The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
Eugenio Suarez had a few near-miss swings early in this one, but looked as if he was seeing the ball almost well enough to resume the ball-busting he’d done throughout the first 90+ games of the season.
Fortunately for the Cincinnati Reds, that’s exactly what happened eventually on a night where the rest of their offense had been virtually nonexistent - and it came in the biggest of moments.
With 2-out in the Bottom of the 9th and the Reds down to the St. Louis Cardinals 1-0, Suarez ripped a Bud Norris meatball into the LF seats to tie the game, and a game that had the Reds nearly no-hit - more on that below - suddenly seemed to have momentum leaning in Cincinnati’s favor.
It’s hard to argue that Suarez has been anything other than the Reds MVP so far this year, and that certainly helped his cause. Congrats, Geno.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Luis Castillo, who fired 5.1 IP of 4 H, ER, BB, 5 K on 85 pitches; Phil Ervin, whose pinch-hit single in the Bottom of the 8th off Jordan Hicks broke up the would-be no-hitter; Dilson Herrera, whose pinch-hit single in the Bottom of the 9th was the game-winner; Joey Votto, who walked twice; and David Hernandez, who fired another 2 IP of scoreless ball, lowering his season ERA to a tiny 1.75.
Luis Castillo hit for himself in the Bottom of the 5th, making the final out of that inning before taking the mound again in the Top of the 6th. He’d allowed a grand total of 2 hits to that point in a scoreless game, and despite the fact that he only allowed a double down the RF line to Matt Carpenter - the single hottest hitter on the planet and reigning NL Player of the Week - and an RBI single to Yadier Molina behind him, Jim Riggleman opted to pull Castillo.
Castillo was at 85 pitches, pitching his best game of the year, and got pulled. At 85 pitches.
Mind you, this is as the Cincinnati Reds are already playing with a man-short bench by most conventional standards, and are also in the process of moving to a 6-man rotation. A 6-man rotation means what, then? It means they’re going to have to replace a reliever with one of those 6 starters for the time being, which already shortens a bullpen. All this a) after allowing 27 runs in just 3 games against the Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend and b) a day before Homer Bailey, owner of the single worst ERA in baseball over the last three years, returns to the mound for a start on Tuesday.
Am I overreacting to say it was a hilariously awful move? Perhaps. I mean, this Reds season will be forgotten immediately at season’s end purely because of their overall record, and that’s fine. What I’m bitching about specifically here, though, are the tactics used by Jim Riggleman as a means to highlight exactly the managerial candidate for beyond 2018 that so many wanted to rally around in recent weeks. That series of moves was as questionable as can get under normal circumstances, let alone under the ones outlined above.
Daniel Poncedeleon, meanwhile, was busy no-hitting the Reds in his very first big league appearance, his only blemishes through 7 IP a pair of walks to Joey Votto and one to Tucker Barnhart. Fortunately for the Reds, though: he needed 115 pitches to get through that 7 IP, which meant the St. Louis bullpen had to get involved.
Ervin’s single off Hicks got the Reds off the no-hit schneid in the hitting column, but unfortunately the run-scoring aspect of the offense continued to stay quiet for the rest of the 8th inning. Fortunately, though, there was the 9th yet to come...
Bud Norris managed to retire Scooter Gennett on a close K to open the Bottom of the 9th after Gennett hooked a would-be dinger just foul, and Votto was later retired on a diving catch by Marcell Ozuna in LF to set the stage for Suarez. He responded in a huge way, of course, roping a solo dinger to tie the game. The Reds then went to work on Norris in quite the professional way, as back to back singles from Winker and Barnhart preempted an Adam Duvall walk that loaded the bases. That brought Dilson to the plate - and no move to the bullpen from the interim Cardinals management - and he roped an RBI single into CF to win the dang thang. Reds rallied, won, and celebrated a helluva 2-1 win.
- Incredibly large props are due to Daniel Poncedeleon tonight, who just so happens to be a former Cincinnati Reds draftee (a 38th rounder who didn’t sign and returned to school) and the former freshman year roommate of Brandon Dixon at the University of Arizona. Considering he was hit in the head by a vicious comebacker just over a year ago that threatened his existence - much less his baseball career - he’s a helluva story, and pitched a whale of a game on Monday. His 7 no-hit innings couldn’t have come from a better story, honestly.
- It’ll be the Homer Bailey show on Tuesday once again for the Reds, as the veteran righty will be activated from the DL to get the start. He’ll be opposed by St. Louis starter Austin Gomber in what will surely be TV worth watching, with first pitch set for 7:10 PM ET.