The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
Brandon Phillips has slowly dug himself out of the early season hole that had many folks wondering whether the end of his 2013 season was a harbinger of things to come, and he did his best to carry the Cincinnati Reds offense tonight in their clash against the Boston Red Sox. Phillips went 2 for 5 with a walk and a run scored, and while his K's and BB's are still out of whack, the current 3rd hitter in the Reds order has at least raised his season average to a quite respectable .283, and that'll go a long way towards improving the lackluster start for the collective Reds' bats.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Todd Frazier, who went 1 for 5 with an RBI, run scored, and a walk; Ryan Ludwick, who went 1 for 3 with a double, sac fly, and a walk; Skip Schumaker, who went 2 for 5 with an RBI; Homer Bailey, who battled poor location to skate through 6 innings with a Quality Start; and Sam LeCure, Manny Parra, and J.J. Hoover, who tossed a collective 3.3 innings of scoreless ball from the bullpen.
- The Red Sox hit the board first courtesy of an awkward defensive series. Homer walked Dustin Pedroia to begin the game (on 4 pitches), and after Shane Victorino singled up the middle, the Reds put a pretty heavy defensive shift in play against David Ortiz with 1-out in the Bottom of the 1st. Ortiz smashed a short-hopper right at Todd Frazier - who was well off the 3B line thanks to the shift - but when Frazier went to 2B to turn two, it seemed Zack Cozart and Phillips weren't exactly sure how to cover the bag given their new defensive placements. The Reds managed to get an out at 1B, but a soft check-swing grounder from Mike Napoli allowed Pedroia to score from 3B since the DP was never turned. Reds trailed, 1-0.
- The New Middle Order got a run back for the Reds in the Top of the 2nd, however, thanks to a leadoff walk from Frazier, a double to the wall from Ludwick, and a single to CF from Schumaker. Game tied, 1-1.
- Another leadoff walk issued by Bailey led to a scoring inning for the Sox. Jackie Bradley, Jr. walked to start the Bottom of the 3rd, and Pedroia followed with a double to deep CF. After Victorino grounded out, David Ortiz was walked intentionally to set up a potential double play (and load the bases), but Bailey walked Mike Napoli to drive in a run, and a Grady Sizemore single plated another Sock before Bailey could escape the inning. Reds trailed, 3-1.
- Both SPs settled in to keep the opposition scoreless for the next few innings, but when Junichi Tazawa was brought on for Boston in the Top of the 8th, the Reds offense finally kicked into gear. Votto drew a 1-out walk, and Phillips followed with a double to the corner in LF to put runners on 2B and 3B. Frazier then singled on the first fastball he saw, scoring Votto and moving Phillips to 3B, and Ludwick hit a fly ball deep enough to RF to then score Phillips via sacrifice. Game tied, 3-3.
- The Reds threatened to threaten again in the Top of the 9th, as Cozart led off with an infield bunt single and moved to 2B on a sacrifice from PH Billy Hamilton. Cozart moved to 3B on a deep, deep, deep, deep, deeeeeep flyball from Barnhart that Victorino caught at the wall in RF, but when Chris Heisey followed with an apparent suicide squeeze attempt (that went for a single), Cozart remained at 3B rather than attempt to score. [I was watching this on the NESN feed, and while I'm not sure if the FS-O feed caught it, the NESN feed had an amazing look at Heisey's eyes darting back and forth from 3B to the pitcher. "Is he going to try a squeeze" immediately ran through my mind as he put down the bunt. I have no idea, however, if Heisey was looking at the 3B coach or Cozart, but in hindsight it sure seems like it wasn't Cozart.]
- Logan Ondrusek was brought back to pitch the Top of the 12th following the sort-of shaky Top of the 11th he'd already thrown, and that blew up like a Dr. Dre single in the 90's. David Ortiz led off with a single, Napoli followed with one of his own, and once-former-almost-once-former-never-nearly-Red Grady Sizemore walked things off with a single/double off the Green Monster. Reds lose, 4-3.
- The Neftali Soto experiment should be officially over, but I'm wagering it won't be. Given the health of the rest of the bench and the lack of impact talent in the upper minors, what the hell else are the Reds going to do? Damn. That's a question I haven't had to ask of this franchise in years.
- Tucker Barnhart had one of the best 0 for 5 evenings in recent memory. He was fantastic behind the plate, and the Red Sox TV team is already in love with the kid. Well done, Mother Tucker.
- Defending what Joey Votto provides for this offense isn't hard, but defending the anger against what he's set to make a half-generation from now for doing it is. Votto is currently a great player not playing as well as he can, and it's been visibly evident. He's still an amazing defensive hitter, but it does seem like it has been an epoch since he walked into the batter's box oozing the upper hand. World class keepers are great to have, but there's a reason that world class strikers are valued exponentially higher.
- I freaking hate that I just wrote that, but even the biggest homer in me can't make me delete it.
- Injuries suck.