Apr 8, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) pitches in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Great American Ballpark. The Reds defeated the Marlins 6-5 with Chapman earning the win. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Answered Prayers: Reds Take the First Series of 2012

It is easy to sit back and critique the Reds so far in 2012.  The numbers don’t lie do they?  Joey Votto has just 2 hits.  Free agent aquisition Ryan Ludwick has just one.  The Reds picked up a pitcher off the waiver wire who threw batting practice to the Miami Marlins last night, Alfredo Simon, seems to offer little to improve the Reds club over time yet he costs a slot on the roster for Todd Frazier who earned his place with a strong spring.  Ryan Hanigan, Drew Stubbs, Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen are all sporting a .250 batting average or worse.  But the Reds are 2-1 and have won their first series, once due to dominant pitching supported by a Jay Bruce home run and now by a walk off single following two home runs by the Reds right fielder.  I thought today might be a good day to instead focus on the little things.

When Jay Bruce stepped to the plate he took a pitch in the 9th inning.  A minor moment in the game, the Reds were down 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th inning with the Marlins new closer Heath Bell stepping to the mound.  And Jay watched the first 3 pitches sail into the catcher.  Three of his four at bats he watched the first three pitches and the one time he didn’t, in the 6th inning, he missed the pitch then deposited the next slider over the wall in right.  Jay showed patience and was rewarded for his efforts.  So far in 3 games he has a .273 batting average, each of his 3 hits are of the big fly variety but he does not appear to be swinging for the fences, he is patiently waiting for his pitch and then delivering it where it belongs.  Simple.  The second home run today was a screaming line drive that never got more than 40 feet in the air.  This is baseball we can enjoy.

I mentioned in my article yesterday that I felt today would be a day for Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen and Drew Stubbs to contribute.  Turns out even with Rolen not in the lineup, they all delivered.  Phillips got things started with a leadoff single in the first scoring immediately on Zach Cozart’s double.  And by now most Reds fans have seen the video of Drew Stubbs capitalizing on his speed to single, go to third on a Hanigan single, and score on Scott Rolen’s pitch hit walkoff infield single that handcuffed Marlins transplanted third baseman Hanley Ramirez.

Other observations from the game include a comment on Bronson Arroyo.  I have seen posts on Twitter and MLB.com already taking Dusty Baker to task for even having Bronson in the rotation.  Simple as this, Bronson Arroyo will be paid $12,000,000 in 2012.  Dusty Baker had nothing to do with this or any other contract on the team beyond giving his impression of the value of a given player.  He does not sign the check though.  Taking that into consideration, Walt Jocketty can’t dump him.  There is not a trade market for $12 million dollar 35 year old pitchers who struggled the year before.  Don’t mistake these statements as meaning I feel Arroyo has no value.  He pitched 6 solid innings then hit the first batter in the 7th inning.  Arroyo hit just 6 batters in 2011 and threw 45 walks in 199 IP.  This was an indicator he was losing his control and might need relief.  An interesting fact about Bronson though is this:  The last time he hit a batter and the Reds lost the game was September 3, 2010 when he plunked Matt Holliday immediately following an Albert Pujols sacrifice fly.  Since that game the Reds have now won 7 games in a row when Arroyo hits somebody.

The last thought I had concerning this game was the satisfaction with Dusty Baker for keeping Aroldis Chapman in the game for two innings.

If common sense ever is involved in Chapman’s career, the foundation will be built on his utility as a starting pitcher.  This is only the fourth time IN HIS CAREER that he has pitched 2 innings in a major league game.  He has never pitched more than that in regular season competition.  We will soon know how important this fact is once Homer Bailey and Mike Leake have taken their initial starts in 2012, but my guess is that Aroldis will be needed as a starter sooner rather than later.

Other Observations Around the League

Milwaukee doesn’t seen to have the same aura about them without Prince Fielder.  Looking at their stats pitching is the bigger problem but listening to Sunday’s game a bit and they simply did not generate much excitement.  Curious to see how that situation develops, but I expect we will learn a little bit about Milwaukee during the three game set with St. Louis that opens tomorrow.  How we measure up against the Cards will also be a bit instructive about how the Brewers lost 2 of their first 3 at home.  I like the Reds chances facing Jake Westbrook, Kyle Lohse, and Jaime Garcia versus Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto.

Is anyone else giddy with excitement that for the first time since 1966 BOTH the New York Yankees AND the Boston Red Sox are starting 0-3?  Little did I know it at the time, but that was the first baseball played in my young life during that season from years gone by.

The last time the Reds gave up 10+ runs in back to back games, as the Red Sox have, was May 22-23 of last season versus the the Cleveland Indians and the Philadelphia Phillies in the midst of the 10 game road trip marked by the 19 inning loss to the Phillies.  After a three game home series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Reds embark Thursday on a 10 game road trip to kick off the road schedule in 2012.  The Reds will have a second 11 game trip in the days leading up to the ALL Star Game.  Talk about brutal scheduling.

Anyway, one series in in the books with a win on the Reds ledger.  That answers a few prayers…now it’s time to clip the Redbirds…

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Tags: Albert Pujols Alfredo Simon Aroldis Chapman Brandon Phillips Bronson Arroyo Cincinnati Reds Drew Stubbs Hanley Ramirez Heath Bell Homer Bailey Jaime Garcia Jake Westbrook Jay Bruce Joey Votto Johnny Cueto Kyle Lohse Matt Holliday Miami Marlins Mike Leake Prince Fielder Ryan Hanigan Ryan Ludwick Scott Rolen Todd Frazier