The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
Mike Leake had sputtered out of the gate for the Cincinnati Reds through his first two starts of 2015, but he dodged some early hard-hit balls to spin a gem against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night. Leake yielded a leadoff dinger, but settled in to blow through the Cards for much of his 8 innings of work, and he finished having allowed just a pair of earned runs on four hits while striking out three and walking none in a hyper-efficient 86 pitch outing.
Look, it's not his fault he was left on the mound in the 8th when the Reds needed a strikeout and he couldn't get it. Leake pitched his ass off, and for that he get's tonight's JNMHSotG trophy.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Brennan Boesch, who went 2 for 4 with a double, a steal, and 4 PAs that Marlon Byrd's 2015 vesting option did not receive; Joey Votto, who also went 2 for 4; and Brandon Phillips, who went 2 for 4 with the Reds' lone run driven in.
- Matt Carpenter led off the home half of the 1st inning with a solo dinger onto the grass beyond the CF wall. Reds trailed, 1-0.
- The Reds got that run back in the Top of the 3rd, however, as the middle of the order went to work on Adam Wainwright with 2-outs. Votto singled to start things, moved to 2B on Todd Frazier's walk, and scored when Phillips' single blooped its way in between Kolten Wong and the charging Cardinals OF. Game tied, 1-1.
- Both Leake and Wainwright settled in, and the game flew by as the pitcher's duel developed. Finally, the Cardinals took command in the Bottom of the 8th, as John Jay led off with a double to RF, moved to 3B on a productive grounder from Yadier Molina, and scored when Kolten Wong smashed a deep liner to LF that served as a sacrifice fly. Keep in mind, of course, that the Reds have the single greatest strikeout machine in their bullpen in Aroldis Chapman, desperately needed a strikeout in that scenario, had a LH hitter at the plate (which Chapman chews up and spits out), and that Chapman hasn't pitched in 4 days. Just, y'know, keep that in mind. Boesch's infield single in the 9th wasn't enough, and the game closed as yet another bitter loss to St. Louis with a head-scratching ending. Reds lose, 2-1.
- Leake left pitch after pitch up in the zone early, most of which got hammered, but fortunately most of those were hit right at Reds defenders. Once he settled in, however, he looked like the Mike Leake we're all used to.
- Skip Schumaker led off. In 2015. Skip Schumaker. Kick me.
- Not using Chapman in the 8th with a runner on and watching a deep fly result in the run that cost the Reds a chance to win would probably sting more if A) Aroldis hadn't had the week off, B) it resulted in the one loss that made the difference in a playoff season or not, or C) if the predictability of it wasn't so damn hilarious. Oh, Reds.
- The Reds will head to Milwaukee to start a series against the Brewers tomorrow. The Brewers have been awful, so even though the baby will likely be in the basket prior to tomorrow evening's 7:20 ET start, get your optimism out and wear it on a pin or a necklace or a thong, or something.