For eight innings, the line score revealed one thing: goose eggs. Neither the Reds nor the host Milwaukee Brewers could muster even a realistic threat. Considering the manner in which Reds starter Johnny Cueto and Brewers starter Zack Greinke were pitching, one run was a likely manner to win the game.
A true pitchers duel indeed.
As brilliant as Cueto was for seven innings and Greinke for eight, it came down to the closers for each team. That wasn’t so pretty especially considering the manner in which the starters performed. And the top of the ninth began as quietly as the previous eight innings had for the Reds bats. It was getting that last out…
John Axford retired both Chris Heisey and Zack Cozart with strikeouts. Cozart went down in three pitches. Innocent enough even after Drew Stubbs took a 1-2 Axford offering back up the middle of the field. There was one thing…Joey Votto.
Votto took Axford’s second pitch and drove a double that would plate Stubbs and give the Reds a 1-0 lead. Brandon Phillips followed with an “excuse me” single that would score Votto and provide the Reds with that ever-popular “insurance run”.
Was it ever needed…
Reds closer Sean Marshall didn’t fare much better than Axford. There was reason for that.
First, Marshall surrendered a home run to Ryan Braun to lead off the bottom of the ninth. (Good thing BP had that hit, huh?) Reds 2, Brewers 1. It got far more interesting…
Jonathan Lucroy battled for 11 pitches with Marshall, fouling off pitch after pitch. On the 11th pitch of the at-bat, Lucroy was rewarded with a single into left field. Norichika Aoki came on to pinch-hit for Taylor Green. Aoki blooped a single into left. Marshall was behind 3-0 and fought back to a full count.
Yes, he threw a lot of pitches up to this time. 35 of them to be exact. Far more than any manager (or fan for that matter) want to see the closer throw. After the Aoki hit, Baker had seen enough. He pulled Marshall and summoned Logan Ondrusek with runners on first and second with the two outs.
Ondrusek’s first shot at an MLB save…and it was little adventurous as well. Might as well be. The bottom of the ninth had already seen Baker completely chew a toothpick into even smaller toothpicks.
A five pitch walk to pinch-hitter George Kottaras did help matter as the bases were now loaded. A hit would practically guarantee two runs and a Brewers come from behind win. But Ondrusek would not let such occur.
Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke sent Travis Ishikawa to pinch-hit. First pitch, lazy fly into left field. Chris Heisey underneath for the catch. Third out. Ball game.
You can speculate about the closer’s situation. I’m sure the national types have penned (or typed) repeatedly about Aroldis Chapman as the Reds closer. I’ll not add to that chatter. It’s been covered enough. What I will state is that after Chapman fashioned a rather uneventful eighth inning, chatter as such will continue to evolve.
But one thing to remember here. The Reds bullpen is the best in the NL. Best in ERA (2.48), batting average against (.207). There are only three NL relief staffs that have more strikeouts than innings pitched: Los Angeles (96 SO/89 IP), San Diego (101 SO/99.2 IP) and Cincinnati (102 SO/87 IP). The Reds bullpen is also atop SO/9 with a 10.55. Those 102 whiffs, largely buoyed by Chapman, is secons overall to the Colorado Rockies ‘pen…but the Rox ‘pen has logged 106 IP, most in the NL among bullpens.
So…the bullpen has performed darn well and there are undoubtedly cries to remove Marshall from the closer’s role, but we always hear Chapman’s name. Why not Ondrusek? Yes, I glossed over this some time back (not that long ago actually).
Consider the following…and as I have stated in the past on many an occasion, I will extract Chapman from any closer talk. He should be a starter.
1. Among relievers, Marshall sports the highest ERA (4.91)
2. In comparing Ondrusek to Marshall, Marshall’s SO/BB ratio is extremely better than Ondrusek’s (5.00 to 1.83).
3. Ondrusek’s BB/9 of 4.00 is second worst among relievers. Only Jose Arredondo‘s 5.9 is higher. Marshall’s is 2.5.
4. Marshall’s H/9 (11.5) is more than twice that of Ondrusek’s (4.0).
5. Among all relievers with 10+ IP, Ondrusek’s WHIP of 0.878 is second only to Chapman’s 0.574. Marshall’s? 1.545.
So you have the good and the bad for both.
Baseball can be a funny game. The Reds bullpen is the best in the NL, yet there will be calls for Marshall to be removed from his closer’s role. And I will credit Baker here…
There is much said and written about Baker. One thing we constantly hear is that the players love him as a manager because he will stick with them. Many times, we will see that to a fault and that’s when the some of the screams for Baker’s departure arise the most.
Dusty went against his own “habits” yesterday. That’s a move I honestly didn’t see coming down the pike.