Having cemented Cinderella’s glass slippers to his feet, Alfredo Simon picked up his ninth win of the season as the Cincinnati Reds took a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers during a Thursday matinee.
The last time the Big Pasta locked up with the roller coaster Dodgers, he never made it out of the fourth inning. Early on, the Dodgers seemed to be seeing the ball well against Simon. After the first inning, they were eating out of the palm of his hand.
In the first, Matt Kemp, fresh off a Wednesday night ejection, would drive in Justin Turner for what would turn out to be the only run of the game for Los Angeles. Simon would surrender three hits in the inning, then go on to only give up four over his remaining seven innings.
The key to the afternoon for Simon was keeping two of the key Dodger cogs off base. At the top of the lineup, Dee Gordon has game-changing speed, much in the way Billy Hamilton does. By getting him to ground out to the infield on all four of his at-bats, Simon completely neutralized Gordon’s most valuable asset: speed. Serving as the thunder in the cleanup role, Simon forced Adrian Gonzalez to hit the ball down in the zone and hit it at somebody. Both men would go 0-for-4 against Simon, who is now tied for the league-lead in wins, with nine.
As brilliant as Simon has been in 2014, Zack Greinke has been even better. In fact, heading into Thursday, he had never lost at Great American Ball Park in his career.
One of baseball’s intricate beauties is never knowing which at-bat, which hit, which run, will determine the outcome of the contest. For the Redlegs, Todd Frazier’s first inning home run that barely scraped over the right field fence after Skip Schumaker’s bloop single, made all the difference. The score would hold at 2-1 all the way up until the bottom of the eighth.
If the Los Angeles Dodgers have any holes on their entire 25-man roster, it is at the backup positions. Getting the start behind the plate was Tim Federowicz, and at short was Miguel Rojas. Both would play vital roles in helping the Dodgers to not push across the games tying run.
With runners at the corners and nobody out in the top of the seventh, Simon’s back was glued to the wall. With no Jonathan Broxton available, and Sam LeCure not quite ready, it was on Simon to retire the bottom of the Dodgers order and make sure they did not take the lead, since tying the game seemed a foregone conclusion.
First, Federowicz popped out to Jay Bruce in right field for the first out. Following him, Rojas hit a bouncer down to Frazier at third who came home for the force on Matt Kemp. The inning was over a batter later when Simon sent down pinch-hitter Scott Van Slyke, extinguishing the fire he himself created. The pendulum of momentum had swung.
As Simon trotted off the mound at the conclusion of the eighth inning, even with a one-run lead, his confidence must have been sky-high due to the fact that Aroldis Chapman was set to come on and lock the game down for him. When the bats came alive again in the bottom of the frame, victory was all but certain.
Not using the longball, but rather a sustained bludgeoning attack, the Reds pushed two more runs across against veteran reliever Brandon League. Getting a spot start in the leadoff spot, Skip Schumaker would double in the inning, and then come around to score his second run of the game on a pinch-hit RBI single from Ryan Ludwick. Brandon Phillips was pinch-hit for due to an injured finger, but in the short term, Ludwick delivered the clutch insurance run.
Having not made any of his appearances interesting for the opponent in quite some time, Aroldis Chapman allowed the tying-run to come to the plate twice in the top of the ninth before blowing away both Rojas and pinch-hitter Jamie Romak. On the season, Chapman has thrown 15 innings and struck out 29 batters—an astonishing K/9 IP rate.
Slowly but surely, signs of the real Cincinnati ballclub are coming to the surface. A major three-game series against division leading Milwaukee will take place over the weekend.
Having played 14 innings in New York on Thursday night, the Brewers will be dreary-eyed as they head home for an 8:10 p.m. start when Homer Bailey and Matt Garza lock up at Miller Park.
Currently eight games behind the front-running Brewers, with a series win, the Reds can begin to slowly close the ever-present gap.
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