Nearly five hours from the scheduled first pitch, the Cincinnati Reds secured a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
In a night filled with rain and tense on-field moments, the Reds first victory since last Thursday tasted ever so sweet.
Rain kept the game from starting on time, but come about half past seven, the skies seemed clear and baseball was a go. Jeff Samardzija, potentially affected by the delay, walked both Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto to lead off the game. Brandon Phillips came within a few feet of a three-run homer, but would have to settle for a long sacrifice fly to give the Reds an early 1-0 lead.
With the way Alfredo Simon has begun the season, it is not difficult to comprehend one run being all he needed against the floundering Cubs lineup. Unfortunately, for the man nicknamed “the Big Pasta,” he did not bring his best command to the mound on Tuesday evening. A rain delay right before his scheduled start may have thrown a wrench into his plans early on.
After dodging a walk and a hit by pitch in the second inning, Simon finally saw his ERA dented when the Cubs plated two in the top of the third. Basehits by Emilio Bonifacio and Ryan Kalish both came around to score after Starlin Castro ripped a two-run single up the middle with the bases loaded. Doing his best to limit the damage, Simon got a pop-up and a strikeout to avoid his only run-surrendering evening of the contest.
A quick 15-minute delay stalled some of his momentum heading to the top of the fifth inning, but Simon quickly picked up right where he left off. He got a strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out double play to end the fifth and the more conventional, 5-4-3 double play to end the sixth and put himself in line for the win. Thanks to some timely hitting, he got his fourth victory of the season.
With the rain looming like the giant elephant in the room, the Reds offense had to get cooking, and fast. Jeff Samardzija has shown he is not the easiest guy to score runs off, especially the home run variety, due to his heavy sinking fastball. All this being taken into account, Billy Hamilton proved to be an unlikely source of instant offense.
For the first time in his career, Hamilton got to take the trot around the basepaths (which resembled more of a modified sprint). An inside fastball from Samardzija was quickly launched into the moon deck, knotting the game up at two in the blink of an eye.
Avoiding a shady loss was one hurdle the Reds avoided, but now came taking, and keeping the lead. A two-out rally from Zack Cozart may have been the unlikeliest places for a rally to start, but not much did make sense on Tuesday night from Great American Ball Park.
Cozart split the right centerfield gap for a two-out triple to keep the inning alive, and end the night for Alfredo Simon. With the dark clouds, impending doom lingered overhead; Bryan Price went to the best weapon in his arsenal, Chris Heisey. Heisey spit at two off-speed breaking pitches from Samardzija, before lacing a fastball past a diving Luis Valbuena, scoring Cozart and putting the Reds ahead 3-2. It appeared that would be the game’s defining moment, as the skies opened up once again, following Billy Hamilton’s at-bat. Over an hour’s worth of rain delay ensued.
Nearly all of the 17,000+ that showed up for the start of the game headed for the exits as a rain-shortened game was all but certain. Not wanting to end the game unfairly to either side, the umpiring crew held out, and finally got the game back underway.
Clearly, Rick Renteria (the Cubs manager) was just fine with being in the locker room. Five pitches into the first at-bat back from the delay against Joey Votto; Renteria was tossed by home plate umpire Alan Porter for some derogatory language that the Fox Sports Ohio audio system picked up on. Normally, that type of conversation is impossible to listen in on, but with the attendance all but nil; Renteria’s thoughts on the call became broadcasted for Reds Country to hear.
It was a shaky bullpen effort from the Reds for both Logan Ondrusek in the seventh and Sam LeCure in the eighth, but both escaped unscathed. The decision to stick with Ondrusek through the frame is a curious one due to a rested Sean Marshall and Manny Parra sitting in the bullpen, but some semblance of confidence has to have been resorted into the psyche of “the Big O” after escaping a jam.
None too concerned with any kind of specialized matchups, Price gave the ball to LeCure in the eighth for the duration, no matter the hitter. After a walk and a base hit, LeCure froze outfielder Ryan Sweeney for the third strike and final out of the inning.
Jonathan Broxton has not seen a run of his cross the plate this season, yet insurance runs felt almost necessary in order to calm the nerves of those watching anxiously around Reds Country. Hits from Brayan Pena, Zack Cozart and Roger Bernadina set the inning up beautifully, loading the bases with nobody out.
Sans his game in St. Louis early this season, Billy Hamilton had his best game of the year Tuesday night. (He went 3-for-4 with a stolen base, two runs scored and a tremendous diving catch to bail out Ondrusek in the top of the seventh.) His last at-bat could have made it an even better night, but his lined shot was directly at Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, who came home with the force out. No problem, Joey Votto loomed.
Unless of course, Votto would hit a ball sharply at Castro for an inning-ending double play. As the Cubs jogged in to grab their bats for the top of the ninth, visions of Francisco Cordero and David Weathers danced in Reds fans heads.
Coming on and slamming the door in a tidy 13-pitch outing, Jonathan Broxton reminded us all we have nothing to fear. The Reds had spent nearly five hours (collectively) playing, and they were going home tired, but with a win.
There are nothing but clear skies ahead as the Reds take to the Great American diamond for the next five days. Tony Cingrani looks for revenge for his last time out against the Cubs, as he takes to the mound at 7:10 p.m. tomorrow.