Keeping the good times rolling, the Cincinnati Reds won their third game in a row with a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
Having won at an astounding clip within the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, the Reds picked up their 16th victory in their last 17 tries.
Pacing the way was the new leader in ERA for the National League, Alfredo Simon. Pitching his third consecutive outstanding game, Simon has shown that should he not fit into the Reds future plans, he can more than adequately perform for another club. Although, with the looming “forearm tightness” of Mat Latos keeping every Reds fan on the edge of their seat, having Simon may prove as a valuable asset.
The injury bug struck once again on Friday afternoon. After one simple swing, Brandon Phillips immediately grabbed for the left side of his lower back. Anyone who has ever had a back strain or spasms knows how uncomfortable that can be. In typical Brandon fashion, he lined a single into centerfield later in the at-bat, but eventually left the game in the third with what was listed as “back spasms.”
While the Phillips injury news will loom large over the outcome due to his long-term importance to the club, understating how significant this victory was would be a mistake. Outside of Travis Wood, Jeff Samardzija is about the only legitimate dangerous starter the Cubs possess. Winning the opening game of the series with your “weakest” starting pitcher in terms of rank on the hill provides the opportunity for a potential sweep over the final two games.
On display during a blustery afternoon in Chicago was the wheels of the 2014 Reds. A club that virtually had their feet cemented to the bag the past few seasons under Dusty Baker has embraced a reckless abandon personality on the bags. Five bags were swiped today—only one, surprisingly, by Billy Hamilton.
Hamilton did influence the game in other aspects, especially with his bat. After looking as dreadful as can be in a first inning strikeout against Samardzija, Hamilton got the Reds on the board with his opposite way double that plated Devin Mesoraco for the first run of the contest in the top of the fifth.
Even with the steal and RBI double, the most important play of the game came from catcher Devin Mesoraco on a play that is impossible to correlate with any given statistic. With the bases loaded in the top of the sixth with just one out, Zack Cozart bounced into what seemed to be a quintessential 5-4-3 double play. Determined to allow at least one run to cross the plate, Mesoraco waited until the last possible moment to slide (more like a flying cross body block) into second base, forcing Emilio Bonifacio to chuck the ball towards the Reds dugout. Both Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick scampered home, pushing the Reds lead up to 3-0.
As effective as the offense proved to be, it all would have been for naught had Alfredo Simon not pitched another gem. The first time through the order, the only hit Simon allowed was a groundball that glanced off his glove for an infield hit from Bonifacio. Promptly, he picked him off first base.
Normally extremely pitch efficient, Simon stumbled in the onset. As he began to mow down hitters through the middle innings, he appeared to grow ineffective as the game transitioned to the latter stages. Were it not for a few line drives that deflected off infielder’s gloves, Simon would have escaped run free, but after Sam LeCure took over and allowed one of his runners to cross the plate, Simon’s scoreless streak ended.
The back three of LeCure, Manny Parra and Jonathan Broxton made quick work of the paltry Cubs lineup to finish off the game. Racking up a combined five strikeouts and only two hits, the trio combined for three scoreless innings to put the padlock on a Reds win.
As mentioned earlier, the Reds now possess a golden opportunity. They had a difficult 10-game stretch to begin the season, but now have the chance to pull back to .500 before they get to Pittsburgh.
Taking the mound at 2:20 P.M. tomorrow will be the Chicago native Tony Cingrani in opposition of over-priced free agent signee, Edwin Jackson. Susceptible to the home run ball, Jackson’s efficiency will be predicated on which way the wind blows—literally. On the other hand, Cingrani looks to extend his historic streak of not allowing five or more hits in a contest.