Turning to the current best pitcher in the National League, the Cincinnati Reds rode Johnny Cueto’s outstanding effort to a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
Mired in a prolonged offensive slump, it would take dominant pitching to get the job done for the Redlegs in the third game of the four-game set against Los Angeles—and dominant pitching was exactly what they got.
Tying a career-high, Cueto would strike out 12 Dodgers batters over just six innings of work. He faced the minimum through five innings, allowing a single to Dee Gordon before promptly picking him off first base.
Through the fourth and fifth innings, Cueto would strike out five batters in a row, namely, the middle of the Dodgers order. He would supply Reds fans with free pizza halfway through the six inning; the earliest the fans have had their pizza-induced cheer this season.
Given the benefit of some luck, Cueto faced a mildly depleted Los Angeles lineup. Just before the start of the game, shortstop Hanley Ramirez was scratched with a sore AC joint, and replaced by light-hitting infielder Miguel Rojas. Matt Kemp was also in the starting lineup and batting fifth, but not a fan of home plate umpire Seth Buckminster’s strikeout call in the first, Kemp would not even make it back out to the diamond for a second defensive inning. Not that this should diminish Cueto’s efforts in any way–he was nothing short of unhittable no matter whom the opposition.
Still, as Cueto has come to learn, the offense has to score for him to be victorious.
For the first time since April 25, both Joey Votto and Jay Bruce drove in a run in the same game. It was not quite a repeat performance for Hyun-Jin Ryu, who was perfect through seven the last time he faced the Reds, but had to evade trouble in the second before being nipped in the third.
Down 0-2 in the count with two outs already in the inning, the Reds were sitting on the top step of the dugout, ready to go back out on defense for the fourth. Billy Hamilton had other ideas. Battling back to draw a walk, the fun began there.
Ahead of a walk to Todd Frazier, Hamilton swiped his 24th bag of the year, second in the league to Dodgers’ second baseman, Dee Gordon. In a major run-scoring situation, the onus landed on the shoulders of Joey Votto—who delivered.
Slashing a two-run double down the left field line on just his second night back, something changed in the air circulating around Great American Ball Park. Surely, Joey Votto is an excellent player, but the threat of having to face him in the lineup serves a purpose beyond the existential ball-strike encounter.
Continuing the odd two-out rally, Brandon Phillips would dunk a single over the head of Adrian Gonzalez to tack on another run, making it 3-0 Reds, which would be more than enough for Cueto on Wednesday.
The other left-handed power bat in the Reds lineup to do damage was Jay Bruce. Jumping all over a Ryu offering in his final inning of work, Bruce went more than halfway up the moon deck for a solo shot, his fifth of the season, that put Cincinnati up 4-0.
Tacking on another run in the bottom of the seventh, the Redlegs did an excellent job of playing add-on with Billy Hamilton driving home Zack Cozart. A common critique of the Reds offense is their inability to push extra runs across home plate when ahead late in a game and while the sample size is miniscule, teams have to start somewhere.
Recording the final eight outs, Broxton and Chapman, proved once again why they might be the most dynamic eighth and ninth inning combo in all of baseball.
Getting Hanley Ramirez to roll into an inning-ending double play at the conclusion of the seventh, Broxton did the extinguishing. Fanning Adrian Gonzalez and Scott Van Slyke in the top of the ninth for the 15th and 16th strikeouts of the game for Reds pitching, Chapman did the door slamming.
Normally, an afternoon game at the conclusion of a long homestand on getaway day would mean the unloading of the bench. For a club that is struggling to climb back to .500, there is no rest for the weary.
In addition, the Dodgers will run out one of the top-5 pitchers in the league in Zack Greinke. Having won the battle for the clubs number five starting pitcher role, Alfredo Simon now has to adjust to life post-competition. By no means is his spot guaranteed.
The game gets underway at 12:35 p.m. on the MLB Network for those fortunate to have the privilege of watching. If not, I encourage you all to head down to the ballyard and root on the Redlegs as they look to go .500 on the homestand.
Tags: Cincinnati Reds