To kick off a massive 11-game homestand, the Cincinnati Reds got off on the right foot, picking up a game on the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers with a 4-2 victory.
For an unprecedented 15th time in his 17 starts on the season, Alfredo Simon twirled up a quality start (six or more innings pitched, three earned runs or less). Going 7.1 innings of masterful work, he picked up his 11th win of the year, putting him in a deadlock for the league-lead in wins on Independence Day.
Striking out only three batters the entirety of his evening, Simon pitched to contact. He would not have a clean inning until the fifth, where he would produce two straight, before giving up runs in back-to-back innings. Against an explosive Milwaukee offense, limiting the division leaders to just two runs would do the trick.
Through the front two innings, Kyle Lohse seemed to have brought his A-game to the Queen City. Striking out five batters, he had his devastating changeup working in accordance with a breaking ball that would stymy hitters all night.
Come the third inning, a line drive base hit off the bat of Alfredo Simon himself would prove to be all the difference.
After Simon’s single, Billy Hamilton would waste no time whatsoever playing long ball back on the home front with a blast into the visiting bullpen. His fifth home run of the season, Hamilton amazingly has a higher slugging percentage (at the end of Friday night) than premier power bats Ryan Howard and Chris Davis.
It was not only with the bat that Hamilton put on a show. Virtually eliminating any chance of a ball over his head, Hamilton snared away at least extra bases from Ryan Braun in the sixth inning, outperforming Milwaukee’s Gold Glove centerfielder, Carlos Gomez.
Gomez, well known for his miraculous, home run robbing catches, gaffed in the third. As he trekked back, measuring Devin Mesoraco’s obscure opposite field fly ball, he decided to leap at the fence to make a spectacular grab. Unfortunately, for him, there was no need. The ball would hit Gomez in the heel of the glove and allow Mesoraco a double.
Cashing in on the opportunity, Skip Schumaker began what would be a player of the night performance. Going down and roping a Lohse curveball, Schumaker drove in Mesoraco with an RBI double to put Cincinnati ahead 3-0. Skip would single in each of his next two at-bats while swiping a base, making him 3-for-4 on the night. Similarly, to Hamilton, Schumaker would make an outstanding grab in the outfield to save extra bases late in the contest.
Doing an exquisite job of piling on runs, the Reds took advantage of a Lyle Overbay error in the fifth. Despite his glaringly obvious struggles to cope with an ailing knee/leg, Joey Votto continues to hit the ball hard. Driving in Todd Frazier with an RBI double, it sure appears as if Votto wishes he could ride his trusty stead, Nibbles, around the basepaths.
A solo home run from Jonathan Lucroy in the eighth inning would spell the end of the evening for Simon, who left the game ahead 4-2, turning it over to one of the most consistent set-up/closer duos in baseball. Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman would face only five batters, and retire them all.
More than 41,000+ packed Great American Ball Park on our nation’s birthday and let loose a roar as the Cuban Missile topped off a win with a 99 MPH fastball that blew away Mark Reynolds. It was just a single night in July, but for now, there was a playoff atmosphere on the banks of the Ohio River.
Both teams will be back at it during a late afternoon tilt on Saturday. With a 4:10 scheduled first pitch, Matt Garza gets the ball for Milwaukee against Homer Bailey for the Redlegs. Each team is quite familiar with the others starting pitcher, so it will be a war of attrition to see which National League Central Division power will reign supreme.