The proverbial switch has been flipped on for the Cincinnati Reds, who have now won five games in a row—four of which have come against the Chicago Cubs. Wednesday night saw the Redlegs pick up the win by a final of 4-1.
Had Alfredo Simon pitched the way he has during his age-33 season a decade earlier, he would be vaunted as one of the game’s up-and-coming superstars. Since it took him until 2014 to put it all together, he can simply be referred to as an All-Star.
That is, if he makes it. Now the sole leader of wins in the National League (regardless of how much merit you have in wins, it is a legitimate claim), Simon sits at 12-3 with 16 of his 18 starts being deemed “quality.”
Through the front two innings, it appeared Simon was searching for command. There would be runners at the corners with two men out in both innings, but a strikeout of Luis Valbuena and a ground out from Chris Coghlan would help him stay unblemished.
Inevitably, a Cub hit the ball hard. None other than Anthony Rizzo deposited an offering from Simon for his 20th blast of the year, making his own case for being an All-Star snub.
It was as if the titanic blast awoke something deep within Simon. For the remainder of the game, the ball would not leave the infield. Simon would retire the next 13 batters—six via the strikeout. There would be legitimate claim that the start Simon made on Wednesday would be his best of the season.
As many sabermatricians will point out, in order to receive a win, there needs to be some offense behind it. Thankfully, for Simon and the Reds, the Cubs sent rookie Dallas Beeler to the mound.
Doing his best Roy Halladay impression (even the circa-2013 version where his hardest thrown pitch was in the mid-80’s), Beeler looked like a video-game carbon copy of the borderline hall of famer. Although he would retire the first five batters he would face, he could never seemingly put hitters away.
The Redlegs got on the scoreboard in the second when Ramon Santiago continued his torrid pace in this series with the Cubs as he laced an RBI double. Through Wednesday night, Santiago had five hits in three games started throughout the series.
It was the two-out hitting that secured victory for the Redlegs. Much in the same way that Santiago got the run home in the second, the floodgates would open in the fifth. Billy Hamilton lined a ball to the right centerfield gap that brought in a run—and then got by the centerfielder. The energy in the ballpark suddenly skyrocketed as Hamilton turned it into an extra gear. He slammed on the brakes halfway around third to keep the inning alive.
As exhilarating as seeing Hamilton go for it all would have been, stopping at third allowed both Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce to knock in runs with two outs as well. After five, Cincinnati had jumped out to a 4-1 lead they would never relinquish.
Broxton got the first two batters he would face rather easily, but Anthony Rizzo would knock a single in between Brandon Phillips and Brayan Pena. Sprawling for the ball like he has on countless occasions, Phillips got to it, but something went very, very wrong.
Lying on the ground in visible agony, Phillips could put no weight of any kind on his wrist. Removed from the game, his x-rays were negative with what was ruled a sprained thumb, but as C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, he did leave the stadium in a brace. Phillips has played through some significant injuries in the past, but this one looks rather severe. (Billy Hamilton would also leave the game in the top of the inning with a tight hamstring—the All-Star Break cannot come fast enough for the wounded Reds.)
Aroldis Chapman would obliterate the Cubbies in the ninth, striking out the side on straight 100+ MPH fastballs. This would mark the 38th consecutive appearance in which Chapman would record a strikeout, now just one game away from tying Bruce Sutter’s mark of 39 straight in 1977.
The game is scheduled to get underway at 12:35 p.m. with the Reds’ depleted roster looking to continue their winning ways.