The final score may not be indicative of the pitcher’s duel that took place, but the Cincinnati Reds narrowly snared a victory away from the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night, 7-3.
For the first eight innings, all of one run crossed the plate. Over the final three frames, the scoring would increase—fortunately, most coming in favor of the Reds.
Entering the game with a 1-6 record was Matt Cain, the Giants’ starter. Nothing about his win-loss total represents just how brilliant Cain can be on any given night. In front of a packed house at AT&T Park, he was back to his stellar ways.
Cain would toss seven innings, with only one seeing the side retired in order. The Reds were perpetually on the doorstep of driving in the run they so glaringly needed, but the hit never came—at least against Cain.
Matching him step-for-step the majority of the way was Alfredo Simon. Remarkably, in his 16th start of the season, Simon tossed his 14th of the “quality” variety. Allowing Giants batters to pepper the ball around the infield, Simon did not so much as allow a flyball over his seven innings of work.
The only run that would sneak across for San Francisco came on an infield ground out off the bat of rookie Joe Panik. Simon nearly gloved the ball, but the deflection served as the catalyst to what seemed as if it would be the only run of the evening.
Done after seven, Simon was in cruise control. Were this American League baseball, he almost would have assuredly gone back out, but with his spot in the order due up, Simon would not be eligible to pick up what would have been his league-leading 11th win.
Chalked up in the bizarre stats category, the Reds did not record a single out the entire evening on a flyball. Zack Cozart was involved, and directly responsible for at least one out, on 11 plays throughout the game. Even that number is diluted as he made those 11 plays through the front nine innings.
On the day he turned 33 years old, Brandon Phillips had done nothing with the bat through his first three plate appearances. Thrilled to see anyone but Matt Cain on the hill, Phillips went fishing on the first two sliders that Giants closer Sergio Romo offered to him. Battling back in the at-bat, Phillips eventually was able to get a hold of an offering and cranked it into a sea of Giants fans that wanted anything but the white sphere to land beyond the wall.
Seemingly snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat, the Reds led going to the bottom of the ninth with Aroldis Chapman on the hill.
Pitching for the fourth consecutive game, even an arm as explosive as Chapman’s is prone to a letdown. Facing the heart of the San Francisco order in Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey, when Posey banged the game-tying double off the wall with nobody out, things looked bleak back in the Queen City.
With runners positioned at second and third with no one out, the focus shifted from saving the game for a win, to simply extending it to extra innings. At the time, it may have been easy to shift blame to Chapman for placing the Reds in that spot, but his two consecutive bounce outs, followed by a strikeout to send the game to the 10th was the turning point.
Although both teams would threaten in the 10th, nothing came of either mini-rally. The interest level ratcheted up for the 11th.
In what would have been a hotly debated topic had the Reds not exploded in the inning, Jay Bruce would drop down his first sacrifice bunt since 2011 with a man in scoring position and nobody out. After Ramon Santiago would go down looking with the bases loaded, there were two outs when Zack Cozart strode to the plate.
As maligned as Cozart has been by a selective few throughout the fan base, on Saturday night, he was marvelous. Lining a Jean Machi offering into center field, Cozart sent the visiting dugout into a frenzy with a two-run single that put the Redlegs ahead 4-2.
The scoring would not cease there. Double-switched into the game in the ninth, Chris Heisey took advantage of the opportunity, clearing the bases and winding up at third on a ball that one-hopped the brick fence in right field. Heisey would then jog on home after Billy Hamilton kept the machine clicking with an RBI double of his own.
In the span of three at-bats, the trio of Cozart, Heisey and Hamilton drove in five runs and won the Reds their fourth straight game.
Slamming the door with his 99 MPH sinker was Jumbo Diaz. While a run did come across to score, Diaz was finally apart of a winning effort. Jonathan Broxton would pick up his fourth win of the year while his ERA continued to drop, settling at 0.68.
Four games above .500 for the first time all year, the Reds are playing their best baseball thus far in 2014 without debate. They now sit just a game back of the Cardinals for a wild card spot.
Looking for the incredibly rare four-game sweep on the road tomorrow afternoon, Homer Bailey gets the ball for Cincinnati. He matches up with Tim Hudson, who has been his normally excellent self in a Giants uniform. The game will get underway at 4:05 p.m. with the brooms and a jet to San Diego looking to be broken out.