September 2012

9/18 at CHC

Reds lineup vs. Cubs

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

*Following up on something that changed over the weekend while I was off, the Reds have recalibrated their rotation. Starting tonight, it’s Bailey, Leake, Cueto, Arroyo and Latos. There’s little question in my mind that it sets up the postseason rotation for Cueto, Arroyo, Latos and probably Bailey.

*The Reds’ magic number to clinch the NL Central is 5. The Cardinals have a three-game series at home vs. the Astros this week. The Wild Card clinch magic number is 4.

*Dusty Baker is managing the 3,000th game of his career tonight. Of the previous 2,999 games, 795 of them have been with the Reds.

Frazier’s NL ROY chances?

If you have some time, be sure to check out my Monday feature on Reds rookie infielder Todd Frazier. It’s posted on Reds.com/MLB.com.

There’s no denying that Frazier has delivered a superb season and loomed large in the Reds’ success when either Scott Rolen or Joey Votto or both were injured.

But is Frazier’s 2012 season worthy of the National League Rookie of the Year Award?

In this story by MLB.com colleague Paul Hagen, one NL executive says yes.

In 118 games, Frazier is batting .284/.345/.517 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs. Among NL rookies, he’s second in RBIs and triples (6), third in homers and total bases (202) and fifth in batting.

At this point, he has two chief rivals in Nationals OF Bryce Harper and Arizona LHP Wade Miley.

Harper in 123 games: .263/.335/.458 with 19 homers and 50 RBIs. (ranks 1st with 84 runs, 218 total bases and seven triples, 2nd in HRs, 4th in RBIs)

In 29 games, 26 starts: Miley is 15-10 with a 3.10 ERA, 177 innings, 34 walks and 127 strikeouts (all best among NL rookies).

I didn’t get this quote into my story, but MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds, who has known Frazier since his Little League World Series days, doesn’t think voters will give him the award.

“Two weeks ago, I would have said it was Todd. Right now, it’s going to be Bryce Harper,” Reynolds said. “There’s no doubt about it in my mind. I think what Todd did in the stretch when Votto was out while playing in his spot and keeping this team afloat, spoke volumes. Over the stretch of the year and the hype, I think Harper is going to end up winning this thing.”

Hurting Frazier’s chances has to be his performance down the stretch. He hasn’t hit a homer since Aug. 21 and he’s batting .212 (11-for-52) since notching his last RBI on Aug. 28.

No Miami for me

Reds lineup vs. Marlins

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

*I was not scheduled for the trip to Miami, but I will be there for the series at Chicago starting on Tuesday. The magic number remained at 8 entering today…but it’s possible if things go the Reds way, that they could clinch the NL Central at Wrigley Field. We will just have to wait and see.

*Once again, here is the bracket if the postseason began today.

If the postseason started today…

With all the new postseason changes installed for the 2012 playoffs, MLB.com has created a bracket that explains what the matchups would be if the season ended today.

Check it out by clicking here.

Right now, the Reds have the No. 2 seed and would play No. 3 seed San Francisco, with Game 1 being Saturday Oct. 6 at AT&T Park. Top seeded Washington would get the Wild Card winner. All of that is subject to change of course in the final couple of weeks. And the Wild Card battle could unbelievably exciting in the final days of the season as the Cardinals and Pirates seem to be fading and the Phillies and Brewers are surging to within three games back. If the Phillies get in, they could be very dangerous as the Reds more than had their hands full with them the past couple of weeks.

And to answer one frequently asked question — Yes, teams from the same division can meet in the NL Division Series, which is technically considered the second round of the playoffs following the new one-game Wild Card showdowns.

30 games over .500

The Reds are 30 games over .500 at 87-57 following a 2-1 win over the Pirates for a three-game series sweep. The fading Cardinals were swept by the Padres out west. So here’s where it all stands:

Cincinnati has an 11 1/2 game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central. That’s the largest division lead in the Majors.

The magic number to clinch is 8.

“It was a nice sweep,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We’re one step closer to winning the division. We’ll keep playing like we’re playing.”

Click here for the game story by Mark Clements.

The Three Stars:

No. 3 star: A.J. Burnett, PIT — 6 ip, 5 H, 2 R, 2 B, 8 K, 1 WP, 101 pitches/63 strikes

No. 2 star: Ryan Hanigan –  1-for-3. Hanigan hit a leadoff single in the third inning and scored the game’s first run. But he also figured in the best defensive play of the night.  In the sixth with one out after Alex Presley’s triple, Baker and bench coach Chris Speier called for a pitch out. It proved wise as Presley broke for home in a suicide squeeze as Clint Barmes made a desperation bunt attempt. Homer Bailey slipped in his delivery and put the pitch in the dirt, however. Hanigan made a nice block, recovered the ball and tagged out Presley. It was a huge momentum killer — the rally went from runner on third with one out to two outs and no one on, just like that.

