You can have Halladay/Ruiz. I'll take these two as the best battery in the NL right now.
The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
My favorite whipping boy, Ryan Ludwick, was the difference maker today. Ludwick went 3 for 5 with a honked wanger and a key 2-out, 2 run double in the top of the 9th to put the game out of reach. The guy has struggled mightily since he first donned a Reds cap, and had been held out of the last few games due to a swollen elbow caused by an R.A. Dickey "quick" ball, but today he kicked serious tail. Good on ya, Ludwi C.K. Keep this up and I'll gladly eat crow the rest of the year.
Very honorable mention goes to Johnny Cueto, who went toe to toe with a legitimate ace in C.C. Sabathia...and came out on top. Already the owner of the best ERA in the majors over the last season and a half, Cueto further cemented his status as an elite pitcher by putting in 7+ innings of 2 run ball on the biggest stage in the game. Fans in the stands were actually smiling by the 7th inning, as they'd finally realized their front office was going to offer the kid a $400 million contract when his current one is over. Hat tips, too, are deserved for both Sean Marshall and Aroldis Chapman, both of whom were effective in their new (swapped) roles.
I hope this doesn't get overlooked, because it's high time he himself stops getting overlooked...but Ryan Hanigan is a fantastic catcher, and the Reds are damn lucky to have him. Get off your butts, go to mlb.com, and vote for the guy to start the All-Star game. He won't win, and odds are the jerk in charge of the NL team will overlook him, but I dare you to find a more underappreciated, underpaid, unassuming player in all of baseball. I criticize Dusty Baker for a lot of things, but one thing he deserves high praise for is letting Hanigan become what he's become while Devin Mesoraco sits more than the Keith Law's of the world would like. Big props, guys. Big, big props.
- The pitcher's duel that was called for on paper materialized exactly how we expected. Both Cueto and Sabathia were pounding the strike zone, and when their pitches were hit, few, if any, were hit hard through the first half of the game. It wasn't until the 6th inning when the Yankees squared up on Cueto, as Robinson Cano smoked a double to center before scoring on Raul Ibanez's home run. Yankees lead, 2-0.
- The Reds (as they have made a habit of doing, which is awesomecoachingmaterial) wasted no time in getting back in the game, however, as Ryan Ludwick led off the top of the 7th with a wanked donker. After Todd Frazier flied out, Ryan Hanigan crushed one out to left as well. The Reds were out to disprove the myth that solo HRs are rally killers, and went small ball to wrap up the inning. Zack Cozart reached on an infield single, and Drew Stubbs, Joey Votto, and Brandon Phillips walked behind him to score again. Reds lead, 3-2.
- For good measure, Ludwick struck again in the 9th. Phillips and Bruce singled, and Ludwick scored them both on a double to left off of former stud reliever Rafael Soriano. Aroldis Chapman was called upon for the first save opportunity of this season, and promptly mowed down the remaining Yankees. Reds win, 5-2.
- Just when we thought that Chris Heisey had emerged as the leader in the LF race, Ludwick's day brought him firmly back in the mix. To date, Heisey's line: .255/.300/.362. Ludwick's: .207/.296/.391.
- The Reds are now 7-0 on Sundays, and (if Marty Brennaman is to be trusted) 11-3 on get-away-day games this season. The Reds were already playing well with Rolen out of the lineup!
- Just for second-guessing's sake, did anyone else notice the series of events in the bottom of the 8th? Baker, who won't bat Votto and Bruce back to back because of the chance the opposing team can bring in a situational lefty to face both, opted to keep Cueto in to pitch to Curtis Granderson. Granderson (a lefty) was followed in the lineup by Cano (a lefty), and the Reds have the 2 best LH relief pitchers in baseball. Dusty wouldn't do to a team what he's afraid would happen to his own; interesting, to say the least, but it worked out fine today.
- The Reds return home to face the Braves tomorrow. Mike Leake will take the hill vs. Mike Minor.