There were no fireworks inside Great American Ball Park on Friday night, as the Cincinnati Reds were blanked 2-0 by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Sure, fireworks detonated as Joey Votto came within inches of his fifth home run of the season (again), but replay upheld the decision to strand Joey at second.
Long debated has been the decision when to give the regular players a day off. Ryan Ludwick is 35 years old, and not getting any younger. Brandon Phillips, mired in a dreadful slump at the plate, is not warranting his placement in the top quadrant of the lineup he has become so accustomed to batting in. Coupled with Devin Mesoraco’s DL stint and Billy Hamilton’s jammed knuckles, the Reds lineup took on a more depleted form Friday night.
The Reds first chance was their best chance. Leading off the game with a hard hit ball (which has become typical of Heisey), Chris Heisey reached on a single that Aramis Ramirez nearly snared. After Joey Votto extended his National League leading walk total, Todd Frazier, batting third strolled in.
In the ever-so-aggressive Frazier fashion that Reds fan have become accepting of, he jumped all over a fastball, but tapped it straight down the third base line. Clearly, Frazier was not pleased with the call that it was in fair territory, but it wound up being a 5-3 double play; killing the rally.
Entering the season, wondered aloud was if Mike Leake was going to be able to sustain the level of success he achieved in 2013. Thus far, the answer has been a resounding yes.
Leake retired the first nine batters he faced Friday night, before escaping a jam in the fourth. His lone blemish the entire evening came in the top of the fifth, when he walked Caleb Gindl on four pitches. Although he realistically should have escaped the inning with no damage, Wily Peralta brought truth to the baseball axiom, “any man with a bat in his hands is dangerous.”
Lining a double over the head of Jay Bruce, the Reds caught their second bad break from a wall on the night, when Peralta’s double bounced off the padding and fell straight back down, allowing Jean Segura to scoot around and score a second run. Had the ball gotten an extra 2-3 feet up the wall, it would have held Segura at third and changed the complexion of the contest.
Regardless of how many runs the Brewers would score, it becomes difficult to score runs when a team does not hit. Not a team in baseball is not prone to slumps and off nights at the dish, but the Reds struggles became glaringly obvious for all to see at the hands of the hard-throwing Wily Peralta.
Dominating in nearly every facet of the contest, Peralta played the role of judge, jury and executioner, blanking the Reds over eight innings of work while allowing just three hits. Featuring a fastball that clocked as high as 99 MPH, Peralta struck out seven Reds, including Jay Bruce three times (who would also strike out in his at-bat against Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth).
Lineup slots 4-9 in the Reds order went a dreadful 0-for-19 with a lowly walk from Ramon Santiago as their glimmer of hope. Surely, batting the trio of Zack Cozart (.188 AVG), Roger Bernadina (.143 AVG) and Ramon Santiago (.125 AVG) 6-8 in the order did not help matters, but every member of the roster does eventually have to get at-bats.
Unfortunately, for Bernadina, it seems his time as a member of the Reds has ended. With Skip Schumaker potentially be activated off the disabled list as soon as tomorrow, it seems we have seen the last of Bernadina in a Reds uniform. Should he manage to slip through to triple-A Louisville, there is always a chance due to injury, but for a player that played so well in spring, it hurts to see him go just 4-for-28 in 2014.
Lost in the shuffle of anemic offensive performances and over-powering pitching, was the job done by Mike Leake. Going eight innings, Leake more than likely would have finished the game off himself had it not been for his spot coming up in the order.
The crowd of over 32,000 on Friday night was treated to a Star Wars themed night were the force was certainly not with the Reds bats. This would be the part of the wrap-up where I write something corny about trading in bats for light sabers, but admittedly, I am not the biggest Star Wars supporter. To each his own.
Top level pitching is on the horizon for Saturday night. Each team sends their mejor caballo to the hill in the swing game of the four-game set. With a victory on Saturday, the winner will be able to go for the series victory on Sunday.
May the force be with you.