Following the lead of their ace, the Cincinnati Reds picked up their first victory in nearly two weeks with a 1-0 win over the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
As it has been for most of 2014, it was Johnny Cueto’s afternoon. Having pitched less than spectacularly against the Nationals earlier this season back in DC, Cueto responded in a huge way, completely dominating the contest from the outset.
Over his seven innings of work, Cueto would allow four hits and uncharacteristically walk three, but he would punch out nine and lower his ERA back to 2.08. The benefactor of some baserunning mistakes by Washington, Cueto also received some splendid help defensively from the likes of Billy Hamilton and Jay Bruce.
It was not a graceful day on the basepaths for the Redlegs, who once ran themselves into multiple outs. For the second straight night, the team produced only four hits, leaving the men who did reach base to have to make every runner count. Nationals’ starter Gio Gonzalez would pick off both Chris Heisey and Billy Hamilton, but Heisey’s stolen base in the fifth would make all the difference.
Having seen the heart of the Reds order (Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce) waste a golden run-scoring opportunity in the fifth, Chris Heisey took matters into his own hands in the fifth. A complete ballplayer in every sense, Heisey ripped a double down the left field line that hopped into the crowd for a ground-rule double to lead off the inning. After Skip Schumaker flew out, Heisey, who had been picked off back in the second inning, took off for third. He slid in just ahead of the tag, leaving it up to catcher Brayan Pena to get the runner home from third with less than two outs.
Trailing in the count 0-2, Pena had to go down and golf Gonzalez’s breaking ball that did not have nearly enough snap. The low-sinking line drive went just beyond the reach of the drawn-in Anthony Rendon at third, allowing Heisey to sneak across with the game’s only run. Had Heisey been gunned down at third, the game may still be in progress.
Getting the game’s final nine outs would prove to be a roller coaster event, with it taking the Reds three premier pitchers to get it done.
In his final inning of work, Cueto would be hugely aided by Bryce Harper’s second crucial baserunning mistake of the day. Attempting to pick the pocket of the Reds on an infield hit by Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, Harper made a mad dash for third all the way from first on an infield single. He would not get even halfway around the bag before being caught in a rundown and eventually being tagged out.
Having thrown 103 pitches through seven innings with a freshly rested backend of the bullpen, it was time for Jonathan Broxton to take over in the eighth. After two fly outs to left, there would be a walk and a loud hit by pitch to Jayson Werth before Bryan Price could risk no more. He was not about to see a lead slip away without his most explosive weapon coming into play.
Even Aroldis Chapman would not come without uncertainty on Saturday. To finish off the eighth, Adam LaRoche smoked a line drive up the middle—directly at Zack Cozart. Were it not for the astute defensive positioning, Chapman would have blown the save, and again, the game may still be in progress.
It is not truly a Chapman appearance without a strikeout, which he got to in the top of the ninth. The Nationals ran themselves into one last out as Ian Desmond was gunned out attempting to steal second/advance on a bunt for the innings first out. Chapman dialed up fastballs in the vicinity of 103 MPH to retire both Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos to close out the game and give the Reds their first win post-All-Star break.
Lack of offensive firepower notwithstanding, the Reds still have an opportunity to win the series against the first-place Washington Nationals. Mat Latos will get the ball against Doug Fister on Sunday afternoon for what should be a 1:10 p.m. start barring unwilling weather.
Tags: Cincinnati Reds