The long anticipated return of Joey Votto would have to wait another two hours as Mother Nature delayed the Cincinnati Reds eventual 6-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Even with Votto back in the lineup, the offense would stall, rapping out nine hits, but having only a single run cross the plate in defense of Mike Leake.
For the second consecutive start, a National League West opponent pounded Leake. Over his 5 1/3 innings of work, Leake yielded five runs on nine hits. Curiously enough, he pitched two clean, 1-2-3 innings, which highlights his deficiency in avoiding the big inning on Tuesday night.
With a lineup full of the best team money can buy, Justin Turner serves as an unlikely source of destructiveness with the bat in his hands. Turner collected two more hits on Wednesday off Leake, even driving in a run (the final one Leake would allow) as the light-hitting, backup third baseman drove the nail into the coffin.
Back-to-back doubles by Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier got the offense rolling for Los Angeles in the second to put them ahead 1-0. Leake would stand his ground for the following few innings before being befallen by the bottom of the order in the fifth.
Against the Dodgers, it becomes vastly more important than usual to retire the hitters at the bottom of the order, as the ones that circle around at the top are more than capable of blowing an inning wide open. Leake learned the hard way that allowing hits to Turner and opposing starting pitcher Josh Beckett, can lead to trouble.
Earlier this season, Beckett no-hit the Philadelphia Phillies. While he was not as good as that performance on Wednesday, he stifled Reds batters.
Over six terrifically impressive innings, Beckett would only give up two singles and a walk while striking out seven, and not giving the Reds much hope of even scoring against him. Healthy lineup or not, the bodies batting 1-8 have to be able to hit consistently for the team to have any chance of winning on a day when the starting pitching does not do the heavy-lifting.
Beckett’s only mistake all evening was an unintentional one. With Zack Cozart batting in the bottom of the fourth, a 2-2 pitch got away from him and drilled Cozart right on the ear flap of his helmet that protects his skull. Immediately, there was concern from everyone involved as Dodgers catcher Drew Butera jumped up and laid next to Cozart, and Beckett crouched not too far beyond him, visibly concerned.
After somehow shaking the cobwebs from the incident, many members of the Dodgers would go over to Cozart to make sure he was still cognizant.
In a game so concerned with combative strike and over aggression, it was a sobering moment that reminded fans that players have livelihoods as well, and that not everyone is out to get one another.
Back in the lineup at his old stomping grounds (the number three spot in the order), not even the great Joey Votto could save the Reds. Going 1-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts, Votto was slick in the field as well.
Returning against the trio of Beckett, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke serves as a tough trio to become acclimated with Major League pitching again, but if anyone can do so, it is Votto.
Like rubbing together two Cool Ranch Doritos to spark a fire, the Reds threw a run on the scoreboard in the seventh, trimming the Dodgers lead down to five.
Cozart’s RBI single would be the Reds final crown jewel of the evening, with the rest being a gigantic disappointment late in the contest for the second consecutive day.
As Bryan Price has reiterated on multiple occasions, “it is not so much a lack of effort, as it is results.”
Now hoping to salvage just a split from Los Angeles, the Reds turn to their ace Johnny Cueto on Wednesday evening.
A rematch from just a few short weeks ago when Hyun-Jin Ryu flirted with perfection, those in attendance in downtown Cincinnati can hope it is the home starter who once again brings the home crowd to their feet.