Cincinnati Reds Avoid the Sweep, Salvage a 2-1 Win


Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Another day, another one-run affair.

Thankfully, for the sanity of those in Reds Country, the Reds were the recipient of a 2-1 victory on their first Sunday afternoon game of the season.  Riding the super stretchy right arm of Alfredo Simon, two runs were all that it took to put a win in the Reds column.

Before the game, should Simon be able to get the Reds through the fifth with two earned runs or less, that would be the best-case scenario.  Thanks in large part to the Mets attacking him early in the count, his pitch count was able to extend far beyond the five-inning minimum necessary for a win and carried him all the way through the seventh inning stretch.

Things certainly got dicey in the bottom of the third when the Reds already trailed by a run.  After a walk to the opposing pitcher, Jon Niese, Eric Young Jr. mashed just his second hit of the entire season (his first being a swinging bunt late in yesterday’s contest) into the left centerfield gap to put two men in scoring position for the meat of the Mets order.

Now having to wiggle past the heart of the Mets order, Simon did not so much as flinch.  He got Daniel Murphy to go down swinging and watched as David Wright whiffed to squelch the rally and keep the lead at just a single run, averting a near crisis.

Getting a stellar outing from a starting pitcher has been nothing new to the club this season; the issues have arisen from swinging the lumber themselves.  Mets starting pitcher Jon Niese (Ohio native!) has put together an extremely solid Major League career, but has been battling shoulder injuries all off-season and was taking to the mound for the first time in 2014.  The first two times through the order, the Reds made him look like a reincarnation of Sandy Koufax.

Of all things to spark a rally, a looping line drive off the bat of Alfredo Simon could not have been high on the top of the list of likely possibilities; especially considering the fact that it was only his second Major League hit.  Smelling blood in the water, the next two Reds singled to load the bases for Joey Votto. 

Coming within roughly a dozen or so feet of smashing a Grand Slam into the appropriately sponsored “Party City Deck,” Votto had to settle for a game-tying sacrifice fly.  (See!  Sacrifice flies can be positive!)  Hitting cleanup with the lefthander on the mound, Ryan Ludwick strolled in next to face Niese who was near the end of his rope, and laced a line drive RBI single into left field, putting the Reds ahead for good at 2-1. 

Whatever came next from Alfredo Simon was fool’s gold.  He had produced his satisfactory five innings of work, but his additional two innings allowed the Reds to not use the lesser experienced relievers meddling down in the ‘pen.  Pitching at least seven innings in a Major League game for the first time in nearly two and a half years, Simon’s one spot start was the stuff of champions.

As J.J. Hoover had the unfortunate pleasure of reminding us yesterday, no matter how well the starter pitched, he’s nothing without the backend of his bullpen.  In an attempt to neutralize as many of the Mets options off the bench as possible, Manny Parra was sent out for the eighth inning after receiving Saturday off.  After three non-threatening outs, Parra jogged back to the dugout to see if his bats could get any more runs.

While no runs may have come, the game’s most bizarre moment took place in the top of the ninth.  It may have been the ideal situation to pinch-run speedster Billy Hamilton, but with his injured finger ailing, it’s more than likely the wise decision to air on the side of caution.  Not airing on caution whatsoever, was Bryan Price when he sent catcher Brayan Pena on a full count pitch that Roger Bernadina waved through.  Thanks in large part to Travis d’Arnaud’s wide throw; Pena swiped only his second career bag.  You have that right; so far, it’s Brayan Pena, 1, Billy Hamilton, 0.

Even bolder than sending a led-footed catcher with a full count, was sending back out for the chance at his first Major League, Manny Parra.  Not to mention, it was the heart of the Mets order. 

In the wake of grave darkness, comes extraordinary light, and while J.J. Hoover may have had his struggles yesterday afternoon, Manny Parra was the exact opposite.  Mowing down all six batters he faced, he earned his first big league save after years of being either a spot starter or long reliever.  The irony of today’s game was that when the club was desperately fishing for a win, the two most unlikely sources of production came through in the biggest way possible.

Getting out of New York with a 2-4 record is not exactly the way the team planned for it to go, especially after sweeping there last year, but things are looking up.  The team has not played on any kind of schedule over the first week due to rain and travel, so as the bats heat up and the likes of Devin Mesoraco, Jonathan Broxton and Mat Latos return, the ascension back to normality is inevitable. 

Plan your schedules around tomorrow afternoon already.  At 4:15 P.M., the rematch you didn’t have to wait long for makes its anticipated return.  Tony Cingrani v. Michael Wacha Part Deux projects to be everything it was the first time around.  Two of the game’s most exciting young arms will duke it out once again, there is no question about that; where the uncertainty lies, is in whether either team will be able to score.