On the back of yet another phenomenal start, the Cincinnati Reds moved their winning streak up to three games in a row, topping the Cleveland Indians by a final of 4-0, and taking the Ohio Cup home for the first time in four years.
Previous numbers be damned, Homer Bailey put forth one of his best outings of the season on Thursday night. Entering the start, he had a career ERA of 6.55 against the Tribe in six previous appearances. He would go for seven incredibly strong innings, allowing just four hits and walking one while striking out eight.
The hits came fast and furious in the first inning, but fortunately, for the Reds, a double play was sandwiched in between. It would be Todd Frazier’s name that appeared on the roulette of first base starts and he would be responsible for keeping the Indians off the board. Gloving David Murphy’s hot smash, Frazier stepped on the bag and then fired down to second for a crucial double play just two batters into the game. Had the ball gotten by Frazier, Cleveland would have produced at least two runs in the opening frame, changing the complexion of the game drastically.
From the first inning on, Homer Bailey was in cruise control. Allowing just a hit in the third and one in the seventh, Bailey would yield a baserunner only on an error from first baseman Todd Frazier. While it will go down as an error, it would be a much more favorable result than what almost happened, which was a near decapitation of Bailey.
Shortstop Jose Ramirez hit a lined smash back up the middle in the fifth inning, which was only knocked down after Bailey used his shoulder/collarbone area to deflect it from crushing his cheekbone. (On a night where Marlins pitcher Dan Jennings would be carted off the field after taking a lined smash to the face, it was crisis averted for Bailey.)
On our pre-game starter report, we highlighted the significance to getting Bailey not only run support in general, but also getting it early. Needless to say, the two in the first and one in the second served as motivation for Homer en route to his ninth victory.
Just as a reminder of how impactful his speed can be, Billy Hamilton led off the game with a base hit, just to ultimately come around to score on an infield single by Jay Bruce in the next at-bat. With the shift on, the now opposite field conscious Bruce slapped the ball the other way, drawing a throw to first. Not only would Bruce be safe, but in addition, Indians first baseman Carlos Santana would attempt a return throw to nail Hamilton at third, but with the defense stretched, the ball would go flying, scoring Hamilton.
Both Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco would fail to get the run in (the two would go a combined 0-for-7 with three strikeouts, yet the offense did just enough once again to earn a victory), but were picked by the wily veteran, Ryan Ludwick. Slapping a base hit in between the third baseman and shortstop, Ludwick utilized the spot on the field defenses had been shifting him earlier in the season to put Cincinnati ahead 2-0. (Hitters had been 1-for-21 against House in such situations coming into that at-bat.)
Bailey would help his own cause in the second by extending the inning with a two-out base hit of his own. Billy Hamilton seemed destined to put on a show as he hit a looping rope into the left centerfield gap that would bound past Nick Swisher and get up against the wall. At that point, it was no longer a question of whether or not Bailey would score, but Hamilton as well. Losing his helmet rounding second and heading for third, Hamilton had the jet engines pumping, but could not throw on the brakes. He would round third too far before being nabbed in a rundown. Even in pickle situations, he has proven to be “can’t miss” action.
For as long as baseball has been played, there has always been the story of a young player taking advantage of his opportunity. While Brandon Phillips’ injury may have been crushing to the fan base, the legend of Kristopher Negron has been born.
Never regarded as a fixture at the Major League level, Negron has done nothing but hit the ball hard in his tenure with the Reds here in 2014. Thursday night would be another routine two-hit night for him, with the latter coming as an RBI single that would plate Todd Frazier in the sixth. With a swing conducive to using the entire field, the Reds may have just found their utility man for years to come.
Jonathan Broxton would send the folk’s home happy by striking out Lonnie Chisenhall to end the game and earn the fans free pizza. So, with full bellies, a series win and momentum all on their side, the Reds now turn their attention to the Miami Marlins who stop in for a weekend series during Hall of Fame weekend.
Friday night will feature Mike Leake getting the ball opposite Nathan Eovaldi, whom the Reds will look to have more success against the second time around. Scheduled for a 7:10 p.m. start, the entire weekend has been threatened by impending thunderstorms. Regardless of how much rain falls from the skies, not much can cool off the Reds pitching staff.