May 2013

Bruce breaks Wandy curse

Friday’s 6-0 Reds win over the Pirates belonged to Johnny Cueto, who threw one hit over eight smooth innings. He retired 21 of his last 22 batters while facing the minimum for his final seven innings. Click here to read that story.

The first run of the game came via a solo home run by Jay Bruce in the fourth inning on a 2-0 pitch sent into the right-center field seats. But that wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill homer. It came off of lefty Wandy Rodriguez. Bruce came into the at-bat 2-for-33 with 16 strikeouts lifetime against Rodriguez.

“Choo knew about it and he just got here. Everybody knew about it,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “That was great thing to get off his back. Now he can go from here and have great days against Wandy.”

Bruce downplayed any notion that it was his turn to have success vs. Rodriguez.

“I don’t know if I believe in being due,” Bruce said. “I just think I’m a better hitter and he gave me a pitch to handle. I take nothing away from him. He still goes out there and gets the job done. I’m a better hitter than I have shown against him in the past. I will just have to keep on going.”

Game 55: at PIT

Reds lineup vs. Pirates

Choo 8
Cozart 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Robinson 7
Hanigan 2
Cueto 1

*Needless to say, this should be a pretty fun series. The Reds (33-21) and Pirates (34-20) have the fourth and second-best records in baseball, respectively.

*The schedule gets tough from here for the Reds. Of the next 28 games, only seven are against opponents currently under .500. Included are the Pirates twice, the first-place Cardinals, the first-place D-backs and the first-place Rangers in that stretch. Arizona, Oakland and Texas are part of one road trip.

*The Reds and Pirates will be wearing throwback uniforms tonight tomorrow. Cincinnati’s uniforms will be replicas of the 1937 Cincinnati Tigers Negro League kits.

*Tonight also marks the 1,000th game to be played at PNC Park. The Reds were the winners of Game No. 1 here by an 8-2 score as Sean Casey’s first-inning home run off Todd Ritchie was the stadium’s first hit. Casey will be working as an analyst for Fox Sports Ohio this series.

Why is Robinson in 8th spot?

During Wednesday’s game, the Indians batted speedy Drew Stubbs in the ninth spot. Depending on how the lineup turned over, Stubbs could effectively be a second leadoff hitter ahead of actual leadoff man Michael Bourn. Reds manager Dusty Baker even noted before the game how that can effective way of exploiting a team’s speed.

On Thursday, the Reds started their fastest player — Derrick Robinson — in left field. But Baker batted Robinson eighth, behind DH Devin Mesoraco and ahead of catcher Ryan Hanigan.

Might Baker have considered Robinson to bat ninth to put his speed ahead of leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo?

“I thought about it,” Baker said. “Robinson’s leg is bothering him. So I might not be able to run him and I might be able to use just his bat instead of his legs.”

Baker would not elaborate on the nature of Robinson’s leg issue.

Also, Baker felt like he needed to separate Mesoraco and Hanigan.

“Last night, I didn’t like Hanigan and [Jack] Hannahan back-to-back,” Baker said. “I had no speed. If he feels good, I can still hit and run with Robinson.”

Game 54: at CLE

Reds lineup vs. Indians

Choo 8
Izturis 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Mesoraco DH
Robinson 7
Hanigan 2

Bailey 1

T*he Reds have lost their last eight games in Cleveland. The last win at Progressive Field was May 22, 2010.

Hot Reds? Slightly hotter Cardinals

The Reds entered Wednesday at 33-19 after having won seven of eight, 14 of 17 and 20 of their last 27. They have the best record in baseball since May 3.

Who has the overall best record in baseball? The 34-17 Cardinals. As well as they’re playing, the Reds still trailed their nemesis in St. Louis by 1 1/2 games. The Pirates at 32-20 were tied with the Rangers for the third-best record in baseball.

Manager Dusty Baker was asked if he expected the NL Central race to be one that’s tight the rest of the year.

“I’m not worried about all year. I’m worried about now,” Baker replied. “The only thing you can control is now. You can look at it both ways. We haven’t caught them but they haven’t run off from us either.”

“I’m sure they have their eye on us and we have our eye on them. It makes for better baseball. It brings out the best or the worst in you.”

Baker was stunned that the Cardinals weren’t given more respect in the pre-season picks.

“I didn’t understand predictors that picked the Cardinals third or fourth. I didn’t see that,” Baker said. “I don’t know what they’re looking at.”

St. Louis is also dealing with injuries, which included losing lefty starting pitcher Jaime Garcia for the season.

“Have you see what their reinforcements are doing?” Baker said. “They’re coming up throwing 96-97. And they have [Yadier] Molina to direct them, which is a big plus. It puts them on an accelerated learning curve by having a veteran catcher there.”

