The Cincinnati Reds (57-77) fell 20-games under .500 after their loss to the Milwaukee Brewers (75-60) on Thursday, but, honestly, I am not writing about that game. I want to talk about what happened Wednesday night.
The Reds and Brewers played a game that may fly under the radar, when national writers look back on this season, but it deserves a lot of attention. The Brewers being a team right in the middle of the hunt for playoff October and the Reds simply existing for another 30 games. Close to four and a half hours later, they both collapsed as if runners who just finished the Flying Pig.
There is much on the stats for the game, but I am going to focus on the narrative and feel. My seat was right next to the ball boy, down the third base line. Being near the Brewers bullpen, the visiting fans encircled me. They were happy from the get-go as Milwaukee got two quick runs in the first inning. Nestled in there was Christian Yelich’s first hit of the night, a single.
Right as I was about to down my beer and go get another to deal with, what looked to be another debacle of a game, Billy Hamilton clocked a Freddy Peralta pitch into the moon deck. I mean, it was a shot you’d expect to see Joey Votto or Eugenio Suarez uncork, but this was Billy, it revived the crowd a bit. An actual half-inning of scoreless baseball happened for the Reds in the top of two, something Harvey would put together until the fifth.
Then, in the bottom of the second, Tucker Barnhart laced a two-out double. Honestly, and there are no numbers to back this up, but I feel like Tucker hits .700 when I attend games, but I digress. Curt Casali then shot a laser into left and scored Tucker from second to tie the game at two.
Needing a refill in the fourth, I ran up to the bar that stretches down the third base line. The place includes many fine local, as well as national brews. I got a MadTree Rounding Third to kick the game off so I figured I’d change it up with a Rivertown Lager. Just as the guy was getting the pour going, Tucker launched the Reds second homer for the lead. Feeling pretty good about things, my buddy Pat and I took a walk to check out the team store in the top of the fifth…little did we know the score would turn sour as Milwaukee put a four-spot on the board. Also, the team store did not have the Phil Ervin shirt I am in search of…so double whammy.
Now back in our seats, the Brewers fan next to me was happy. They had a three-run lead on the home team, and, although the Reds had runners on first and third with one out, Josh Hader was coming in to pitch. “They can’t hit Josh,” the Brewers fan said, “Not a chance!” Scooter Gennett then doubled in the two runners (Dilson Herrera and Billy) knotting the game up at five. “Lucky break, Josh won’t give get hit, again!” Suarez blasts a moon shot to the moon deck to give the Reds a two-run lead. Brewers fan, now dumbfounded, “Josh never gets hit…I don’t understand…”
After Yelich doubled for his fourth hit (he singled in the third and homered in the fifth) and moved Orlando Arcia to third, Travis Shaw brought Arcia in on a sac-fly, which perked Brewers guy up, ever so slightly. Hader, subsequently, gave up a walk to Tucker and a single to Casali to start the sixth, prompting Brewers guy to leave the stadium when Hader was then pulled for Taylor Williams. Little did he know, what happened next sparked controversy.
Michael Lorenzen, who came in to pitch the top of the sixth, came to bat. He squared around to bunt, foul ball, strike one. Squared around again, missed, strike two. He settled in one more time, trying to move the runners from first and second to second and third. As the pitch approached, it was bound for his chest. Lorenzen is then hit with the ball, but the sound of a bat resonated through the stadium. Had he stayed squared and, technically, fouled off the third bunt attempt, for strike three? Those of us in the stands thought so…but the home plate umpire said “Not so!” He ruled Lorenzen had pulled the bat back, as he fell, and the ball incidentally contacted the bat, making it a normal foul, dead ball, still two strikes on him. Mirroring Craig Counsel, the Brewers fans around me were incensed. “He’s out! He was offering at the pitch! This is ridiculous!” and other, less-than-savory things were said. Didn’t matter, the umpires all conferred and agreed that Lorenzen was not yet out. Given a 4th strike, or not, Lorenzen then crushed the very next pitch into the terrace outfield seats, giving the Reds their largest lead of the night at 10-6. Pat and I were jumping up and down, high fiving, and overall elation was had.
The celebration led to a trip to Taft’s concessions stand, right next to Gapper’s Alley, where I got my favorite Great American Ballpark beer of 2018, Taft’s Nellies. Light, refreshing, nothing better to drink while watching a game. Anyways…
Despite the advantage, the first two Brewers got hits: one a single and the next a two-run homer. Immediately, the mood in the ballpark changed from Reds fans cheering, back to Brewers fans. I think there were 11,000 fans at the ballpark, probably 2,000 of them were for Milwaukee.
