The force was with the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday afternoon as they mustered a comeback win over their divisional opponent the Milwaukee Brewers by a final of 4-3.
In what has become typical Reds fashion over the past few seasons, the club waited until their final few at-bats to get down to business and pull out the victory. Brandon Phillips clubbed a gigantic home run to tie the contest in the eighth, before Todd Frazier sent the faithful home happy, while Chris Heisey had the mad dash of the early season.
Before any late-inning heroics could occur, it was up to the “Big Pasta” Alfredo Simon to keep the score within distance. Allowing the most runs he has all season, most pitchers would have been doomed. As a testament to how brilliant Simon has been, that number was only three runs allowed, keeping the Reds in the ballgame.
Allowing solo home runs to Scooter Gennett and Khris Davis, Simon was nearly flawless outside of the long ball. Over the course of his seven innings of work, he allowed only five hits and walked a single batter. What did come off as striking was his lack of strikeouts. Usually good for a handful of punchouts each outing so far, Simon did not strike out a single batter. With that, his pitch count was much tidier, throwing only 80 pitches before exiting due to his spot coming up in the order.
Never leading the game at any point until its conclusion, the Reds offense was held at bay by a former member of the franchise, Kyle Lohse. While his mediocre performance with the club is long in the past, he nearly escaped Sunday’s outing with a victory.
Making loud outs seemed to be the common theme for both clubs, but Brayan Pena’s smash in the third certainly was no out. Hit so hard and fast that the television cameras could not follow it, Pena reminded all pitchers that a fastball on the inner third of the plate is not the ideal place to pitch the switch-hitting Cuban.
Tacking on another run in the bottom of the fourth, Brandon Phillips got things rolling after whistling an inside fastball down the left field line for a leadoff double. A productive out made by Chris Heisey made it easy for Todd Frazier to bring Phillips home, cutting the Reds deficit to 3-2.
Surely, they would find a way to squeak just a single run across as the game wore on. The first instance was the bottom of the sixth, where the bases were loaded for the Reds’ top RBI man, Frazier. Attacking the first pitch, he hit a humpback line drive that landed snuggly in the glove of Scooter Gennett, who flipped the ball to Jean Segura for an inning-ending double play. Had the Reds not come back in the contest, the replay of these events would have haunted Reds fans.
Then, it was definitely the seventh inning the Reds would get it done. After all, all Jay Bruce needed to do was loft a lazy fly ball to the outfield and Billy Hamilton would have scampered home with relative ease. On three pitches, Bruce went down swinging. (With a partially torn meniscus, nonetheless)
Although Skip Schumaker swung and lofted a lazy fly ball to left field to end that inning, things could have gotten quite interesting had he not swung. Bryan Price has proven himself to be an uber-aggressive manager thus far in his tenure, so when Cozart took off with Schumaker at the plate, it was not surprising. Call it a high school play if you may, but sending Cozart, then breaking Hamilton from third had Lucroy thrown down to second may have worked to perfection. Schumaker is historically dreadful against left-handed pitching and the roll of the dice did not pan out anyway. Thankfully, the offense got cooking just in time, or it would have been yet another decision to dissect.
A fly ball to centerfield. First thought? Please do not let Gomez rob this. Of course, when it bangs off the windowpanes in dead centerfield, Spider-Man could not go up and grab it, let alone Carlos Gomez. Brandon Phillips came through in as crucial of a moment as can be, knotting the game at three a piece in the eighth inning.
The Reds came tantalizing close in the ninth, but were thwarted by old pal, Zach Duke.
Things appeared to be going as bad as can be for Sam LeCure on his 30th birthday, but he managed to fan Carlos Gomez to end the top half of the 10th inning to a chorus of cheers. As he pounded his fists in delight after the strikeout, LeCure just hoped his club could squeak a run across and get the man with the 0.66 ERA his first victory of 2014.
That they did. Where it came from was not where one would expect. Joey Votto went down looking, and then Brandon Phillips was retired on a pop up. Tyler Thornburg was going to retire the heart of the Reds order as if it was a minor league game. Until—he didn’t.
A four-pitch walk to Chris Heisey was followed by two straight balls to Todd Frazier. Always sitting dead red as it is, Frazier’s eyes widened when he saw a fastball as straight as an arrow coming his way. Thirty seconds later, Heisey had crossed the plate and Frazier was being mobbed by teammates out near the pitcher’s mound.
The first one out to mob Frazier? Joey Votto. That goes to show how ecstatic as a whole this team was about this crucial victory over the Brewers.
It was previously speculated that Aroldis Chapman would be rejoining the roster in time for the quick trip to Boston, but that has proven inaccurate. For now, his expected return date is permanently set at this upcoming Friday at home against Colorado.
Getting the ball in the first game at Fenway Park on Tuesday night will be Homer Bailey. Due to the injury of Tony Cingrani, the Reds will roll with a four-man rotation for the time being. Boston will hand the ball to Felix Doubront, a left-hander who has struggled mightily thus far in 2014.
If nothing else, enjoy the upcoming week for its two off days (Monday and Thursday), and the pure, undulated joy of playing at the pinnacle of baseball.