The beginning of an odd five-game series got off on the right note for the Cincinnati Reds, who took over late against the Chicago Cubs, running away with a 9-3 victory.
Not quite reflective of how close the game was, the final score tells only part of the story.
Picking up his seventh win of the season, and returning to the .500 mark, Mike Leake looked from his box score to have pitched a brilliant game. The true nature of the contest spoke volumes about his start, which was indeed aided a bit by the most complex baseball element of all—luck.
Cincinnati Reds pitchers would not produce a clean inning all evening. Even as they allowed more hits than the offense produced, it was all about baseball’s second most complex element—timing.
Getting a first inning run on a sacrifice fly from Brandon Phillips would be the only offense of the opening four innings for either squad. Cubs starting pitcher Edwin Jackson would settle in and even retire 13 straight at one point. Eventually, that stretch came to an abrupt halt.
The story of the contest comes not on the mound, but over at first base. When the Cubs and Reds matchup, it usually features two of the game’s elite stars in Anthony Rizzo and Joey Votto. On Monday night, it featured two of the game’s stars, but this time it was Rizzo and Jay Bruce. Making his first ever professional start wearing a first baseman’s mitt, Bruce managed to look respectable. Although, his error on a ball smashed by Rizzo would tie the game in the fifth.
Never again would the Reds not be ahead. A curious rally in the bottom of that frame, sparked by Skip Schumaker and Ramon Santiago, would allow Billy Hamilton and Todd Frazier to both deliver clutch RBI singles with two outs in the inning. Hamilton’s would be the first of what would be a career-high four driven in on the night.
Newly minted All-Star Devin Mesoraco got in on the act in the sixth with an RBI double that plated Bruce, putting Cincinnati ahead 4-1 through six innings of action.
As the game progressed, each batter that Mike Leake stopped from completely annihilating him became all the more strenuous. Leaving in Leake over 100 pitches in what had been a tight ballgame was the equivalent of holding his hands over the fire and seeing how long before he would burn. Unfortunately, for Leake, the only two earned runs he would allow all night came on a two-run blast off the bat of Rizzo that cut the lead down to a single run in the seventh.
While Leake would strike out seven in his own defense, he watched as two balls died on the warning track, and as Skip Schumaker unleashed a laser beam of a throw to nail Cubs’ catcher Welington Castillo at the plate for a double play to end the sixth.
Having homered to break out of his longest slump of his career on Sunday, Jay Bruce went back to the proverbial well on Monday. He clobbered a blast off Will Smith of the Brewers a day before, an established left-handed reliever. Monday night his victim was James Russell. With a blast that can only be described as “Bruce-ian,” his two-run shot that sailed above the Cubs’ bullpen put the Redlegs ahead 6-3 heading into the game’s final two innings.
Quite possibly the biggest All-Star snub of them all has been set-up man Jonathan Broxton. No matter to the big Georgian, as he continues to mow down everyone in his path. Yet another scoreless inning saw his ERA continue to tick down further and further, now resting at an inhumane 0.62.
Ahead of what should be a pressure-packed doubleheader on Tuesday, the conservation of Aroldis Chapman’s left arm was an added bonus after the Redlegs exploded in the eighth. Walks would prove to be deadly for Cubs reliever Blake Parker, who would put on both Ryan Ludwick and Ramon Santiago, before Billy Hamilton would clear the sacks with a triple down the right field line. Continuing what has been a masterful rookie campaign; Hamilton showed on Monday that his game is much, much more than just baserunning ability.
The current plan is for there to be two games played inside Great American Ball Park on Tuesday. This bizarre situation has been formed due to a previous rainout, but the early game scheduled for 1:10 p.m. may be washed out again. The Cubs come back to Cincinnati August 26-28, with both clubs having an open day on the 25th.
Barring inclement weather, Johnny Cueto will take the ball in the early contest for the Reds. He will be opposed by his former teammate, Travis Wood. Both men will be dead-set on winning the first contest for their club since the possibility of sweeping a doubleheader is dramatically decreased—then again, sometimes all it takes is a little luck and timing.
Tags: Cincinnati Reds