A day after the gauntlet was laid down, the Cincinnati Reds responded with a 6-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Although, had it not been for Devin Mesoraco, the narrative may have been grossly different.
One of the lucky starters to actually remain in the lineup, Mesoraco was dropped all the way down to seventh in the batting order on Friday night. Clearly, he was not pleased with the decision.
Wasting no time at all, Mesoraco unleashed a hellacious swing on a Bronson Arroyo curveball that sailed into the left field bleachers putting the Reds ahead 4-1 in the second inning. It was the second career Grand Slam for Mesoraco.
After narrowly missing back-to-back shots in his next at-bat in the fourth, Mesoraco would eventually get his multi-home run game as he obliterated an Evan Marshall offering even further into those same left field bleachers in the ninth inning.
Going 2-for-4 with his two blasts and five of the Reds’ six runs driven in; there is no question about who the player of the game was. Raising his batting average up to .355, Mesoraco has also driven in 26 runs in just 26 games played.
Devin’s battery mate on this night was the Arizona State product returning to his stomping grounds. Mike Leake pitched better than his numbers indicate, although he was both at the mercy of his defense, and extremely fortunate to have them.
Nearly having a meltdown in the third inning, a ball that was originally ruled an error but later changed to a double, got by Todd Frazier. A seeing-eye single from Gerardo Parra brought in a run, before the inning was seemingly finished. The perennial Gold Glove candidate in Frazier gobbled up a slow tapper from Paul Goldschmidt…and then he threw the ball into the stands. Cutting the lead down to 4-3, it was not Frazier’s night down at the hot corner.
It could be described as Brandon Phillips’ night, but if there is some wrinkle of honesty, every night is Brandon Phillips’ night defensively.
Robbing Martin Prado in the bottom of the second to lead off the inning with a Derek Jeter-esque jump-throw, Phillips was just getting warm.
As bizarre as Roger Bernadina getting the start at first base was, not even Inspector Gadget had much of a chance of snaring Ender Inciarte’s hot smash that seemed destined to knot the game at five in the bottom of the sixth inning. Out of quite literally nowhere, Brandon Phillips came soaring into the picture (a.k.a. shallow right field) to catch the ball, spin, and fire, all in one motion to a moving target in Mike Leake covering the first base bag.
Call it a “Web Gem” or “Top 10” play, but that still may not be able to do it justice. An absolutely unbelievable play kept the Redlegs ahead; a lead in which they would never relinquish.
Set up to perfection, Leake would leave the game after the sixth inning with a lead. From there, the Reds three-headed monster of Sam LeCure, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman would take care of business.
Allowing just a double to Diamondbacks centerfielder A.J. Pollock, the three innings of combined work would be scoreless with four strikeouts and little hope. The three potential National League All-Stars combined to help Leake pick up his first win in the month of May.
It took a lineup shakeup and a meeting with an old friend in Bronson Arroyo to get the Reds back to their winning ways, but the club will gladly take it.
Just one final game remains in what has been a rocky month of May, and Johnny Cueto will be getting the ball. May has been a house of horrors for the Reds with their mounting injuries, but Cueto can slam the door shut on what has been a forgettable month of baseball.
At 10:10 p.m. he will oppose the Arizona Diamondbacks and their tall, lanky right-handed starter Brandon McCarthy.
As usually the story is when Cueto takes the hill, it will not be so much about his performance, as it will be the offenses.