Having clinched a third playoff berth in the past four years last evening, the Reds may have eased their foot off the gas pedal, however so slightly. This may not be so, but it would explain the Reds lethargic offense on this night.
When a sweep was imperative to keep hopes at the division crown alive, both Mike Leake and the bats collectively laid an egg. After dodging out of trouble in the first, Leake succumbed to the bludgeoning of the Metropolitans bats as light-hitting shortstop Wilfredo Tovar drove in a run, followed by consecutive hits from Jon Niese and Eric Young Jr. Once again, the Reds 14-game winner had a chance to wiggle out of trouble facing Daniel Murphy with two on and two out, but rather than give in to the Mets second place hitter and risk bringing up David Wright with the bases loaded, Leake stayed stubborn with his fastball before it was rocketed 15 rows deep into the moon deck in right field.
From there, the Reds bullpen was on point, allowing only two hits over seven and third innings of action. The last major moment that the Reds had to threaten came in the bottom of the fifth with the team trailing 4-1 with runners at the corners and nobody out for former MVP, Joey Votto. Niese pounded Votto in on the hands with a vicious cutter that squibbed out towards short and had the league leader in on-base percentage heading back towards the dugout after grounding into a rally-killing double play.
Outside of Todd Frazier reaching in the ninth on a dropped third strike, the Reds failed to have a man reach base from the fifth inning on. Credit must be given to Ohio native Jon Niese who pitched a stellar game, mixing his 12-to-6 curveball in with his devastating cutter that chewed up Reds lumber all night long. Vic Black, who was acquired from the Pirates in the Marlon Byrd/John Buck deal, slammed the door on the Reds in the ninth for his first Major League save.
It is unfortunate that with even the slightest moments of lapse, the Reds have all but fallen out of contention for winning the division title. This should come as no surprise to many who follow the club, as the Cardinals and Pirates have been steady all season long when it comes to keeping pace.
Dusty Baker decided before the game that it was going to be Mat Latos taking the hill for the Redlegs in the series finale against the Mets in the Wednesday matinee, opposed to Greg Reynolds. This seems to be the logical choice, as it keeps Latos on track to start Game 163 on normal rest (plus an extra day).
Mat Latos has been catching some criticism as of late from fans in and around the greater Cincinnati area for his recent performance and let loose of some frustration I’m sure he felt that he had to get out. Now, I am a huge supporter of Mat Latos, personally. I love the fire that he brings to a Major League mound and the competitive drive that he plays with. Latos has been stellar in his Reds career, and ultimately, will continue to be stellar down the line, I’m sure of that. This time next Tuesday night though, Mat Latos will either have made himself a hero or a goat in Reds country for the foreseeable future. The same way it was when he lost Game 5 of last season’s NLDS, fans were a bit wary of Latos’ ability to win “the big one.” Without Johnny Cueto for most of the past year and a half, Mat has stepped in as the new ace in town, but next Tuesday night, whether it is in Pittsburgh or Cincinnati, the big righty has got to bring his A+ stuff and push the Reds deeper into October.
Cardinals phenom Michael Wacha was one out away from a no-hitter but thanks to Ryan Zimmerman’s infield single that just snuck over the outstretched glove of Wacha, the Nationals avoided being no-hit. Just a batter later though, the game was over and the Reds attention was almost immediately shifted to next Tuesday night in the one-game playoff. As nerve racking as it would be to play a team three times to end the regular season, then play them just two days later in a winner-take-all format; it certainly beats the other option of having to play the Cardinals in front of their raucous crowd in St. Louis.
In what will be the last time the Reds and Mets lock up in 2013, Daisuke Matsuzaka will take the hill opposed by Mat Latos for a 12:35 ET start time down at Great American Ball Park. The former legendary Japanese pitcher has been hit or miss in his short stint with the Mets and the Reds bats look to take out some aggression while they still can. Only four games remain in the 2013 regular season.