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.
Reds Lose and Bunting Stinks
The Cincinnati Reds (64-87) tested the fortitude of the fans who continue to pay them some form of attention as they got blasted by the Milwaukee Brewers (86-65) 0-8, Monday night.
Anthony DeSclafani (7-6, 4.92 ERA) continued his struggles as he allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings. The Brewers scored three runs in the fifth and four runs in the sixth, but, really, the one they scored in the third was all they needed.
Christian Yelich (4-for-4) became the first player in the history of baseball to hit two cycles in one year against one team.
The most the Reds threatened was in the fourth inning when Scooter led off with a single. A bunt into a fielder’s choice and another single later gave the Reds runners on first and second with one out and Disco up to bat. Yet another bunt was called, which successfully moved over the runners, but Billy Hamilton grounded out to end the threat. That’s it. The Reds were, largely, toothless from the batter’s box, on Monday.
Due to Yelich’s cycle and Scooter’s 1-for-3 performance, they both are now tied for the NL batting title at .318 with 11 games to play.
Fox Sports Ohio loved the Reds’ performance, so much, that the postgame interview on the field was courtesy of Fox Sports Wisconsin as they interviewed Yelich.
Real quick, because the thought is permeating my mind and I have to write about this. Bunting stinks. It was a “whoa buddy” thought whenever sabermetrics and Moneyball first started, but now there are numbers to back it up. Here is a run expectancy chart, as seen on FanGraphs.com:
|Runners||0 Outs||1 Out||2 Outs|
|1 _ _||0.831||0.489||0.214|
|_ 2 _||1.068||0.644||0.305|
|1 2 _||1.373||0.908||0.343|
|_ _ 3||1.426||0.865||0.413|
|1 _ 3||1.798||1.140||0.471|
|_ 2 3||1.920||1.352||0.570|
|1 2 3||2.282||1.520||0.736|
Quick explanation – the numbers above represent the average runs a team can expect based on the base runner situation, given the number of outs in an inning. Notice anything? The number is higher for a runner on first with no outs versus a runner on second with one out. This means that, if a sac bunt is successful, then it actually is more detrimental to a team’s run-scoring ability. That’s math, not an opinion.
The Boston Red Sox lead the majors in runs scored, with 799. The Red Sox also have the second-fewest sacrifice hits in the majors, with six. The New York Yankees are the second in runs scored at 763, but have just 10 sacrifice hits (5th least in MLB). The Cleveland Indians have scored the third most runs at 752 and have 22 sacrifice hits, which is more than double the Yankees, but still bottom half of MLB. The Reds have scored 672 runs, 127 less than the Red Sox, but lead the world in sacrifice hits with 47. Now I am no major league manager, I know this, but it just does not equate. Stop. Bunting.
The Reds and Brewers do it again tomorrow. I’ll be watching and tweeting (@jefffcarr) and also follow @lockedonReds, if you haven’t already done so. We’ll be with you, when the calendar turns to the offseason, so keep it tuned here!
Catching You Up on the Reds
The Cincinnati Reds (64-86) starting pitching allowed one run in three starts, but the Chicago Cubs (87-62) took two-out of-three over the weekend in the Windy City.
Luis Castillo (10-12, 4.52 ERA) showed another flash of ace stuff on Sunday in the lone Reds win. He tossed 6.2 innings of one-run baseball. He only struck out two, but he limited one of the best lineups in the NL to four hits. Castillo’s outing was indicative of the Reds’ rotation, as a whole.
Cody Reed, once again, made a start and didn’t get his first career win, though he didn’t lose either. He tossed five scoreless innings, allowing two hits and two walks, while fanning 10 Cubs. Manager Jim Riggleman decided to pull Reed after he threw 91 pitches, bringing in Sal Romano (7-11, 5.43) who allowed a single, solitary run, which was enough to beat the Reds.
Matt Harvey was the other tough luck start for Cincinnati, this weekend. He got a no decision after six shutout innings in which he struck out six and allowed just four hits. His quality start was smashed when David Hernandez (5-1, 2.65) allowed three runs in the seventh, earning his sixth blown save of the year. Fatigue may be playing a factor for Hernandez as he has a 6.30 ERA in his last 10 appearances. His ERA has climbed from 1.89 to 2.65 in that time span.
