The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
The last week has seen Jay Bruce begin to hit the ball with more authority than he had for most of the early 2015 season, and he backed up his 2 for 4 evening from Saturday with a 3 for 5 outing Sunday afternoon. Bruce homered for the second consecutive game, drove in a pair of runs, and continued to center the ball with his bat like the May Bruce of old.
If the Cincinnati Reds stalwart RF finally gets in his offensive groove, there's even a slight chance this offense will be able to overcome the continued disaster that is the team's bullpen. Perhaps.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Brandon Phillips, who homered, singled, was hit by a pitch to drive in a run, and scored twice; Brayan Pena, who singled and walked in his first game hitting in the 2 spot of the order; Billy Hamilton, who went 1 for 3 with a pair of ribbies in his first game hitting in the 8 spot of the order; and Todd Frazier, who went 2 for 5 on the day.
- Anthony DeSclafani ran into the newfangled buzzsaw that is the Giants offense in the Top of the 2nd, surrendering four consecutive hits to start the inning (with a brief 24 minute rain delay sandwiched in the middle). Brandon Belt doubled and Hunter Pence singled to get it started, and Brandon Crawford then hit a slow grounder up the middle that the Reds attempted to turn into an out at 2B, but Pence just beat the flip from Cozart to Brandon Phillips. The skies opened up just as the Reds opted to challenge the call at 2B, but replay confirmed the call on the field. Belt scored on the play, and when the teams re-took the field after a quick storm, Gregor Blanco doubled to score Pence, and two batters later Nori Aoki singled to RF on a liner soft enough to allow both Crawford and Blanco to score, too. Reds trailed, 4-0.
- The Reds offense got their wheels turning in the Bottom of the 2nd against Chris Heston, and it came courtesy of the bottom of the lineup. Phillips led off the inning with a single to LF, and Jay Bruce followed with a ground ball single up the middle that moved Phillips to 3B. Billy Hamilton then hit a grounder past the 3B, but Crawford made a great play to keep the ball in the infield and get Bruce at 2B. Phillips trotted home, though, and the Reds were on the board. Reds trailed, 4-1.
- DeSclafani walked Belt to leadoff the Top of the 3rd, and not surprisingly, it haunted when Pence followed with a 2-run dinger that just cleared the wall in RF. Reds trailed, 6-1.
- The Bottom of the 3rd saw the middle of the order go to work on Heston and jump right back into the game. Brayan Pena singled to lead off the inning, and a Votto walk and Frazier single followed to load the bases. Marlon Byrd then looped a soft liner up the middle that scored Pena, Votto scored a batter later when Phillips was hit by a pitch, and Jay Bruce then smoked a looooong single off the wall in RF that was a slightly higher trajectory away from being a grand slam. The runners had to hold up to make sure Pence didn't catch it, however, so only Frazier scored. Hamilton then lifted a sac fly to RF that brought in Byrd, and it skipped away from the catcher far enough for Bruce to take 2B, but reliever Yusmeiro Petit got both pinch-hitter Devin Mesoraco and Zack Cozart out to end the rally. Reds trailed, 6-5.
- Raisel Iglesias took over for DeSclafani, and while he tossed a scoreless inning in the 4th, the Giants put another run on the board in the Top of the 5th. Crawford laced a leadoff double down the RF line, tagged and moved to 3B on a deep fly out, and scored when Matt Duffy smacked a single up the middle. Reds trailed, 7-5.
- The bats went back to work in the Bottom of the 5th, however, and the Reds got back within a run when Phillips smashed a solo homer that scraped the top of the wall in left-center. Hamilton singled two batters later, and he was all set to score when Skip Schumaker smoked a pinch-hit smash to the wall in RF, but it bounced over the wall for a ground rule double that forced Billy back to 3B. Cozart then popped out for the inning's final out, leaving runners on 2B & 3B. Reds trailed, 7-6.
- Tony Cingrani tossed a scoreless 6th, but he walked Crawford to leadoff the Top of the 7th, and that, too, haunted. A Duffy single followed, and after a forceout at 2B left Crawford at 3B and Joaquin Arias at 1B, a perfectly dropped bunt from Aoki let Crawford race home before Frazier could get the ball to Pena. Reds trailed, 8-6.
- Bruce got the Reds back within a single run when he mashed a solo dinger - his 2nd in as many days - off lefty reliever (and former Red) Jeremy Affeldt in the Bottom of the 7th. Unfortunately, the Giants got that back immediately, as Belt smoked his 3rd dinger of the series, this one an opposite-field solo shot off Jumbo Diaz in the Top of the 8th. Reds trailed, 9-7.
- The Reds tacked on another run in the Bottom of the 8th in one of the strangest fashions I've ever seen. Pena took a 2-out walk, and Votto followed by looping a single into LF that landed just in front of Aoki. The ball skipped by Aoki, but Crawford alertly chased it down, turned, and tried to nail Pena at 3B. The ball hit Pena and ricocheted into the dugout, allowing Pena to score. One umpire initially ruled that Votto could head home, too, but he was ultimately held at 3B with a double and an error. Unfortunately, the Giants wiggled out of that jam, and held the Reds' bats for the duration. Reds lose, 9-8.
- The ground rule double rule bit the Reds in the butt today, making me hate it. I'm sure the Reds will benefit from it at some point this season, at which time I'll hate it less, but for now: hate, hate, hate. Between that, Votto being held at 3B on Crawford's errant throw, and the foot between Bruce's would-be slam resulting in a mere 1-run single, the Reds scored a paltry amount of runs compared to the hits they got and when they got them. That's pretty much the definition of frustration.
- As for Bruce, he twice hit balls that appeared to be grand slams with the bases loaded in this series, and and grand tally on those two swings was one single and one RBI. Something something "game of inches" something something.
- Joey Votto had no extra base hits in the month of May until his bloop in the 8th inning. Speaking of Votto, he entered play today having hit .349.474/.698 in 78 PAs while hitting 2nd in the order while hitting just .246/.316/.319 in 76 PA in the 3rd spot in the order. Corrlleation, causation, whatever, it's been quite a few frustrating weeks for the Reds 1B.
- The Reds have an off-day tomorrow before taking on the Kansas City Royals in a quick two game series beginning Tuesday.