The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
Mike Leake put the Cincinnati Reds on his back, hiked up his pants, and let his tall socks throw fire at the Atlanta Braves on Thursday. Leake allowed just a pair of hits in 8 dominant innings on Thursday, yielding nary a run en route to an efficient 97 pitch evening. He struck out 3, walked just 2, smacked a vintage "Mike Leake for LF" dinger, and never once worked into a vulnerable scenario while doing almost everything imaginable to get the Reds back to the .500 mark.
Props, Mike, and have yourself a trophy.
Honorable Mentions are due to: the solo dinger buddies, namely Todd Frazier, Tucker Barnhart, and Billy Hamilton, each of whom smacked balls over a fence tonight; Joey Votto, who doubled twice and DROVE IN A RUN CAN YOU BELIEVE IT OMG; and Skip Schumaker, who took the late-breaking news of his start (thanks to Brandon Phillips being sick) and turned it into a solid evening, doubling, walking, and playing some dang competent defense.
- The Reds threatened a few times early against Shelby Miller, including when Skip Schumaker led off with a double to being the Top of the 3rd and when they managed to get runners on 2B & 3B with nobody out (thanks to a Cozart walk and Votto double) in the Top of the 4th. Scoring, however, went for naught in both cases, despite the Reds hitting sharp line drives all over the diamond. Unfortunately, it was one of those "right at 'em" kinds of evenings, and that didn't even include Jay Bruce hitting a deep fly ball that was caught at the wall.
- Finally, they pushed a run across the plate in the Top of the 6th, and Votto was again behind it. Billy Hamilton began things by taking 1B after the pitch he struck out on went all the way to the wall behind him, and he ended up on 2B when Zack Cozart followed with a single. Votto then dug in, choked up after finding himself in a 2-strike count, and eventually laced a double that landed just inside the LF line that drove in Billy. Miller then walked Jay Bruce to load the bases, but Marlon Byrd struck out and Schumaker lined out sharply to end the threat. Reds led, 1-0.
- Those Atlanta gloves that kept being perfectly placed for those hard-hit balls finally relinquished their hold on things in the Top of the 7th, as both Barnhart and Leake smacked solo dingers - back to back solo dingers, at that - to give the Reds a bit of breathing room. Reds led, 3-0.
- Frazier grabbed the bottle of solo dinger juice, took a big ol' gulp, and promptly smoked a Donnie Veal pitch over the LF wall in the Top of the 8th for a big fly of his own, already his 7th of the young season. Reds led, 4-0.
- Lefty Ian Thomas was brought in to pitch the Top of the 9th, which made Hamilton switch from hitting lefty to hitting righty for the first time on the evening. That didn't bother Billy, however, as he promptly launched a solo dinger of his own. Man, that bottle of solo dinger juice is deep. Reds led, 5-0.
- Tony Cingrani took over for Leake in the Bottom of the 9th, and after the first two batters reached the Braves fans started the ever obnoxious tomahawk chop. Ugh. Tony C got a double play on an Andrelton Simmons grounder, but Freddie Freeman's double drove in Phil Gosselin to end the chance for the first Reds shutout of the season. this.bullpen. Fortunately, Cingrani was able to get noted lefty killer (and former Red) Jonny Gomes to pop out to end things. Reds win, 5-1!
- With -1.1 fWAR accumulated on the season, Marlon Byrd entered the evening as the single least valuable player in all of Major League Baseball among both hitters and pitchers. He did, however, take his first walk of the season in this one - yikes - but then struck out with the bases loaded in his next PA. That's the "big bat for LF" that the Reds targeted.
- Leake's dinger in the 7th was the first hit by a pitcher in either league so far in 2015. It's the kind of thing that perpetuates my belief that he'll have infinitely more value to an NL team than to an AL team if and when he hits free agency after this season. At least, of course, until Rob Manfred screws everything up by putting the DH in NL baseball.
- After Barnhart and Leake went back to back in the 8th, Billy Hamilton bunted. He bunted, after back to back dingers. Hmm. Of course, he then swatted a solo dinger in his next PA. KILL THE BUNT.
- The bullpen problem is a problem's problem it's so problematic. Fortunately, a trio of potential bullpen arms that had started the season hurt are all now back to throwing. Matt Magill - acquired in the Chris Heisey trade - is plying his trade in Louisville, Jonathon Crawford - acquired in the Alfredo Simon trade - is spelling his name in an non-repeatable way while pitching in Goodyear, and Keyvius Sampson - plucked off waivers from the San Diego Padres - joined the Pensacola rotation in a start tonight. It may not be flashy depth, but it may end up being much needed depth with the current pen's foibles.
- Anthony DeSclafani will take the mound for the Reds in game 2 of the series tomorrow, though Reds.com lists the Braves pitcher still as TBD. First pitch is scheduled for 7:35 PM EDT.
- Mike Leakdedown Tunes.