Another night in Boston, another crushing one-run defeat for the Cincinnati Reds at the hands of the Boston Red Sox.
Cryptically enough, the score was the exact same as the debacle on Tuesday night, 4-3. Both games were stellar contests; just unfavorable results for Reds fans who were hoping that the club could hit their stride.
Unlike the first encounter, the Reds got excellent starting pitching. This time, Mike Leake continued his development, tossing seven extremely efficient innings, allowing just two runs.
Early on, it appeared Red Sox batters had Leake sized up quite well, even though this was the first time they had faced him. Escaping a jam in the first via the double play ball, Leake settled in over the front five. Most importantly, he did not walk a batter.
In the top of the third, Heisey led off the inning with a shot that rattled the Green Monster, and then trotted home on Schumaker’s first home run as a member of the Reds. Hit into the power alley Tucker Barnhart could not conquer just an evening earlier, Schumaker muscled a two-run shot into the Reds bullpen, staking them to an early 2-0 lead.
While Leake was hopping over one landmine after the other, it finally caught up with him in the sixth.
Getting ahead of ninth place hitter Jonathan Herrera in the count 0-2, Leake left a cutter over the middle of the plate that was swatted back up the middle into centerfield for a single. It may have gone under the radar at the time, but Leake’s inability to put away Herrera was the sparkplug for a rallying Red Sox club.
Having allowed four hits entering the inning, the Red Sox matched that total for Leake, capped by a Mike Napoli RBI double that tied the game back at two.
As they usually do, the Reds responded. Loading the bases with nobody out spelled the end of the road for Jake Peavy, the Boston starter. Sure, a single run would have been nice to take the lead back, but multiple runs would have kicked the door in. Alas, just a single run crossed the plate.
Had the lead held, Chris Heisey’s grab in the bottom of the seventh would have been the story of the contest. Regardless, a ball that seemed destined for the left centerfield gap was snared out of mid-air by a sprinting Heisey, who saved the tying run from crossing the plate.
Poor Bryan Price cannot seem to catch a break. No matter who he summons out of his bullpen, there are seemingly runs crossing the plate from every which angle. Unfortunately, mark up tonight’s eighth inning as the latest saga.
Leading by a run on the road, bringing in Manny Parra to pitch to the trio of David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Grady Sizemore made complete and utter sense. What was baffling was the decision to remove Parra after he had quite obviously pitched around Napoli. Even when Jonny Gomes was announced as the pinch-hitter, there were still two more left-handed batters trailing him.
If Bryan Price was playing the match-up game (which he clearly was), J.J. Hoover would have been in to pitch to Gomes, and solely Gomes. Although the concept of using three pitchers in a single half-inning defies logic, that seemed to have been the grave Price dug himself.
Yet, after a four-pitch walk to Gomes, Hoover stayed in. Fittingly, left-handed batting A.J. Pierzynski doubled to tie the game with left-handed batting Jackie Bradley Jr. standing in the on-deck circle and left-handed specialist, Sean Marshall, warming up in the pen.
The staggering management did not cease at that point. Batting .210, Bradley Jr. was batting ninth in the Red Sox lineup just a night ago. Absolutely nothing about his game frightens an opposing pitcher. Yet, he was given an intentional pass.
Creating a potential double play situation makes sense in theory, but the only issue…Hoover has been unable to locate the strike zone for over a month. Grooving a fastball down Broadway, the slumping Will Middlebrooks took advantage, driving in the game-winning run.
Of course, now Sean Marshall was summoned.
J.J. Hoover is an integral part of the bullpen. He has proven that he is not the type of talent to just give up on, or demote to the minor leagues. His confidence is beyond shot at this point and he needs some easy outings to ease himself back into the speed of the game. Granted, blowouts in either direction have not come in excess to the Reds this season.
At no point has Hoover shown to be reliable in a close game. Using him even on Wednesday night is an indefensible situation. If he were in to face a single batter (which he clearly was not), then the move makes sense. But, with Sam LeCure having had Monday off and guaranteed Thursday off, leaving your “set-up” man in the ‘pen is a head scratcher.
By the way, let us not get started about the fact that it was the heart of the Red Sox order up in a close game and Jonathan Broxton was nowhere to be found. Really, do not even bring it up.
Limping out of Boston, the Reds get to return home. They will have the day off Thursday before getting underway with the Colorado Rockies for a weekend series.
More intriguing than the pitching matchup on Friday (Cueto v. Chacin) is the batter-pitcher confrontation between Johnny Cueto and Troy Tulowitzki. The current hottest pitcher in baseball will be squaring off with the hottest hitter on planet earth. Regardless of playing in Coors Field or not, Tulowitzki has been a man possessed.
Come on down to the ballyard as the Reds clash with the Rockies, looking to battle their way back to .500.