Certainly, I cannot be the only one tired of watching the same words scroll across the screen: “One pitch made all the difference.” It’s disappointing, but it’s true.
Alfredo Simon was sensational yet again. Early on, it appeared it took him an inning to find the release point on his breaking pitch, but from there, virtually only soft contact was made. He is pinned with a ridiculous loss, one in which he made one bad pitch the entire afternoon. Now losing four of their last five, the Reds slip to 3-8 on the year.
As bizarre as this statistic may sound, should the Reds play just above .500 for the remainder of the month, going at least 9-8, they would find themselves 12-16 as the calendar flips to May. By that point, the cavalry should return. Barring any setbacks, both Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall will be anchoring the bullpen. Hopefully avoiding surgery, Mat Latos will return to the rotation. Recovering from his shoulder injury, Skip Schumaker should be activated around that date. Treading water isn’t the “sexy” way to play, but it becomes vital to the Reds long-term success.
No one wants to hear the re-treaded story of how fantastic the opposing pitchers have been, but do your best to be objective. On the season, the Reds have lost to Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Jenrry Mejia, Dillon Gee, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn (again), David Price and Alex Cobb. Sans the Mejia game, and the Gee loss which incurred due to a bullpen collapse, every one of those pitchers is at the top of their game.
For those that do not divulge themselves in the inner-workings of the so-called “experts” minds when it comes to baseball, many would be surprised to find that Alex Cobb was picked to have a breakout year. Watching the game today, you can see why. His changeup/splitter/forkball should have its own national holiday it’s so effective. Whiffing five on the day, and four of the first seven batters he faced, the Reds should be thankful for the National League rules that allowed him to be pinch-hit for.
In typical Reds fashion, the game did not come without a handful of opportunities. Batting second (and I’ll admit…I like it) today was Joey Votto, who doubled to left to lead off the bottom of the fourth after David DeJesus horrendously misplayed the ball as it was caught in the wind. To anyone watching the game, it was blatantly apparent that chances to score on Cobb were going to come as few and far between.
Lining a missile into centerfield was the club’s new three hitter, Brandon Phillips. They say hindsight is always crystal clear after the fact, but you have to understand new third base coach Steve Smith’s logic. He has watched a team looked so lifeless in the box against some of baseball’s finest pitching that grabbing a run may give the club some momentum. On top of that, Kevin Kiermaier, the Tampa Bay Rays centerfielder was making his Major League debut. Even though he is known as a defensive minded player, his first ever start would be the time to test his arm. Needless to say, Votto was out by a mile and a half.
The poor baserunning did not stop there. “Knowing thy enemy” is an integral part of baseball; if you know something about them, exploit it. Or, in the Reds case, do not test it. For the past seven years, everybody from Indiana, to Ohio, to Kentucky, has been watching Ryan Hanigan gun down would be base stealers and made everyone at home wag their finger Dikembe Mutombo style and go, “No, no, no!” In which regard, when Brandon Phillips made a mad dash for third with Jay Bruce at the plate, it was a baffling decision. Again, the logic behind it fundamentally makes sense; but, unless you’re positive of the execution, it cannot happen.
A lot of the commotion coming into the game surrounded the fact that Bryan Price did what Dusty Baker would never do—he shuffled up the order. Yet, at the conclusion of the contest, I was scrolling down Twitter (never a sound choice) and saw multiple “Fire Bryan Price” and “Bring Back Dusty Baker” tweets. The world never ceases to amaze me.
For a long while, I was adamant that Votto in the three-hole and Phillips batting second was the way to go. Now that I can stare at the order in a box score, I oddly like it. In order for it to work, Phillips will need to return to form from last year where he was driving in a scrupulous amount of runs. What will work against it is the fact that Shin-Soo Choo now plays in Texas.
The same swan song has been sung for coming up on five years now; just the narrative has changed. “(Blank) needs to attempt to drop down a bunt for a basehit at least once a game.” It started with Willy Taveras, reached its pinnacle with Drew Stubbs, and now the onus settles on the fastest of them all, Billy Hamilton. Much credit goes to our own Doug Gray, who hit the nail on the head when saying that Hamilton lunges at the ball from the left side of the plate. Without being too negative, you could take comparisons of how Hamilton swings as a lefty and compare them with Tony Cingrani. Stepping in with a runner at third base and less than two outs, the best opportunity he has of driving a run in, is a bunt.
All off-season, the Reds knew they were placing all their eggs in the Hamilton basket. When he is on, he single-handedly can win games for you as he did in St. Louis on Wednesday afternoon. But, if he continues to hit below the Mendoza line much longer, realistically, how long can you employ a lead-off man that makes Corey Patterson look efficient? The season is still incredibly young, but as Bryan Price pointed out in a pre-game interview, he’s not interested in sitting on his hands in order for things to get done.
Looking to avoid the sweep at home tomorrow against one of baseball’s best clubs in Tampa Bay, the Reds hope Tony Cingrani can play the role of stopper. The Rays will send out southpaw Cesar Ramos in place of the injured Matt Moore. Ramos has played the role of long-man for the Rays the past few years, so, by no means is he a pitcher that should give the Reds difficulty.
Rough starts are nothing new for the boys in red. A few timely hits and we all will be easing off our fingernails.