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Feels just like the first time. Reds, Willis win 5-4.

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An inverted W is still a W.
An inverted W is still a W.

Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game

Dontrelle Willis.  D-Train grabbed his first win of the season in his 13th and final chance, pitching six innings of 3-hit baseball, on 3 earned runs, 6 Ks and 2 BBs. He went 1-3 at the plate with a base-clearing double and those 2 RBIs were decisive in a one-run game. Willis is a free agent after this season - though I suspect there's mutual interest to bring him back if the right contract can be worked out - but if this was his final game as a Red, it was an altogether fitting way to go out. With his raw enthusiasm on display again as he clapped his hands after cruising into second base, it's difficult not to want to see him continue his comeback in Red next year (provided he gets some pinch-hit opportunities).

Key Plays 

  • Brandon Phillips, who continues to play a convincing leadoff hitter, drew his first of two walks in the game's first at bat. Jay Bruce brought him in with an RBI single.
  • The Reds picked up two more runs in the second, on a Janish sac-fly and an RBI single off the bat of the BP/The Unstoppable Phorce/Brand=ON.
  • The lead quickly evaporated. Chase d'Arnaud, whose parents named him after a bank-perfume company merger, clubbed a 2-RBI triple in the second and came home on a sac-fly. At 3-3, it was beginning to look like Willis' star-crossed season had become a self-parody.
  • Willis struck a blow against the cruelty of an unfeeling baseball universe and crushed himself a 2 RBI double in the top of the sixth.
  • Willis began to cramp up after 6 innings and was pulled in favor of Sam LeCure. He and Chapman combined for two scoreless, hitless innings.
  • Cordero kept Willis pacing to the end, allowing a run in the 9th on a Neil Walker double. He escaped with the lead and his 35th save. Reds 5, Pirates 4, Willis. 1

Other Notes

  • This was Willis' first win since June 5, 2010 - a drought of 16 starts and 17 total appearances.
  • Willis missed moving his season ERA into the greener pastures of 4-point-something by an infinitesimally small fraction of a point, finishing at an even 5.00. 
  • But he finished with a .400 average on the year. If Willis remains a starting pitcher in the future, the key may be to keep his ERA in line with his average. You know, like, synchronicity? It's coachable.  3.50 and .350 over 60 PAs would be pretty valuable.
  • Phillips' late contract-year surge continued unabated, as he raised his OBP to .354 today. There should be little question he's the NL's best second baseman this year, but the timing is unfortunate for the Reds' front office: in a losing season and right before the option year in which they'd like to negotiate an extension.
  • Willis' WPA was higher today as a batter than a pitcher, although Cordero's WPA was just a few thousandths below that of Willis', so maybe there's something wrong with a statistic that rewards you for getting out of jams you made for yourself.
  • Cordero needs one more save to tie Roberto Hernandez for 12th on the all-time list.