The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
It was neither sparkling nor dominant, but Brandon Finnegan's outing against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday was plenty effective. Given that it was coming against his former club, his 4.1 innings of 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K ball look that much better. Finnegan battled throughout, threw a nice 69 pitches, and generally had solid command on the day, and even managed to escape harm after a series of comebackers nearly knocked him out of the game. The other starting pitching options around him seem to be falling by the day, but the 3.60 ERA and pitch arsenal he's shown so far in Cactus League play for the Cincinnati Reds would've had Finnegan firmly in the mix for a rotation spot even if they had not.
Have a trophy, Brandon, and keep up the solid work. Those innings in April aren't going to pitch themselves, and Finnegan being a workhorse would help out both the back of the rotation and the fledgling bullpen mightily.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Joey Votto, who smacked a pair of singles, walked, and stole a base as part of a perfect OBP day; Adam Duvall, who went 2 for 3 with a ribbie; Chris O'Grady, who threw a pair of impressive scoreless innings; and Layne Somsen, who tossed a perfect 9th for the save.
- Finnegan's bout against his former club got off to an inauspicious start, unfortunately, as Alcides Escobar smacked a double down the LF line before the game's first blink and scored a batter later on Eric Hosmer's single up the middle. Finnegan later hit Alex Gordon with an inside fastball, but eventually got out of the Top of the 1st having allowed just the one run. Reds trailed, 1-0.
- The Reds got right in on the action in the Bottom of the 1st, though, thanks largely to the speed of Billy Hamilton being back in the lineup. Hamilton led off with a bunt single, tagged and moved to 2B on Zack Cozart's long fly out to the RF corner, took 3B on a passed ball by Salvador Perez, and scored when Duvall poked a single past the Royals 2B. Votto had walked in front of Duvall and ended up on 2B after the single, which allowed him to score easily when Jay Bruce followed Duvall with a double to RF, too. Reds led, 2-1.
- Finnegan kept the Royals in check from that point through the end of the 4th, and he became the first Reds pitcher in the 2016 Cactus League season to pitch into his 5th inning of work. The Top of the 5th, though, saw the Royals equalize in their typical contact, small-ball fashion. Omar Infante led off with a single, and he stole 2B while Finnegan was busy striking out Reymond Fuentes. That got Finnegan right to his 70 pitch limit, and he was pulled in favor of J.J. Hoover, and Hoover promptly got Tony Cruz to ground out to 2B. Infante took 3B on the play, though, which put him in position to score a batter later when Escobar dropped a perfect bunt single down the 3B line. Game tied, 2-2.
- The Reds jumped back in front in the Bottom of the 7th off courtesy of the bench bats and wildness from Royals pitcher Danny Duffy. Blake Trahan led off with a single to CF, and he took 2B on a wild pitch. Brandon Allen then followed with a walk, and both runners moved up two batters later on another wild pitch. Yorman Rodriguez then slapped a grounder to 2B and reached on a fielder's choice when Whit Merrifield threw home to nail Trahan at the plate, but Jake Cave followed with a walk to load the bases and both Allen and Rodriguez came home on a single by Juan Duran to RF. Reds led, 4-2.
- From there on, O'Grady and Somsen combined to slam the door on the Royals, and that was that. Reds won, 4-2!
- Homer Bailey threw a 45 pitch bullpen session and reportedly came out of it feeling great. Jim Day reported on the broadcast that Bailey will throw one more bullpen of similar length before finally being unleashed against live batters. Good, good, good.
- In other injury news, Keyvius Sampson was back on the mound for a scoreless inning in this one after having been sidelined with triceps soreness for over a week. Good, good, good, too.
- Taylor Sparks snuck in at 3B for the final few innings, and showed off an absolute cannon of an arm. He strikes out more often than Mark Reynolds impersonating Drew Stubbs, but his defense has long been lauded. He was forced up a level higher than he otherwise would've been in 2015 thanks to Tanner Rahier's suspension, but maybe the former 2nd round draftee will have himself a bit of a breakout 2016. Maybe.