With not a raindrop in sight, the Cincinnati Reds took the opener of a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs by a final score of 4-2.
The legend of “Johnny Beisbol” continued on Tuesday afternoon as the Reds can’t miss attraction took to the hill and did not disappoint. In front of a sparse crowd at Great American Ball Park, those in attendance would witness Johnny Cueto’s typically dominant self as he mowed down the Chicago Cubs over his 6.1 innings of work.
Run support has been Cueto’s central downfall in 2014. There would be no concerns early on, as the Reds jumped all over their former teammate, and Cubs starter, Travis Wood. Billy Hamilton placed a drag bunt beautifully, before swiping second base and igniting the offense.
Using the opposite field, Brandon Phillips would bring home Hamilton on an RBI single. The very first pitch Jay Bruce would see was promptly deposited deep into the sun deck for his 10th home run of the season. Having incurred a recent 0-for-26 slump, Bruce has now homered in three consecutive games—all against left-handed pitchers. (Bruce has 50 home runs against left-handers since 2010, the most of any batter in baseball)
Although Hamilton would go on to double and steal a base in the second, the real offensive stars of the afternoon were two unlikely sources. Getting spot starts due to the doubleheader, both Chris Heisey and Ramon Santiago capitalized. Heisey would go 3-for-3 with a walk, including a stolen base and a run scored. (He was also narrowly thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the eighth) Santiago would go 3-for-4 while driving in Heisey in the sixth for Cincinnati’s fourth and final run.
The only member of the starting lineup to not reach base in game one has been the club’s best offensive weapon all season long in Todd Frazier.
Through the front five innings, Cueto was his masterful self, making a three-run lead appear to be insurmountable. Even Cueto has chinks in his armor, as he served up back-to-back home runs off the bat of Chris Coghlan (who in the first two games of the series is 5-for-8 with a walk and a hit by pitch) and Ryan Sweeney (his first of the season) to lead off the sixth inning.
The offense would answer back to give Cueto breathing room, but he would not escape to the seventh-inning stretch. Leaving the bases loaded with one man out, the game was turned over to Manny Parra who had only thrown one single pitch in a Major League game since June 21.
Parra would whiff Coghlan, before getting Sweeney to bounce out to Brandon Phillips to end the threat in the seventh. Even with a litany of left-handed bats on the horizon in the eighth, after Parra walked Anthony Rizzo to begin the frame, the ball was handed off to Jumbo Diaz.
Taking over as seemingly the third-best option in the bullpen behind Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Broxton, Jumbo Diaz has been lights out since his first appearance back on June 20. Striking out Luis Valbuena and Nate Schierholtz to end the threat in the eighth, Diaz and his 99 MPH fastball proved that he is going to be a serious cog down the stretch for Cincinnati.
After watching Diaz rush it up to just barely under triple digits, the master himself took over. Aroldis Chapman marched out of the pen and promptly began to fire 100+ MPH darts all over the zone as he would whiff Ryan Sweeney with two men on to end the game, and secure a 4-2 win for the Reds.
Chapman would throw 20 pitches in the inning, so his status for later Tuesday evening remains up in the air. With Jonathan Broxton having pitched in two consecutive days, surely, they would love to stay away from him as well, but with David Holmberg not the likeliest of candidates to twirl a complete-game gem, Bryan Price may have to think outside the box tonight. Certainly, the arms down in the ‘pen are fresh.
After clearing the stadium and changing into their nighttime white uniforms, the Redlegs will take back to the greenest diamond on earth for a 7:10 p.m. start against the Cubs.
David Holmberg will make his second-ever Major League start, but first with the Redlegs. He takes on Tsuyoshi Wada, a 33-year-old rookie lefthander who will indeed be making his Major League debut.
Sweeping doubleheaders are rare, but the Redlegs are already halfway there.