The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
Jay Bruce spent the final two months of the 2015 season turning over on cut fastballs and swinging over top of low and away breaking balls altogether. It wasn't fun for us to watch, and it surely wasn't any fun for him. Lucky for all parties involved, Bruce's approach seems to have been tweaked since that miserable spell, and the Cincinnati Reds RF looks as locked-in at the plate as he's been in quite sometime. He's letting pitches get deep on him before swinging, and it's allowed him to begin to use LF again for the first time in quite awhile.
Who knows. It may even begin to get teams from shifting on him so terribly often, at which point he's got the ball firmly in his court.
Bruce proved to be the lone true bright spot for the Reds offense on Thursday, going 2 for 3 with a walk and the lone run scored, and for that he duly deserves the JNMHSotG. Heck, he even logged an OF assist.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Caleb Cotham, who tossed a perfect inning in relief (with a K); Joey Votto, who singled and walked (drink); Raisel Iglesias, who yielded all 3 runs in this one in a battling 5 IP; and Billy Hamilton, who walked twice.
- Kris Bryant launched a dinger in Wednesday evening's game against the Reds, the 1st of the young 2016 season. Perhaps that broke the seal, so to speak, since he blasted a solo dinger in his 1st PA of Thursday's game, too, a shot to left-center off Iglesias in the Bottom of the 2nd to open the scoring. Reds trailed, 1-0.
- Igloo scattered a few baserunners in the innings that followed, but the Cubs finally got to him again in the Bottom of the 5th. A leadoff single from Addison Russell began the inning, and he scored when Jason Hammel himself (#KillTheDH) doubled over Bruce's head in RF. Dexter Fowler followed with a walk, but Igloo got Jason Heyward to hit a grounder right at Brandon Phillips in the next PA that initially looked as if it would provide a much needed double-play. BP, though, thought differently, and opted to just take the out at 1B, and that left runners at both 2B and 3B with just 1-out. That proved costly with the very next batter, as Ben Zobrist lifted a sac-fly to CF that cost the Reds another run. Reds trailed, 3-0.
- The Reds' bullpen actually looked somewhat defensible for the 6th and 7th innings, but that went poof in a hurry when J.J. Hoover took over for the Bottom of the 9th. After getting Anthony Rizzo to fly out to begin the inning, the Cubs followed with walk, walk, single, single, walk, single. That last single from Fowler proved to be the end of Hoover's evening, and left the Reds down 7-0 with 1-out and runners on the corners. That brought Jumbo Diaz in, and fortunately he induced a Heyward fly-out that Bruce made a great sliding play on in shallow right-center. Unfortunately, Bruce turned and fired to 1B blindly to, I suppose, attempt to double off the runner, but Votto had moved to the mound to be the cutoff man, so the throw went straight to the wall allowing Matt Szczur to score from 3B on a trot. Reds trailed, 8-0.
- The Reds put together a makeshift rally attempt in the Top of the 9th against Justin Grimm, but they netted just a lone run in the process when Bruce scored after singling, moving to 3B on an Adam Duvall double, and scoring on a productive grounder from Tucker Barnhart. That was that, though, and the Reds fell, 8-1.
- Being the sweepee is, we've discovered, not nearly as fun as being the sweeper.
- Raisel Iglesias was solid, yet not spectacular in this one, and deep counts & dunked hits sent him to the showers after the Bottom of the 5th. His final line: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K on 93 pitches.
- Blake Wood hit 96 mph several times with his 4-seamer. Blake Wood!
- The Reds will head south from Chicago after this one, presumably riding into St. Louis on a riverboat. Once there, they'll tangle with the Cardinals in a weekend series, with Friday's first pitch set for 8:15 PM ET. Tim Melville will make another start for the good guys opposite Carlos Martinez and his totally awesome Twitter liking abilities.