Winning for the third consecutive day, the Cincinnati Reds edged the Pittsburgh Pirates by a final of 2-1.
Once again, the Reds performance with runners in scoring position (1-for-8) was masked by the key two-run double Ryan Ludwick delivered in the top of the sixth to give the Reds the win.
Over the entirety of the afternoon, on only two occasions did the Reds fail to have a runner reach base in an inning. Only five hits were scratched out, in accordance with two walks, but three batsmen were plunked. Two of whom came in the sixth inning, before being driven home on a ball that split the left centerfield gap, allowing Joey Votto and Todd Frazier to score the only two runs that would matter in the contest.
Recently called up from the Pirates Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis, Brandon Cumpton was no stranger to the Reds. Last June, he picked up a win over this very same club; albeit, they are a bit more adventurous on the basepaths in comparison to the last time around. In order to run freely, batters need to reach base, which Cumpton did a splendid job of limiting.
Early on, the Reds seemed to be feeling the after-effects of playing an early day game after a night game on getaway day. Opportunities slipped through the cracks when Chris Heisey made two loud outs in his first two plate appearances, negating contingent rallies.
The uniqueness of Cumpton is not something seen out of young pitchers these days. He thrives on an inside fastball that he could care less if it drills the opposing batter in the ribs. Although the animosity between the two clubs is at an all-time high, none of the three hit batsmen on Thursday afternoon was anything of the intentional variety. Thankfully for the Reds, they made them hurt for the young Cumpton as well.
They say all good things must come to an end. For Tony Cingrani, today was that day. Well, sort of. Outside of a rocky first inning, Cingrani was his magnificent self, but he did lose his streak of 22 consecutive games without allowing more than five hits. A nice piece of history without a doubt, but Cingrani is certainly much happier with his second victory of the season.
In fact, the only run that the Pirates pushed across should have come via the unearned variety. The apoplectic scoring decision allowed Pedro Alvarez to have a hit (his average could use all the enhancement it can get) and an RBI after Brandon Phillips neglected to get his body in front of a ground ball. While it was a play maybe only Phillips could make, his effort was less than inspiring, as he attempted to make the stellar play, rather than the intelligent one. Had he simply knocked the ball down, Cingrani would have escaped the inning with no damage as he got Jose Tabata to line out in the following at-bat.
As impressive as his return to dominance from the first inning on, was Cingrani’s reappearance of his “angry face.” You know the look by now: snarling teeth protrude out from lips that appear to be lit on fire, alongside a wolverine-like beard that allows Cingrani to appear as more of a member of the X-Men than as a normal pitcher. He’s only coming at hitters with 91-94 MPH, but couple that with a snarl and you’ve got one of the finest young pitchers in the game today.
In an attempt to get some insurance runs on the board late, the Reds turned to their new favorite tactic; running. With Jay Bruce’s fourth stolen base of the year in the top of the eighth, the Reds have now drawn into a tie for first in the National League in steals with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With J.J. Hoover mired in as bad a slump as a relief pitcher can endure, Ondrusek was forced into action in the seventh. Hoping to avoid Andrew McCutchen, Ondrusek allowed a single to Neil Walker that forced him to face his fears. Having hammered Ondrusek in his career, McCutchen stepped to the plate licking his chops, but grounded out harmlessly to Zack Cozart to squelch any threat.
Even as the eighth inning and the left-handed bats of the Pirates loomed, Sam LeCure was brought in to serve as the bridge to the ninth inning. In the typical “Sudden” Sam style that we’ve become accustomed to, his two-seam fastball was dancing around the strike zone, leaving hitters looking helpless. Both Ike Davis and Pedro Alvarez went down looking before Jose Tabata was retired on three pitches.
For the fourth time on the season, Jonathan Broxton nailed down the victory for the Reds. Facing the hapless bottom of the Pirates order, Broxton made mincemeat of Jordy Mercer, Chris Stewart and Travis Snider. There was no nail biting, no hair tearing, just fastballs and outs.
Winning their third consecutive game in Pittsburgh not only pulls the Reds back to .500 on the season, but it serves as their third straight series win as well. No matter the outcome in Atlanta, the team cannot finish below .500 on the road trip, but with Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto taking to the hill, the Reds like their chances no matter who the opponent.
Things get underway at the peculiar start time of 7:35 p.m. Friday night as Homer Bailey is still searching for that first dominant performance of the season. He faces a man for the Braves who has been nothing but dominant since signing there this off-season in Ervin Santana.
Yet again, the game will be featured on the MLB Network. Clearly, the playoff appearances three out of the last four years has piqued the interest in the dynamic club from the Queen City.