the seventh against Aroldis Chapman.

*Mat Latos could not get through six innings again and was at 100 pitches. (5+ ip, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 100 pitches/65 strikes)

*Two admirable scoreless streaks ended for the bullpen. Chapman’s unearned run, stemming from a dropped ball by center fielder Drew Stubbs, stopped his season-long streak at 19 1/3 innings. Logan Ondrusek, the losing pitcher, saw his 15 1/3 scoreless innings streak blow up in a five-run eighth.

“It’s something that’s going to happen,” Ondrusek said. “I have to bear down next time and do a better job and not give up five.”

*Dusty Baker did not take issue with Joey Votto trying to tag up and score from third on Jay Bruce’s foul pop out in the sixth. It proved to be a rally killer as the Reds had runners on second and third with no outs.

“Usually when a guy has his back to him, he thought he could make it because he was running away,” Baker said. “But he turned and threw a one-hop strike to the plate. It was a big play in a big inning and a good play by the second baseman. We were potentially about to blow that game open there.

“It wasn’t a bad play on a Joey. It was a good play by the second baseman.”

The Three Stars:

No. 3 star: R.A. Dickey, NY — 6 ip, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 92 pitches/69 strikes.

“I’ve seen a number of knuckleball pitchers and he threw more strikes with his knuckleball than anyone I’ve seen,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He kept them in the game and they came back and took it from us.”

No. 2 star: Ronny Cedeno, NY — a .185 hitter entering the day with no homers, Cedeno’s three-run long ball to right field off Ondrusek blew the game open in the eighth.

No. 1 star: David Wright, NY — 2-for-2, 3 BB, 1 RBI, 3 R. Wright is hitting .411 on the season and reached base each plate appearance. His RBI double to the center field wall off Ondrusek put the Mets ahead.

5/17 at NYM

Reds lineup vs Mets

Cozart 6
Stubbs 8
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Ludwick 7
Frazier 5
Hanigan 2
Latos 1

*Ryan Ludwick is 2-for-6 with 1 HR lifetime vs. Mets starter R.A. Dickey. Too bad for the Reds that Scott Rolen isn’t available since he is 5-for-9 with 1 HR and 4 RBIs.

*Dusty Baker was asked on how his hitters should handle a rare knuckleballer like Dickey…

“Look for a fastball,” Baker said. “A lot of guys don’t do it because they don’t like moving around now [in the batter’s box]. You don’t see them move up on sinkers. You don’t see them move closer to the plate on breaking balls. They stay on the same spot. I try to get through to these guys that you have to move around to make it conducive to get a guy’s pitch he’s going to throw the most.

“I was taught with knuckleballs that you have to crowd the plate. The last thing they want to do is hit you because it doesn’t hurt and they don’t like base runners. If you stand off that plate, you give them a big ol’ window to correct that knuckleball. If you’re on the plate, you don’t give them much of a window.”

Frazier, Leake come through

“Start spreading the news…” (Todd Frazier is a Frank Sinatra fan), the Reds won their first of five-straight games in New York with a 6-3 victory over the Mets.

Click here for the full game story on MLB.com

As the Rangers and Devil battle at MSG, here are the three stars of the game in Flushing…

No. 3 star: Johan Santana, NYM — 6 2/3 ip, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 107 pitches/71 strikes.

No. 2 star: Mike Leake — 6 ip, 7 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 105 pitches/62 strikes. He was also 2-for-2 as a hitter with a nice sac bunt. It was a big outing for Leake, who was winless and needed a good game.

“He had a quality start, big time,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We wanted him to get on the board with that victory but more importantly we got the victory. He threw the ball excellent tonight.”

No. 1 star: Todd Frazier — 2-for-4, 2 HRs, 3 RBI. Frazier came in 2-for-15 with 7 Ks since taking over at third base for Scott Rolen. He struck out in his first two at-bats vs. the Santana. But he came through big in the seventh. His leadoff homer kept the Reds one run away and his two-run homer in the eighth against DJ Carrasco put the game away. It was a nice night for the Toms River, NJ native that had lots of family and friends on hand.

“It was a special time tonight for sure,” Frazier said.

News and notes:

*Right after the game, the Mets designated D.J. Carrasco for assignment. He’s the dude that gave up a first-pitch homer to Rickie Weeks of the Brewers on Tuesday and then immediately plunked Ryan Braun with his next pitch.

*Aroldis Chapman had another scoreless inning, running his total for the season to 19 1/3 innings.

Quotes:

“I put a little pressure on myself. I had a good talk with Chris Speier and he explained to me that you don’t need to press or put any pressure on yourself, you’re good enough. You’ve got a good opportunity here and roll with it and have fun. I’ve been having fun. That was a little rut there I guess you could say.” — Todd Frazier

“I gave him the lineup card tonight. You always want to do well in front of your parents, fiancé, the homies and everybody. You tend to play better and concentrate better.” — Dusty Baker on Frazier

“Of course I felt like I needed to do something. I was kind of a hole in the rotation. It was a matter of time where I was going to come around. I just need to string a few together. I’m not going to put the pressure on myself to do it. I will go out there with the same attitude I had tonight.” — Mike Leake

 

5/16 at NYM

Reds lineup vs. Mets

Cozart 6
Stubbs 8
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Heisey 9
Ludwick 7
Frazier 5
Mesoraco 2
Leake 1

*Jay Bruce sits today vs. Mets LHP Johan Santana. Bruce is 2-for-11 lifetime vs. Santana. With the team in the midst of a 20 games in 20 days stretch, Dusty Baker said he would seek breaks for his regulars when he could.

*Whether the club says it or not, this is no doubt an important start for Mike Leake. He is 0-5 with a 7.11 ERA in six starts. Helping Leake’s cause is that he’s built a lot of capital and crediblity for himself with the club in his first two seasons. He always puts in the effort to study hitters and the game and doesn’t take days off. And, he had mostly solid results — until this season. However to me, there’s only so long the team can wait for him to turn it around.

*Leake has a 2.19 ERA in two career starts vs. the Mets, but has never previously pitched at Citi Field.

*New this year at this yard — the fences were moved in, especially in the right-center field and left field areas. They also were painted from black to the Mets shade of blue. Personally, I liked the black and the old dimensions, but when your best hitters can’t get a ball out of the park, I understand their decision.

*It was formally announced today that the Mets and Citi Field would host the 2013 All-Star game. No, I do not know if or when the Reds will get their turn today. It’s been an even longer time coming for the Mets, which haven’t hosted the ASG since the first year of Shea Stadium in 1964.

*Bullpen coach Juan “Porky” Lopez is celebrating his 52nd birthday today.

*And here is a little nugget from the Reds game notes….

According to STATS LLC, the Reds’ 2 series in New York vs the Mets (today-tomorrow) and Yankees (Fri-Sun) will mark the seventh time since Interleague play began in 1997 that a visiting team will play consecutively both Major League teams in a shared market:

2012 Reds…………….at Mets, at Yankees
2009 Padres……….at Dodgers, at Angels
2009 Pirates……….at White Sox, at Cubs
2007 Astros……….at White Sox, at Cubs* (1-game makeup from postponement)
2001 Rockies……….at Athletics, at Giants
1999 Mariners…….at Angels, at Dodgers
1998 Mariners……..at Giants, at Athletics

No ATL

I will not be covering the brief two-game Reds-Braves series in Atlanta. We will still have full coverage on MLB.com and Reds.com.

Catch you on Wednesday from New York.

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