The Friday night matinee between the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals ended in victory for the home team, taking a 5-3 win, and the ever-so important first game of a three-game set.
On the night Jay Bruce made his triumphant return to the Reds lineup just 19 days after having last started in right field, the offense showed signs of coming to life, with Bruce himself going 1-for-4 and even scoring a run.
The attack itself was fairly balanced, with every member of the lineup not named Zack Cozart, either scoring a run or producing a base hit.
Getting on the board first were the Redlegs in the bottom of the third, with Billy Hamilton being the catalyst. With a runner at third and two outs, Hamilton drew the walk (and then stole second, fittingly) that allowed Todd Frazier to come to the plate. Connecting with a gargantuan, Frazier-ly blast, the Reds jumped out to a 3-0 lead they would never relinquish.
Batting in the second spot in the order, Frazier would go 2-for-4 on the night with the home run and three driven in. It appears Bryan Price’s latest lineup shake-up has hit the gold mine.
Not quite the pitcher he was last season, Homer Bailey once again wilted with a lead.
Just as the Reds gave him a three-run cushion, he promptly handed two runs back to the slugging Redbirds, and narrowly averting even stickier predicaments.
After innings 1-3 where Bailey cruised along to face the minimum, innings 4-6 were quite the opposite. Giving up three runs, seven hits and two walks, were it not for a pickoff of Jhonny Peralta at second to end his final frame, he may not have escaped with a win.
In his first two at-bats, Devin Mesoraco just missed taking Cardinals starter Shelby Miller deep. He would not get a third chance to face him, so he took out his anger on reliever Seth Maness, who watched as Mesoraco demolished his fifth home run of the season into the upper deck, capping the scoring for the evening at 5-3.
A beneficiary of some good luck in his inning of work, Parra not only got Kolten Wong to pop up his bunt attempt, but also managed to double off Jon Jay, who inexplicably broke towards second at the inception of contact.
The defensive gems would only just be arriving come the top of the eighth.
Taken out on multiple occasions for a defensive replacement in the ninth inning (this game as well), Brayan Pena is not known for his glove down at first base. To lead off the eighth, Matt Holliday hit a quickly spinning groundball just over the bag, only to watch a sprawling Pena snag the smash. As majestic as the stop was, the no-look, over-the-shoulder, quarterback-to-running-back option feed to a sprinting Jonathan Broxton was both hilarious, and brilliant, simultaneously.
The ball would not leave the infield against Broxton, who lowered his ERA down to 0.69, a stunning achievement as he works his way back from arm trouble last season. Not only did the Cardinals not threaten, he sent down Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Yadier Molina on three consecutive slow rollers.
As per usual, the ninth inning belonged to Aroldis Chapman. Not up to his usual, gunslinger tactics, the Cuban Missile established early and often that he was all about keeping hitters off balance.
Often cited as Chapman’s lone deficiency is his lack of commanding a pitch outside of his blazing fastball. Stupefying Cardinals’ batters on Friday, Chapman broke out his 90 MPH change up.
Shane Robinson came within 15 feet of tying the game in the ninth with a two-run blast, but the ball landed snuggly into the glove of left fielder Chris Heisey, who squeezed and sealed the Reds victory.
The middle game of the series will feature both clubs lone left-hander in their rotation.
No doubt a crucial start for Cingrani, with Mat Latos scheduled to begin his rehab program this upcoming weekend and spots in the rotation becoming scarce.