“I think all of that credit goes to Dusty and Speier over there,” Bailey said. “As soon as I saw the sign, I tried to get it higher and more away and I slipped on the mound a little bit. It worked. Hany has been a warrior out there. He blocked the plate, did a great job. He had chalk and dirt all over his face. Most of the credit goes to them. I just threw it.”

“Trying to scratch a run out. (Pitch-out) was a good call by them,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

No. 1 star: Homer Bailey — 7 ip, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 116 pitches/78 strikes. Bailey was smooth for the most part, except for three-straight singles in the fourth that scored his lone run. He is 1-0 with 1.24 ERA over his last three starts and he’s 11-9 overall. The Reds have four 11-game winners for the fist time since 1990. (Armstrong, Browning, Charlton, Rijo).

“Homer’s been dealing his last four or five starts and didn’t get a whole bunch to show for it,” Baker said. “We wanted to hold that one big time. He’s lost the last three or four where we didn’t hold the lead.”

News and notes:

*One night after Jonathan Broxton filled in for Aroldis Chapman, J.J. Hoover pitched the ninth and recorded his first big league save. Hoover gave up a two-out single before striking out Jose Tabata to end the game. A lot would have to happen next season – (Chapman not closing,  Broxton not re-signed, Ryan Madson not re-signed) but I could easily envision Hoover taking on that role in 2013. He’s been closing at Triple-A Louisville and has good stuff. But that’s a conversation for another day.

*Dusty Baker recorded win No. 1,571 as a manager. That ties him for 19th all time with Hall of Famer Dick Williams.

9/12 vs. PIT

Reds lineup vs. Pirates

Phillips 4
Valdez 6
Votto 3
Ludwick 7
Bruce 9
Rolen 5
Heisey 8
Hanigan 2
Bailey 1

*UPDATE — SS Zack Cozart (left oblique strain) took swings off of a tee for first time since last Tuesday. Cozart also took ground balls, stretched with the pitchers and ran.

“It actually felt pretty good,” Cozart said. “It was nothing major, I just hit off the tee. There’s still steps to be made, but it was a positive day. Everything is feeling a lot better.”

There is no ETA yet for Cozart’s return. Wilson Valdez and Didi Gregorius have been filling in at shortstop.

“I can’t really put a day,” Cozart said. “We did a lot of stuff today, knowing we had the off-day [Thursday] for recovery. We’ll see how it goes Friday. It’s been progress pretty much every day. I couldn’t do a jog three days ago, and today I ran. I can’t really put a day on it, but hopefully sooner than later. Based on today, I would think sooner.”

*The Reds enter today with a 10 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals, the team’s biggest division lead since it had an 11-game lead on 9/22/95. The magic number to clinch the NL Central is 10.

*In case you missed it, the Reds 2013 schedule is out. Opening Day is April 1 vs. the Angels, yes…the Angels.

Big night for Phillips

The Three Stars from a 5-3 Reds win over the Pirates:

No. 3 star: The Reds bullpen — 2 ip, 2 H, 2 K was the combined effort of Logan Ondrusek, Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton, who pitched a one-hit ninth for his first save as a Red while stepping in for a resting Aroldis Chapman. In the context of Monday’s 14-inning affair, that included eight scoreless from the bullpen. it was even bigger that they still tossed two innings of zeroes.  The bullpen’s scoreless streak goes back 13 2/3 innings.

There is a sign in Dusty Baker’s office that reads: “The most important things in life are a good friend and a good bullpen, — not necessarily in that order.”

“That’s real key,” Baker said. “You’ve got to have a good bullpen today, especially when pitchers are going six and seven innings and very few complete games, you’ve got to have a good bullpen. In 30 seconds you can ruin two hours’ worth of work if you don’t. It’s very deflating to a team to blow games late in the game.”

No. 2 star: Mike Leake, 7 ip, 9 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3K, 2 HR, 91 pitches/65 strikes. It was a good bounceback start for Leake after he was pummeled by the Phillies for six runs over 2 1/3 innings last week. He gave up Alex Presley’s first-inning solo homer and pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez’s two-run shot in the seventh. Leake also notched two groundball double plays and spared the bullpen by going deep in the game.

“I felt good. I missed a few spots,” Leake said. “But I was able to make the pitch when I needed to. The first home run was a bad pitch. The Sanchez home run wasn’t a bad pitch. He was able to get to it.”

No. 1 star: Brandon Phillips — 2-for-2, HR, 2 RBI, 2 runs. On the first pitch by Kevin Correia in the bottom of the first, Phillips led off with a homer to left field, which answered the Presley homer in the top of the first. In the second, he hit a one-out double and alertly scored the club’s third run of the inning on a wild pitch. It was a good outing, considering the earlier events of the day and last night. Phillips looked pretty drained during his postgame session with reporters.

