With the game seemingly destined for extra innings, the Cincinnati Reds exploded in the ninth inning en route to a 6-1 victory in the opener of a series at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs.
Scoring before Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija could settle in would prove to be crucial for the Redlegs. On a groundball to second base, Billy Hamilton made the impossible occur. Just barely skidding under the glove of the sure-handed Darwin Barney, Hamilton never broke stride, gliding into second base on a ball that quite literally, only he could turn into a double.
Hamilton’s positioning on the basepaths would not matter much during the next at-bat, as Todd Frazier hammered a Samardzija offering into the right centerfield gap. Ultimately, it would wind up as Frazier’s first triple of the season, but it gave the Reds their lone run for the majority of the contest.
Unable to scoot another runner home, the Reds would remain stuck on one run for the next eight innings.
Over the course of his six innings, Samardzija would only allow two more hits after the first, with the final one coming in the third. Striking out seven, the Reds did a solid job of working his pitch count to over 100 pitches through the front six to get him out of the game, and turn the game over to the Cubs’ bullpen.
Matching the highly sought after ace step-for-step was Alfredo Simon. While he will not be receiving a $100 million contract anytime soon, Simon may be teaming with Samardzija in just a few weeks at the All-Star Game in Minnesota.
The only run that did score against Simon on the evening came in the most unusual of fashions. With the count sitting at 2-2 with the newly supremely patient Anthony Rizzo at the plate, Simon unleashed a curveball that would have more than likely clipped the helmet of a right-handed batter. Doing his best slow-pitch softball impression, Rizzo took the hanging breaking ball and deposited it deep into the Chicago night to the opposite field.
From Simon’s perspective, it was not as if he made a pitch he even believed could be hit, so surrendering the solo shot to Rizzo was a wash. Unfortunately, it would keep Simon from his 11th win of the season.
Picking up the win in relief would be Jonathan Broxton, even though he only pitched one solitary inning.
With two outs in the top of the ninth, manager Bryan Price made a last second switch of using Brayan Pena as a pinch-hitter to Chris Heisey. A subtle move at the time, if not questionable, based on Heisey’s latest 1-for-19 slide. Yet, Heisey was just the man for the job.
A bloop single that fell in the ol’ “Bermuda Triangle” (second baseman, center fielder and right fielder all converging) sparked what would become a five-run rally; all started with two outs.
The legend of Billy Hamilton continues to grow exponentially. While his speed is undoubtedly his most fascinating asset, he is no longer just a runner. With his line drive base hit into center field that plated the go-ahead run, Hamilton had yet another multi-hit game, his fifth in his last eight games started.
Not willing to risk just a one-run lead with the Cuban Missile, Aroldis Chapman lying in wait, the bats kept swinging. On Todd Frazier’s single to left center field, Hamilton had an inclination or two to make a dash for home, but with Joey Votto lurking in the on-deck circle, he thought better of it.
After a Votto walk, Devin Mesoraco strode to the plate. Up to that point, it had been a hellacious night for Mesoraco, being drilled twice and walked in his other two plate appearances. On top of that, it seemed that every foul tip that occurred with him behind the plate found a way to make contact with a different, unprotected part of his body.
He would end the night 1-for-1, technically. Thanks to the over-hanging baskets covering the ivy-covered walls at Wrigley, Mesoraco clobbered his second Grand Slam of the season. Now 4-for-4 with two home runs and 11 RBI with the bases jammed this year, Mesoraco has proven that his occasionally shift in the league to the clean-up spot should not be a rare occurrence.
The combination of Jonathan Broxton and Logan Ondrusek would retire the final six batters of the evening for the Cubs. Anthony Rizzo’s solo home run off Simon in the sixth would be their only hit over the final five innings.
The two teams meet back at Wrigley for yet another night contest at 8:05 p.m. on Tuesday night. Two Texas natives will collide on the hill with Homer Bailey going for the Reds, opposite Jake Arrieta for the Cubs.
Tags: Cincinnati Reds