David Hernandez then came in…and had a bad night. He started by watching Billy making a diving catch on a liner hit to shallow center. Things then collapsed as he hit Manny Pina in the face with a pitch, allowed Lorenzo Cain to double (scoring pinch-runner Erik Kratz), bringing up Yelich. Already 4-for-4, many fans in the stands, and I’m sure plenty at home, were yelling to walk him. No such strategy was in place. Yelich flared his fifth hit, a triple into right field, giving him the cycle. First of those I’ve witnessed. Oh, and that officially erased all that the Reds had built to that point, and we were all tied up at 10. The Reds got nothing in the bottom of the seventh and then the Brewers took the lead on a Mike Moustakas homer in the top of the eighth.
Feeling the normal angst a Cincinnati sports fan knows, spirits were low in the stands. With two outs and Billy on third, there was a smidgen of hope. Joakim Soria then threw a shoe-shiner into Erik Kratz that bounced straight back toward the mound. Ready to go on anything but a straight catch, Billy broke from third and streamed toward home. He went into a head-first slide, on the right side of home plate, and snuck by the tag, as he is so apt at doing. But no, the umpire ripped it out from underneath of the fans. No tie, he’s out….but not so fast, my friend (shout out Lee Corso). Jimmy Riggs darts out of the dugout and challenges the call. Review overturns it as the replay shows Billy’s hand finds the two inches of home plate not blocked by Kratz, officially tying the game at 11.
A sterile inning ensued in the ninth, something that hadn’t happened since the third inning, although Yelich beat out an infield single, getting his sixth hit of the night. That hasn’t happened in Cincinnati since something like 1949…just wish it was a Red who did it. Raisel Iglesias did nail down free pizza for everyone, so that’s cool, too. Just one more thing that happened in this insane turn of events.
Walking up to the concourse to finish the game by the Reds Live show set, the Brewers scored a pair in the top of the tenth. One of the cameramen for Reds Live was beside himself, “We have a noon game, tomorrow, which means my day starts at eight. I’d like to get more than an hour of sleep tonight, is this ever going to end?” Brandon Dixon then made us think it would last longer, as he nailed a Jeremy Jeffress pitch into the batter’s eye, but that was it for the Reds and the game ended, 13-12, in 10 innings.
And if you read this all the way to the end, you know some semblance of how much this game just refused to quit. I had to be up for work in the morning, but that didn’t stop me from watching every minute of the game and getting home after 1 a.m.
The Reds have the Cardinals, in St. Louis, up next. Keep it tuned to @lockedonreds and @jefffcarr for your daily Reds content.
The Cincinnati Reds and the 20 Pitch Limit
When it comes to quirky early Cactus League season games, there’s a lot to know. One this is the 20-pitch limit a manager can invoke on an inning his guy is getting clobbered in. The Cincinnati Reds have already done this.
This Spring has seen an interesting beginning in that teams have smaller rosters than normal (though still plenty of players to go around) and they can choose to play shorter games. One other added wrinkle of differentness is the ability of a manager to “throw in the towel” whenever his pitcher reaches 20 pitches in an inning.
The Reds have already taken advantage of this twice, both during the beat down at the hands of the Athletics. Sal Romano got the curtain pulled on him in the fourth inning while Shane Carl heard the music in the fifth. These don’t necessarily paint a larger picture, as of yet, but it is interesting to note.
Carle doesn’t factor into the equation that is the Opening Day roster, but Big Sal surely does. He is out of minor league options (meaning he’d have to clear waivers to be assigned a minor league team) and he has shown some flashes of talent in the past. He could be valuable depth for the Reds bullpen, so calling it quits after 20 tosses (which frankly were all a consequence of Nick Senzel misplaying a ball early in the inning) doesn’t mean he’s out, but it is something to watch.
We’ll keep track here on the blog for more 20-pitch tap-outs.
Cincinnati Reds Roster Breakdown: Non Roster Invitees
Let’s take a look at the non-roster invitees trying to make the Cincinnati Reds roster during this Spring Training
WELCOME BAAAAAAACK! The Reds kick off the 2021 season on Sunday with their first spring training game. As I do each spring training, I am going to take a look at the non roster invitees (NRI) and how they could impact the team this season.
R.J. Alaniz, Matt Ball, Cam Bedrosian, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle, Josh Osich, Branden Shipley, Bo Takahashi
You might recognize a couple of these names. Alaniz has been around the organization the past couple of years and pitched 11.2 innings with the Reds in 2019. Biddle was a guy who was around last year, but the others are new. Carle (76.1 in), Osich (206.1 in), Shipley (100 in) have experience in the show with moderate results. Cam Bedrosian is the name to know here. The fact that he was signed on with a minor league deal is surprising. 277.2 innings with a 3.70 ERA has been a solid MLB pitcher. 2019 batters hit .207/.283/.336 and in 2020 they hit .196/.276/.255. His spin rate is gritty darn good honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a minor league deal that really is a promise on the roster. Think Jose Iglesias who was also a NRI a couple years back. This allows the Reds to delay their decision on making a 40 man roster move.
