Snapping a four-game losing streak, the Cincinnati Reds got off the snide with a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
To do so, they had to top the consensus best pitcher in all of baseball in Clayton Kershaw. While Kershaw was as effective as he normally is (striking out nine Reds), he was simply outdueled by the Reds own triple-digit contract man in Homer Bailey.
After having not scored in the first inning since last Tuesday, Brandon Phillips felt it was time to change that tune. Todd Frazier doubled prior to Phillips’ titanic blast that was gone as soon as he made contact. Nearly everyone within a 20-mile radius knew the ball was gone simply by the sound it made off the bat, giving the Reds an early 2-0 lead.
So far this season, giving Homer Bailey a lead is a terrible idea. Quite the opposite of what any rational pitcher would want; Bailey seems to thrive at all other times, except when his team is ahead.
On Wednesday night, Bailey showed why he was worthy of inking a massive extension to keep him as a member of the Cincinnati Reds.
Attacking nearly every single batter with his fastball (which sat consistently between 93-96 MPH all evening, even touching 98 MPH in the seventh), Homer was able to have pitches to show batters the second and third time around that they had not seen in prior at-bats.
In his seven innings of work (which could have been more had the Reds pushed across a few extra runs), Bailey struck out six while allowing just six hits and walking one.
The only inning in which he struggled was the fifth, where he allowed a run to cross the plate after a passed ball, but also yielded three hits in the frame. Bailed out by a slick double play turn from his vacuum-like infield defense to close the frame, Homer kept the lead.
Even after Yasiel Puig homered to lead off the sixth, Bailey was not shaken. Retiring the final six batters he would face, Homer walked off with a quality start, and ultimately a win in his back pocket.
It was a bizarre three-game series for Todd Frazier. He batted fourth on Monday, fifth on Tuesday and second on Wednesday. Regardless of his shifting in the batting order, he kept on hitting. Going 4-for-12 in the series with three doubles, Wednesday night’s victory was his shining pinnacle.
Scoring two runs, and being the offensive catalyst, Frazier ripped two of those doubles against Clayton Kershaw. The team’s de facto clubhouse leader is putting together a season worthy of an All-Star Game mention as the calendar flips towards June.
Normally a perennial All-Star every season, Jay Bruce has struggled mightily since returning from meniscus surgery less than a week ago. Just 2-for-20 with no walks or runs driven in since his return to the lineup, it would not be unfair to question Bruce’s decision to rush back.
Granted, the Reds have faced some stellar pitching over the course of the last few games, but pulling out a victory over Kershaw is equivalent to removing a painful rose thorn from their side.
As Broxton astutely pointed out just a year or so ago, he believed it did not quite matter much when he pitched late in the game, as long as he got outs, since he did not buy into the theory of the final three being the biggest. He certainly got the biggest on Wednesday, getting both Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez to fly out with a man in scoring position to end the Dodgers’ threat in the eighth.
Unleashed in the ninth was the “Cuban Missile” Aroldis Chapman, who retired the side in order. Striking out the final two men, Chapman touched 102 MPH with his fastball, and curiously enough, 95 MPH with his slider. Either a radar gun malfunction or a hybrid pitch, it struck out Matt Kemp. Chapman will undoubtedly take it.
Winning on getaway day out of Los Angeles, the trip over to the desert should not be as dreadful as expected. (Even though highs are at 106 degrees for the weekend in downtown Phoenix.)
On their last legs of what has been a long (granted, interrupted) road trip of sorts, the Redlegs look to finish strong before making their return home to the comfort of Cincinnati.