The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
Cincinnati Reds pitching managed to hold the Chicago Cubs hitless into the Bottom of the 8th inning, and for that we're going to dole out a group hug for the JNMHSotG today.
Tim Adleman started, and was fantastic. He faced the minimum through his 3 IP, struck out 2, and despite allowing a walk saw that runner immediately retired via double play. He's often overlooked as a viable candidate for the team's starting rotation - largely due to the lofty prospect statuses of his peers - but he's been nothing but effective when given the chance over the last year plus, and Friday's outing was no different.
Adleman's solid start was buoyed by a bounce-back performance from Robert Stephenson, who fanned 4 in an electric 2 IP. Stephenson was rocked for 4 ER in a lone inning pitched in his first start of Cactus League play, but controlled the strike zone throughout his outing on Friday and had his change-up working about as well as one could hope. More of that - and less of the first start's stuff - will have him with an inside track to an Opening Day spot in the team's rotation.
Backing those multiple-inning outings were scoreless innings from Blake Wood and Wandy Peralta, both of whom also kept Chicago's bats largely confused. And even after Jumbo Diaz was thumped around, Kevin Shackelford dropped a 1-2-3 inning to close things out - a definitive improvement from his first outing when the San Francisco Giants launched a walk-off dinger.
Though it was a spring start against a dumbed-down Chicago lineup, that's five solid outings, all of which are due some serious dap.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Jose Peraza, whose torrid spring continued with a 2 hit, 2 run scored day; Zack Cozart, who singled, walked, and scored twice; Patrick Kivlehan, who belched a mighty solo dinger and later singled; Eugenio Suarez, who singled twice, was hit by a pitch, scored a run, and drove in a pair; and Dilson Herrera, who doubled, walked, was hit by a pitch, scored, smiled, adjusted his belt, sweated, flexed, breathed, hit designatedly, and drove in a run.
- The Reds sauntered out to an early lead against starter Mike Montgomery, and once again Peraza was the driving force behind it. He led off the game with a single to CF that was misplayed by Albert Almora badly enough for Peraza to end up on 3B, and he then scored two batters later on a single into RF from Suarez. Reds led, 1-0.
- Cincinnati dinked their way to a solid start to the the Top of the 3rd, and the Chicago pitching staff doinked them across the plate from there. Arismendy Alcantara singled to lead off the inning, and yet another Peraza single backed him up. A slow single off the bat of Zack Cozart ate up Jeimer Candelario at 3B and left the bases loaded, and Alcantara scored when Aaron Brooks then plunked Suarez. Two batters later, Brooks doinked Dilson Herrera, too, which scored Peraza and sent Brooks to the showers early. That brought in Dallas Beeler, whose day began in rousing fashion with a plunking of Desmond Jennings and a bases loaded walk of Tucker Barnhart, both of which scored additional Reds runs. Later, Hernan Iribarren plated Herrera with a productive grounder, and a 5 spot of an inning left them ahead, 6-0.
- Cozart coaxed a 1-out walk in the Top of the 4th, and it haunted. Cozy motored around to 3B on another Suarez single, and he later scored on a sac fly off the bat of Scott Schebler. Reds led, 7-0.\
- Kivlehan's solo-shot off Brian Duensing in the Top of the 7th tacked on an additional run for the good guys, leaving them up to the tune of 8-0.
- The Reds managed to carry a no-hitter into the Bottom of the 8th, but that ended emphatically when Jumbo Diaz served up a meatball to Eloy Jimenez, who mauled it for a solo dinger over the wall in LF. The meatball mauling wasn't done yet, either, as a 2-out error at 1B by Sebastian Elizalde kept the inning alive for Chicago, and after Taylor Davis poked a single into RF, Yasiel Balaguert smoked a 3-run tater over the wall in LF to make things interesting. Reds led, 8-4.
- After that mini-implosion, Shackleford's perfect Bottom of the 9th wrapped things up, and the Reds took home their second consecutive victory, 8-4.
When you beat the Cubs two games in a row (even if they don’t count)
- From the middle of the 1st until Blake Wood walked Chris Dominguez in the Bottom of the 6th, Reds pitchers retired 15 consecutive Cubs batters. Of course, Wood then induced an inning-ending double play from the very next hitter, so that was somewhat negated.
- As The Enquirer's Zach Buchanan noted in between dingers-yielded, this was Jumbo Diaz's last outing before leaving to join the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic squad as a member of the bullpen. Just a hunch, but I'm guessing he would've liked to have left a better impression on Bryan Price than the 18.00 ERA he's sporting to date.
- This game was fun! It also counted just as much as the 6 straight losses from the opening week of Cactus League play. Fake baseball...sad!
- As for recent World Series winning clubs, the Kansas City Royals will descend upon Goodyear Ballpark on Saturday to take on the Reds, with Jason Vargas set to start for them. Scott Feldman will get his second start of the spring for Cincinnati, with first pitch set for the usual 3:05 PM ET.