“With them scoring first, it just really shows that we’ve got to go out there and put something on the board early,” Phillips said. “I just went up there and tried to see the ball and tried to hit it and hit something hard. I hit a line drive, I’m surprised the ball went over the fence. I’m happy I hit a leadoff home run, it felt good.”

Click here for the game story from Mark Clements.

News and notes:

*Phillips was also involved in the defensive play of the night in the fifth inning. With runners on first and second and one out, Brock Holt hit a single to right field. Jay Bruce’s throw was cut off by Joey Votto, who flipped to Phillips behind the runner at first base for the out that helped kill Pittsburgh’s rally.

“It was just a heads up play,” Phillips said. “He was just coming around the base real hard and trying to force him to cut the ball off in case Clint tried to score. I just snuck in there and tried to make things happen like I always do and try to be the sneaky player that I am. I snuck in there and got a key out and it really helped us that inning. That right there, I feel like that was the game.”

*Scott Rolen, in his first start since Sept. 4 after he missed time with a back injury, hit his first homer since Aug. 15. It was a first-pitch shot to left field in the eighth that served as an insurance run.

Phillips, Hughes clear the air

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips and Pirates reliever Jared Hughes made peace with one another on Tuesday, the day after the two had a verbal confrontation during Monday’s game.

Following the game, Phillips took to Twitter and posted the following: “#RealTalk… Not really surprised by what I heard come outta another player’s mouth tonite but DAMN… Still PISSED bout that [expletive] #Racism

Encouraged by Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Phillips and Hughes spoke on the phone before arriving at the ballpark.

“Last night, it was a heated moment for me, especially being from Stone Mountain, Ga., a lot of crazy things go down and a lot of racist stuff happened from the south,” Phillips said on Tuesday. “I was real pissed off about the situation. Me and Mr. Hughes, we had a great conversation before I came to the stadium today. It was the best thing that ever happened, talking to him in general about what happened and talking to him about things that I heard and stuff. It was great just to hear what he had to say and for him to hear what I had to say. It made us feel better about the situation.

“I respect him as a player and also as a man from the conversation me and him had. It was just a big misunderstanding. When you say certain things in the heat of the moment, you don’t really mean it. I understand that and you forgive people. He forgave me and I forgive him.”

Here is the full story on MLB.com, including quotes from Hughes and McCutchen.

9/11 vs. PIT

Reds lineup vs. Pirates

Phillips 4
Stubbs 8
Votto 3
Ludwick 7
Bruce 9
Rolen 5
Navarro 2
Valdez 6
Leake 1

*Dusty Baker told his players they didn’t have to arrive until 4:30 p.m and held up posting a lineup until checking on how guys felt. Last night, he indicated there was a good chance Joey Votto would be rested after he played all 14 innings — a rather big test for his left knee. But Votto is in there.

“He came in smiling and says he feels great,” Baker said.

*Aroldis Chapman is not available tonight. That his velocity seemed rather low, after working on two days rest, is definitely a red flag. Look for Jonathan Broxton to get closing duties in the interim, but Baker noted others would be in te mix like Hoover and Arredondo. The club certainly can’t afford to get too risky with Chapman’s arm the way he’s pitched this season.

“It will at least be a couple of days,” Baker said of Chapman. “If not, it wouldn’t be a rest. We need him for the next six weeks, hopefully.”

*The eight scoreless innings from the Reds bullpen was their best outing for the team’s relievers since they threw 11 scoreless innings during a 4-2 win in 12 innings against the Cardinals on Sept. 5, 2003.

*MLB will announce the 2013 tentative schedules for all 30 clubs on Wednesday afternoon.

Phillips involved in controversy

There was a development that came out late Monday night/Tuesday morning following the Reds 4-3 win over the Pirates. In a post on his Twitter page, Reds 2B Brandon Phillips alleged that he heard some words during an incident from an unnamed Pirates player. He also included the hashtag #racism in the tweet.

In the eighth inning, Phillips was hit by Jared Hughes’ first pitch in the left leg. Phillips briefly stopped and as the catcher stepped in, picked up the ball and made a nonchalant toss towards the mound. That angered Hughes, who barked some words at Phillips. But Phillips seemed to ignore Hughes as he trotted to first base while umpire Phil Cuzzi warned both benches.

Click here for video of the play

There was some bad blood from a Reds-Pirates series in Cincinnati last month. Aroldis Chapman hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch in game and Mike Leake hit Josh Harrison the following day. There was also a game where Hughes applied a hard tag on Dioner Navarro when he was an easy out.

After the third out following Monday’s moment, Phillips could be seen talking to McCutchen and then had a lengthy conversation with third base umpire Greg Gibson.

Phillips declined to talk to a reporter after the game. When asked about his exchange with Phillips, Hughes told Pittsburgh reporters: “I don’t know. It was so loud out there, I couldn’t hear.” That was before Phillips issued his tweet.

So there will be some things for follow up. What words did Phillips believe he heard? Who did he think said them? And what is the Pirates response?

We’ll find out later today.

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