The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
Mike Leake continued his rock solid start to the 2015 season Wednesday, as he spun a scoreless 8 innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates in which he was never really anything other than in 100% control. Leake has essentially assumed the #2 starter role for the Cincinnati Reds since Homer Bailey's right arm disintegrated, and he's absolutely answered the bell. His 8 inning, 6 hit, no walk, 2 K outing dropped his season ERA to a paltry 2.47, and the newfangled partnership he's found with catcher Tucker Barnhart appears to be one of the biggest early season revelations for the Redlegs.
Leake also mashed a ground rule double that drove in one and would've driven in another had it stayed in the field of play, which boosted his season slugging percentage up to .375. That's higher than Brandon Phillips, Brayan Pena, Devin Mesoraco, and Billy Hamilton, by the way.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Phillips, who had 3 singles, scored, and drove in a run; Marlon Byrd, who mashed another dinger as part of his 2 for 4 evening (and added a stolen base); Tucker Barnhart, who singled and walked; and Aroldis Chapman, who notched his 119th career save with a scoreless 9th.
- The Reds put runners on 2B and 3B with nobody out in the Top of the 1st thanks to singles from Hamilton and Byrd and a nifty double steal. Nobody scored, however.
- The real drama began immediately after Joey Votto struck out swinging (on a caught foul tip) to end the Top of the 3rd. Votto was visibly frustrated with himself - even to the point where he seemed to mention to Gerrit Cole that the F-bomb and helmet spike wasn't directed at him - and he continued talking to himself as he walked back to the dugout for his hat and glove. Votto then went to 1B to flip grounders to his fellow infielders in preparation for the Bottom half of the 3rd, and only then did he find out that home plate ump Chris Conroy had ejected him from the game, apparently because of either his helmet spike or because he thought Votto's tirade was directed at him. A clearly animated Votto then sprinted towards Conroy with Hamiltonian speed, got in his face, and proceeded to emphasize that he was a bad mother falcon and wouldn't be putting up with that kind of falcon crap (while also mentioning that it was a crap decision to eject him). He bumped Conroy, too, meaning there will be a suspension coming.
- Keith Law thought it was a crap ejection. David Schoenfield thought it was a crap ejection. Matthew Pouliot thought it was a crap ejection. Y'know what? It was a crap ejection.
- Want video of said crap ejection? Here ya go.
- Speaking of which, if you're going to eject a guy, Mr. Umpire, the least you can do is have the huevos to let the man be damn sure he's been ejected, especially for something as nebulous as this entire fiasco. If you're going to Ump Show, at least speak loudly enough for the Ump Show cameras to notice.
- Brayan Pena took over for Votto at 1B, and the rest of the Reds bats proceeded to go to work in the Top of the 4th. Frazier led off with a triple to the wall in CF, and he scored a batter later when the slowest possible tapper from Phillips managed to trickle fair down the 3B line. A soft grounder from Jay Bruce to Jung Ho Kang at SS then gave Phillips enough time to turn back the clock and alertly go first to third, and after the Pirates elected to walk Tucker Barnhart intentionally to get to Mike Leake, Leake responded by roping an RBI ground rule double to LF to score Phillips. Reds led, 2-0.
- Byrd then launched his second blast in as many days - and third in as many games - in the Top of the 5th, a solo shot off Cole that easily cleared the wall in CF. Reds led, 3-0.
- Leake continued to breeze through the Pirates hitters, allowing just 3 singles (only one of which made it out of the infield) prior to the Bottom of the 7th. A pair of 2-out singles finally gave him his first tense moment, but a sorta kinda controversial call of batter interference on Gregory Polanco - in which he was hit with a throw to 1B while running out a slow grounder - ended that potential threat.
- Leake gave way to Chapman for the Bottom of the 9th, and as he is wont to do, Chapman did the deed for his 6th save of the season. Reds win, 3-0!
- The win marked the first Reds shutout of the season.
- Chapman took a comebacker to the gut in the Bottom of the 9th, and given his facial injuries from last season's horrific comebacker off the bat of Salvador Perez, it was a bit of a breath-taker. Chapman, to his credit, flipped the ball to 1B for an out and promptly hit 101, 100, 102, 100, and 100 on his next five pitches.
- The Reds are now 6-5 combined against the Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at this point of the season. It's been a bit lopsided getting there, but given the preseason prognostications and the loss of both Homer Bailey (100%) and Devin Mesoraco (98%), I think that's a number with which the Reds are quite content.
- Entering the game, the Reds OBP from the #1 spot in the batting order (.233) was the single worst mark in all of baseball. I buried that on purpose.
- The Reds will wrap their 3 game series vs. the Pirates tomorrow, with Anthony DeSclafani scheduled to take the mound opposite A.J. Burnett. First pitch is set for 7:05 PM EDT, and we'll be here slapping our keyboards around about it should you choose to join us.
- #TeamVotto Tunes.