Wrapping up their second consecutive series victory, the Cincinnati Reds triumphed on Easter over the Chicago Cubs by a final of 8-2.
In what was a painstakingly monotonous contest, it was the unexpected heroes of the Reds lineup that shown through. Hammering out 15 hits as a team, early inclinations have shown that a modern era “Big Red Machine” may not be too far off.
Seven of the eight runs the Reds pushed across Sunday afternoon came with two outs in the inning—a startling number for die-hard fans who know the inefficiencies the team can possess in “clutch” moments.
Getting the ball rolling in the top half of the fourth was none other than Devin Mesoraco, who brought home Todd Frazier for the first run of the afternoon. At the end of the day, Mesoraco had gone 3-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored and a run driven in, raising his batting average to an astronomically high .515.
Maybe the most dramatic opposite of Mesoraco on the season has been shortstop Zack Cozart. Mired in a dreadful slump to begin his campaign, the fan base became so furious with the Ole Miss product that it was suggested that Ramon Santiago take some of his playing time. Silencing critics and reminding them of his all-around talent, Cozart went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, including a two-run bomb off Cubs reliever Jose Veras to put the nail in the Chicago coffin. Getting a taste of their own medicine, the Cubbies were doomed by the bottom of the Reds batting order.
Still potentially suffering from the ill effects of his back spasms, Brandon Phillips racked up his second consecutive 0-for-5 afternoon. Striking out in his final at-bat on Friday, Phillips is now 0-for-his last 11 and 1-for-his last 15. With the rest of the lineup serving as a security blanket, the levels they can skyrocket to will be frightening once Phillips begins to swing the stick.
From the onset, Homer Bailey was not masterful with his precision. Yet, he pitched effectively enough to keep the Cubbies off the scoreboard and gave his offense time to come around.
Pitching only one clean, 1-2-3 inning all afternoon, Bailey pitched in and out of trouble. His secondary pitches were shaky once again, unable to command them at crucial moments, leading to his three walks. He did finish the day without allowing a run over six innings and striking out eight, but the box score is misleading. Doing just enough to keep the walls from caving in, Bailey will have to be much sharper in the series opener against Atlanta on Friday.
Keeping the backend of the game interesting, Manny Parra decided to let a few runs slide across for the Cubs. With virtually no feel whatsoever for his slider, Parra walked two, allowed three hits and suffered two runs scoring while retiring just a single batter. For a glimmering moment, Cubs fans felt the mystique of the seventh inning stretch paying off, but a groundball double play induced by Sam LeCure whisked away the ghost of Harry Carey.
Amidst the world’s most vile creatures (seagulls), Sean Marshall made his return to a Major League mound with the Reds. It’s fitting that it took place at Wrigley, where he got his humble beginnings and established himself as a big league pitcher. After serving up two smashed singles off the bats of left-handers, Marshall rebounded nicely and escaped the inning without giving up a run.
Overall, the game was a glacially moving one. The pace was painfully slow in the middle innings due to both Bailey’s lack of command and Villanueva’s lack of recording an out. For a team that has been on the cusp of kicking the doors in, the Reds have finally began to cash in with two outs.
Providing his usual spark of excitement, Billy Hamilton singled and swiped a base, his seventh, from the leadoff spot. Still a definite work in progress, Hamilton will get the advantage of facing pitchers he has seen before in the upcoming series in Pittsburgh.
An old friend rears his head again on Monday night as the Reds make the trip over to Pittsburgh. Francisco Liriano will take to the hill at PNC Park (a sight many Reds fans could go a while without seeing) in opposition of Mike Leake, who will continue to attempt to mystify opposing batters. The four-game clash begins at 7:10 P.M. on ESPN with the Reds looking to ascend back to the top of the National League Central.
Tags: Cincinnati Reds