“Oh, $#!&, I ain’t about that cold water.” While Brandon Phillips was obviously looking to dodge what was perceived to be a bucket full of ice water from teammate Brayan Pena after the game, it proved an underlying theme after the Cincinnati Reds 1-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves—this team remembers how to smile.
In what may go down as one of the worst weeks in franchise history for the play that took place on the field, the Reds can rest easy (or maybe not do very much resting whatsoever) on Saturday night.
Through his front six innings of work, it is difficult to imagine Mike Leake was any better than what he displayed Saturday. After giving up a leadoff base hit to Emilio Bonifacio to begin the game, and the sinking feeling of “uh-oh, here we go again” crossed the minds of fans watching all over Reds Country, Leake would retire 17 of the next 18 batters to toss one of his finer games of the season.
Leading the league in hits allowed entering the contest; Leake would allow only two over his 6.2 innings of work. A groundball inducing machine, 10 of the 20 outs recorded were via the infield bouncer, while a curious six were via the strikeout.
Had it not been for the defensive wizardry (or just sheer luck), of Zack Cozart, Leake may not have been in line for the victory. Bringing on Jumbo Diaz in relief to close out the seventh, Tommy La Stella hit a rocket shot directly at Cozart that nearly knocked him into left field. Rather than knocking the ball down with his protective cup, Cozart snared it and fired over to Brandon Phillips to end the threat in the seventh.
It was just a half inning earlier that Phillips was the man that came through for Cincinnati. Suffering a frightening hit by pitch in the bottom of the fourth that nailed him square on what appeared to be the meat of the hand, Phillips bounced back with base hits in his final two at-bats.
To leadoff the sixth, Mike Leake showed the national audience there was a reason that he possessed the highest average amongst pitchers since 2010. Ripping a double down the left field line, the Reds were in business. Billy Hamilton would sacrifice Leake over; meaning all Skip Schumaker would have to do is loft a fly ball deep enough to score the run. There would be no lofting, except back to the bench after chasing a slider in the dirt from Ervin Santana.
In what was the one pitch of the night Santana wishes he could have back, he fired a 3-2 fastball right down Broadway to Brandon Phillips, and busted thumb and all, he smacked it into left centerfield for the go-ahead knock. Immediately after, Phillips would employ the “sneak attack” stolen base tactic, snaring his second base of the year. (Chris Heisey would also swipe his ninth base of the season in the next frame.)
The daunting, largess trio of Jumbo Diaz, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman performed their jobs nearly flawlessly en route to victory on Saturday. The three men that could make up the right side of a football field (let’s say Aroldis could be used as a red zone target) torched through the Atlanta lineup, striking out the final four batters of the game.
After a night where he tied his career-high in pitches thrown in one game with 36, Chapman returned to the hill just to dominate the lethal heart of the Braves order. Striking out Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and Chris Johnson in the ninth, the Reds could finally slap hands for the first time since last Friday night in Colorado.
Despite the nearly two-hour rain delay, Mike Leake carried the ballclub on a night in which they needed a victory. Finally beating Atlanta for the first time in 2014, the Reds go for a split of the series at home on Sunday afternoon with Alfredo Simon taking the hill against former Red Aaron Harang at 1:10 p.m.