Things got steamy in Cincinnati on Sunday, but the victory by the Cincinnati Reds in the rubber match of their series with the Toronto Blue Jays by a score of 4-3 lessened the blow of the heat.
Unless of course, that heat was being brought by the unflappable duo of Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman. Combining for the magical number of 11 strikeouts that earns every fan in attendance free pizza, the pair of National League All-Stars proved why they might be the most fearsome duo in all of baseball.
For the eighth time in the last ten games, the Redlegs got on the board in the first inning. Having to adapt to the incredibly unique tendencies of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, the inning was extended due to Edwin Encarnacion’s second error of the series.
Jay Bruce would rip an RBI single to right field before Brandon Phillips was thrown out on the basepaths to end the frame.
Normally airtight defensively, the Reds went off the map in the third. First, it was Joey Votto who threw away a ground ball, and then Johnny Cueto neglected to field Jose Bautista’s bunt in time, giving the club two errors and no outs recorded.
Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus would take advantage of the bases loaded scenario, driving in two and hedging Toronto back in front. The inning would only end after a stellar defensive snare from Zack Cozart on a lined smash up the middle that would end like poetry in motion of a scintillating 6-4-3 double play.
It was with not only his golden right arm, but his bunting ability as well, that Cueto dominated the day. Dropping down a bunt that was impossible to field, Cueto would be on base when Todd Frazier ran into his 17th home run of the season. Aided by the shallow right field dimensions, Frazier’s two-run blast would put Cincinnati back up for good at 4-2.
Neither side could escape the injury bug that would climax in the fifth inning.
Earlier in the contest, the Jays watched as third baseman Brett Lawrie would exit the game with what would be a broken index finger, and then collectively hold their breath when superstar Jose Bautista would leave with knee troubles.
For the Reds, Johnny Cueto appeared to feel a twinge of some kind in his right hamstring while running the bases—always a dangerous situation. Brandon Phillips would also be pinch-hit for, exiting the game with what was ruled as a bruised left heel.
With a still exasperated bullpen in flux, there was no doubt who was taking the ball directly to Aroldis Chapman for the Reds. Going to 120 pitches on a blisteringly hot afternoon, Cueto was the man. Over his eight innings of work, he would allow only a single earned run, which lowered his ERA even further, down to a staggering 1.86.
The Blue Jays’ final shred of offense came off the bat of former Red Edwin Encarnacion for his Major League leading 24th home run of the year. Just as a special treat for the Reds, the man once nicknamed “E-5” left town with a flap down.
Cueto would polish off the rest of the eighth inning, ending it by freezing another former Red, Juan Francisco, on a cutter on the outside part of the plate that sent not only Cueto and catcher Brayan Pena into a frenzy, but all 36,000+ in attendance.
With the “Cuban Missile” Aroldis Chapman taking over for the ninth inning, the final four Jays batters to come to the plate went down flailing. For those in attendance, it meant free pizza. For the millions watching from everywhere else, it meant a victory.
Having won their three consecutive series, momentum resides with the Redlegs. Then again, momentum is only as good as the next days starting pitcher. In this case, that would be Alfredo Simon.
At an odd 8:10 p.m. start time from out at Wrigley Field, Simon will toe the slab opposite Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija, who may be making his final start in the Windy City.
Then again, there is always the possibility some team acquires him before the first pitch occurs.
For more on the week ahead in baseball tickets, check out the TiqIQ blog.
Tags: Cincinnati Reds