Game 53: at CLE

Reds lineup vs. Indians

Choo 8
Cozart 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Bruce 9
Frazier 5
Paul 7
Hanigan 2
Hannahan DH

Arroyo 1

*The Reds are 41-42 all time vs. the Indians heading into tonight. They have won 9 of the previous 12 series.

*This season vs. AL teams, Reds starters have a 2.43 ERA and five quality starts.

Another win for Latos

The home half of the Ohio Cup series was successful for the Reds, which swept two games from the Indians after an 8-2 win Tuesday. Click here to read the full story from Jeremy Warnemuende, which will focus on the offense and a pivotal seventh inning.

Mat Latos had another strong outing: 6 1/3 ip, 5 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 102 pitches/61 strikes. The Reds are 7-0 in Latos’ last seven starts. Overall, he is 5-0 with a 3.01 ERA in 11 starts.

“It’s two starts, Miami and here today, where everything felt like it was good,” Latos said. “The mechanics were kind of in-sync. My arm was feeling good. My body was feeling good. Pitchers always say pathetically that they have five good days where you have your best stuff, and five days that you don’t and the rest are just mediocre in between. I felt like I had good stuff today. That was key for a good-hitting lineup and a good ballclub in general.”

Other items of note:

*With first base open after a Joey Votto steal in the Reds’ fifth inning, Brandon Phillips was plunked in the side bya 2-0 pitch from Zach McAlister. Phillips calmly retrieved the ball and flipped it to the home plate umpire Chad Fairchild. However, no warnings were issued to the benches by Fairchild. Ditto for when Shin-Soo Choo was hit on the arm by a Scott Barnes 2-1 pitch. It was an 81-mph slider, however.

*Before the game, both sides appeared willing to move on from the Chapman-Swisher dustup from Monday. To read about that, and Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton’s comments regarding his call of that incident, click here. Latos also chimed in postgame that he thought the Phillips plunking was “100 percent” intentional but understood it was Cleveland protecting its players and accepted it. “We’re even,” Latos said. “We’re Switzerland I guess and we’ll let it go.”

*It was a very good top of the seventh for the Reds bullpen. Dusty Baker visited Latos following one-out walk of pinch-hitter Ryan Raburn. Baker let Latos continue but he then walked Michael Bourn on four pitches to put the tying run on first base. Lefty Manny Parra was summoned to face lefty hitting Jason Kipnis. Parra threw three breaking balls — his only pitches of the night — to strike out Kipnis looking. It was a big boost for Parra, who struggled before going on the DL last month. He returned to replace an injured Sean Marshall.

“I think it just instills confidence in you, you know?” Parra said. “You get the call. You get to go in that situation. It’s a lot of fun to pitch in that situation too.”

*Sam LeCure over from Parra and struck out Asdrubal Cabrera to end the threat. LeCure has stranded all six inherited runners this season. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last eight appearances.

*The Reds, now 33-19, have won seven of their last eight and 14 of 17.

*The Reds put the leadoff in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings. They came up empty during innings 3-6 before hitting paydirt with four runs in the seventh. The first run came home when Devin Mesoraco hit a squib in front of the plate. Catcher Carlos Santana made an ill-advised high throw over first base for a single and error that scored Phillips. Nine men batted in the inning.

*The Reds and Indians will shift over to Cleveland on Wednesday evening for the first of two games at Progressive Field. It will mark the first time that the Reds have traveled immediately following a home night game since Sept. 5, 2001, when they flew to Pittsburgh to begin a series after a game against the Astros. The Houston game was originally scheduled for the afternoon but was moved to accommodate national television. I will catch from Cleveland tomorrow evening.

Game 52: vs. CLE

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Leake getting it done

Reds starter Mike Leake had 99 pitches, but the last to Jason Giambi’s was the one … that hurt. On a 1-1 pitch, Giambi hit a monster pinch-hit homer off of the center field batters eye for a game-tying homer in the top of the eighth. It cost Leake a victory before the Reds won 4-2 on Joey Votto’s two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth.

“Even that pitch wasn’t a bad pitch. He did a very good job with it,” Leake said of Giambi. “They are very good lineup and that’s why they’re doing so well right now. They have threats throughout the lineup. They have speed at the bottom with Stubby. They’ve got power in the middle and power at the top. It’s going after them and trying to make them hit my pitches.”

Leake had another quality start with 7 1/3 ip, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K. Over his last eight starts, he is 4-2 with a 2.13 ERA. His streak of scoreless innings ended at 16 2/3 when an unearned run crossed in the fourth inning. Reds manager Dusty Baker was asked about being in Leake’s corner as he’s battled for the club in recent years.

“They say I’m in Mike Leake’s corner, I’m in the corner of who I think can help us win, the potential that I see,” Baker said. “Not just what you see now, what I forsee now and in the future. He throws strikes, he’s learning. He’s learned how to move the ball in and out, cut it, sink it.”