For a team that lost Rasiel Iglesias, Bradley, maybe Antone and Lorenzen to the rotation, Bedrosian will have a chance to really earn a legit role with this team. You don’t have to squint too hard to see a scenario where Shipley or Carle get innings this year.
Bittle and Osich are lefties that would have battled for the other LHP spot in the pen, but the signing of Doolittle bumps them to depth roles.
A 33 year old catcher with 37 at bats and a career .108 avg. Id say that there is not much to see here. Stephenson and Tucker are the one two punch and the offseason addition of Deivy Grullon will provide a younger depth option with a higher upside than Gale.
Cheslor Cuthbert, Dee Strange-Gordon (not listed on Reds roster yet)
Cuthbert isn’t a household name, but he does have over 1,000 at bats in the MLB. He had a decent season in ’16 with the Royals batting .274/.318/.413 and 12 HR, but he hasn’t shown enough to be a full time MLB player. Corner infield depth.
Here’s where I stand on Dee….If he is here to battle for a utility role, that’s fine with me. If he is here to be some variation of an answer at SS, we are in trouble. A 32 year old poor defender (who on the Reds isn’t at this point) who doesn’t have any power and doesn’t get on base. Yeah, he has stolen some bases. We all know speed is one of the first things to go when you age, and he still has some jump, but I don’t think it’s game changing speed at this point, and it’s useless unless he’s on base. I’m not high on Strange Gordan making an impact.
Nicky Delmonico, Tyler Naquin, Dwight Smith
I was worried about the Reds outfield depth. It’s a sneaky need, especially of Aquino doesn’t bounce back. This group of NRI is a group I am excited about. All have MLB experience and have had their moments. Delmonico had a nice (small sample size) rookie year with the White Sox in 2017, but has been worse each year since then. It’s the other two that catch my eye.
Dwight Smith has shown he has some pop in his bat. He is the type of player that you want to have in AAA ready to fill in if needed. Tyler Naquin is a guy I think could actually contribute to this team. We know 2020 was a small sample size, but look at the hard hit and exit velo. And his outfield jump/Outs above avg. fit in well with the team that doesn’t seem to care about defense.
He had a great rookie year in ’16, and has had moments since. .288/.325/.467 10 HR 19 2B in 2019 would be a good bench bat. The question is…is he better than Aquino/Heineman/Payton? Him and Payton are the two leftieis of the group. At the very least, I think he is great organizational depth, and I think his floor is a higher floor than the group listed above (maybe Aquino can make me eat crow there)
This list is different than most years. Not as many players listed, and no prospects. The number of players at Spring Training will be smaller than years past. Overall, I think theres 2-3 guys who could earn a role on the Reds 2021 roster.
Monday Morning Manager: The Snell Effect
David Bell has many things he needs to go right in order to win games and get a contract extension. One thing he can control is a decision-making process that should not be made entirely analytically.
In case you lived under a rock last year (and that might be Truer than in any other year) then you know how the World Series went down with the Rays falling to the Dodgers. You may even know about Blake Snell’s improbable removal from Game Six when he was absolutely on fire. This is something David Bell cannot mess up in 2021.
Ok, so in the grand scheme of things, I’m talking about the correct managing of the bullpen and rotation in pressure situations. Most people will look at the Game Six managing of Kevin Cash and see two things: a man sticking to his system that got him there and a man over-thinking things. Neither thoughts are incorrect.
In this day and age of baseball, most people understand statistical evaluations on pitchers favoring removing a starter before they pitch to the opposing lineup for the third time in a game. Well, maybe, because the numbers are a bit different in 2020, small sample size, and all. In fact, the Reds pitching staff held opponents to a .599 OPS in 253 plate appearances the third time through the order, last year. That may be a smoke screen, though, as the 2019 Reds pitching staff (largely similar to 2020) allowed an OPS of .892 in 799 PA. That’s a bit of a more reliable sample size, which would leave me to believe a starter pitching a third time through the order isn’t the most favorable idea.
Also something David Bell must consider is the overthinking aspect. In this Player’s Tribune post by the man, Blake Snell, himself, he points out the immense effect that simply seeing someone warming up in the bullpen had on him. Now, you can say “Well, that shouldn’t have been an issue, he should have sucked it up and pitched!” The dude is a human being. If you saw the person management was likely to replace you with if you messed something up at your job, are you going to just keep on keeping on with no thought to look over your shoulder? If you are, you might be a Jedi. Most of us mere mortals have problems with worrying about what might happen if things fall apart. Baseball players are not totally immune to this, either.
In order for Bell to garner a contract extension, he will have to adeptly manage a pitching staff that has talent, but also has human egos. Just because the numbers say that a decision should go one way, the human element must also be factored in. Last I checked, theres no button for that on a calculator, which leaves it up to his own decision-making skill.