*Once the final game story is edited and posted, please click here. It will have more on Joey Votto and his game-winner.

Other notes:

*Our Jeremy Warnemuende will have more on this for MLB.com soon, but there was a little interesting moment in the ninth inning when Reds closer Aroldis Chapman buzzed Nick Swisher high and inside with a 100 mph fastball. The pitch before that was 100 mph, outside and to the backstop. Swisher yelled “don’t do that” to Chapman and the two had some looks at each other on the field. Players from the Cleveland bench went to the top step of the dugout ready for something to happen.

“I know you guys are trying to stir some stuff up here,” Swisher told reporters in the visitor’s clubhouse. “The first one I saw go by and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty quick.’ And then that second one was a little too close to comfort. Let’s be honest, 100 mph at somebody’s head? That’s not exactly the best thing. … It was nice to see all those guys in the dugout. They had my back. So I do know that if something does happen, they’re going to be right behind me.”

Baker denied anything was going on. Chapman notched his 13th save with two strikeouts. Swisher gave a ball a deep ride to left field for a fly out.

“Is that the first time you’ve seen Aroldis throw one on the screen?” Baker said. “I just think that maybe everybody overreacted except the umpire. The umpire was really pretty cool about it handling the situation. That’s not something that we’d like to be known for or he’d like to be known for either. He was just trying to pitch him to the inside. It just looks bad when you’re throwing a projectile at 100 mph.”

In my opinion, if Chapman was trying to hit Swisher — it wouldn’t have been very bright to bring up the tying run to the plate. I really don’t think it was a purpose pitch. Giambi seemed to agree.

“That kid, god gifted him with an unbelievable arm,” Giambi said. “The first one to the backstop and then the second one, we just wanted to make sure that there was nothing. I don’t think there was. I’ve talked to Chapman plenty of times and he’s a great kid. But we’re going to have to protect our guys, too.”

*In the nice play of the day department, SS Zack Cozart robbed ex-teammate Drew Stubbs of an infield hit with a nifty barehanded grab and throw in the top of the third inning. It beat Stubbs by a full step. If any team knows Stubbs’ speed, it’s the Reds and certainly Cozart was aware.

“I was kind of shocked to be honest with you, when you know Stubby’s running, that I even had a play on it,” Cozart said. “But he got jammed so he couldn’t get out of the box as well. It was one of those things, I knew it was do or die. I had to barehand it. I did it and I was shocked that I got him. I couldn’t stay on my feet, obviously, but it was a pretty cool play.”

*Shin-Soo Choo led off the first inning with his team-leading 10th home run. It was his third leadoff homer this season and the eighth of his career.

*In the last 16 games, the Reds pitching staff has a 13-3 record and 2.49 ERA.

Baker responds to Garza

During Sunday’s game vs. the Cubs, the benches were warned after Reds ace Johnny Cueto skied a pitch over the head of David DeJesus. The situation had Cubs pitcher Matt Garza pretty hot after the game lost by the Reds in 10 innings, 5-4. (Click here to read Cubs beat writer Carrie Muskat’s story.)

“Cueto should learn, you don’t go after guy’s heads,” Garza said. “Don’t wake a sleeping dog. I think that’s kind of immature on his part and totally uncalled for. He’s lucky that retaliation isn’t in our vocabulary. You play each game like it’s a new one. That’s [nonsense] on his part — just total immaturity. If he has something to say about it, he knows where to find my locker, and I’ll definitely find his.

“If the game was played that way, I don’t like it like that. You don’t go intently and try to injure somebody. Hopefully, the league looks at that. I don’t want him to get suspended or anything. I just want him to learn a lesson. Hopefully, his players will warn him. It is what it is — they run their own show. We’ll see him again down the line.”

Cueto was not available after Sunday’s game and was not in the clubhouse Monday morning during media availability.

Reds manager Dusty Baker, when informed about what Garza said, was direct in his retort.

“Take care of it then,” Baker said. “I mean, [Cueto] couldn’t hit Wilt Chamberlain with that pitch. … I haven’t talked to Johnny about it. I don’t think there’s any bad blood between them or whatever.”

“I don’t think Johnny cares either. Would [Garza] have been as upset if he got the win instead of potentially get a loss? You gotta something to say, you go over there and tell him. Johnny ain’t running. Know what I mean? A guy can say what he wants to say, but it’s better if you go over and say it to his face.”

Baker then recalled a time when things like this were handled differently.

“I just wish, just put them in a room, let them box and let it be over with, know what I mean?” Baker said. “I always said this. Let it be like hockey. Let them fight, somebody hits the ground and then it’ll be over with. I’m serious about that.

“I come from a different school. Guys didn’t talk as much. You just did it.”

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