Baseball is a team sport, though, and the losses, while they can be pinpointed to an inning in each game, aren’t all on the relief pitching. The bats were averaging just a shade under five runs per (4.75) in their last dozen games, but were held to four runs, total, for the weekend, in Chicago. Cincinnati lived (four homers) and died (no other RBI) by the long ball, this weekend, with four solo shots hit out of Wrigley. Jose Peraza and Joey Votto continue the most unlikely home run race in the Reds lineup as they both hit their 12th on Friday, while Scott Schebler (17) and Phil Ervin (Seven) went yard on Sunday.
Scooter Gennett endured a 1-for-8 weekend and saw his average dip, slightly, to .318. He still leads the National League for the batting title, though, as Christian Yelich’s average dipped to .313. Scooter gets three more chances for revenge against his old team, coming up, so he may be able to bump that number up.
Speaking of what’s next, let’s take a look at the series with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Anthony DeSclafani has been sputtering, down the stretch this year and will look to flip the script in game one at Miller Park. Here’s a look at Disco’s rough stretch through his last five starts, courtesy of baseball-reference.com:
He’s given up quite a few hits over this span and most of these starts can be broken down into an inning, or two, each time where the opposition strings together some hits to blow the score wide open. His last start, he had a perfect game going through three, only to see the Dodgers slap two runs on in the fourth and four runs in the fifth. His season stats show that, due to his xFIP being 4.08, he pretty much has been exactly what his ERA says he is and isn’t getting all that unlucky.
He’ll be opposed by Wade Miley, whose just been a revelation for Milwuakee. In 13 starts, he has a 2.23 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). In 13.1 innings against the Redlegs, Miley has allowed just two earned runs while striking out 10.
Michael Lorenzen (3-1, 3.21) makes his long awaited return to the rotation in another 180 degree decision by the Reds, in 2018. Just a week back I recall hearing Riggleman say something to the effect of “We like what he gives us out of the bullpen” to a question of whether Lorenzen will start a game in 2018. Now, sure enough, here he is, a probable starter. Reminiscent of the team’s handling with Winker, and Harvey, and Senzel…anyway.
This is Lorenzen’s first start since in just over three years. His last one was against the Giants on September 16, 2015. His rookie year in the majors was the only year he pitched out of the rotation, making 21 starts and compiling a 5.45 ERA. He averaged right at five innings per outing but had an alarming 1.42 strikeouts per walk (78 Ks to 55 BBs). Granted, it was his first venture into the starting rotation, and most Reds fans think he has earned another shot, but the numbers do not support the revisionist history that some have ascribed to Lorenzen being a rotation stalwart. As we’ve said many times this year, though, let’s put him out there and see what he has.
His opponent on the mound will be Chase Anderson. The man thought by most to be the Milwaukee ace (except when Jimmy Nelson is healthy) has a 9-7 record with a 3.85 ERA. He’s not pitched more than five innings in any start this month, but he also hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of those starts. Back on August 20th, he held the Reds to two runs on two hits (both home runs) in six innings enroute to his fifth win of the year. He is 5-1 in his career against Cincinnati.
Matt Harvey (7-8, 4.67) will look to continue the success he had in his last outing, and maybe get his record back to .500, in the series finale. He’s 1-2 in five-career starts against the Brew Crew, with a 5.26 ERA. His last outing, a memorable game of 2018 for both the Reds and the Brewers, he allowed five runs on 11 hits in four innings.
Opposite him will be future-Red (hopefully, maybe) Gio Gonzalez (8-11, 4.44). In two starts, as a Brewer, he is 1-0, having allowed three earned runs in 10.1 innings of work. In his last start, he got a no-decision, pitching 4.2 innings and allowing the three runs, against the Pirates.
Locked on Reds will keep you covered during the doldrums of September baseball. Check out @lockedonReds and @jefffcarr on Twitter for your Reds social media fix.
The 2018 Reds Will Miss the 2018 Dodgers
The Cincinnati Reds (63-84) dropped the series finale with the Los Angeles Dodgers (79-67) by an 8-1 score, Wednesday afternoon at Great American Ballpark.
Anthony DeSclafani (7-5, 4.80 ERA) failed to pitch at least five innings for the third-straight start. The Dodgers touched him up for six runs on five hits and three walks. Disco actually got out to a roaring start, retiring LA in order the first time through the lineup. It unraveled the second time around, however, following a Joc Pederson home run. He changed his strategy, trying to hit the corners, but failed, leading to multiple at-bats where the hitter was ahead. LA strung together hit after hit, leading to Disco getting pulled with two outs in the fifth.
Jose Peraza provided the lone fireworks for the Reds lineup with a first inning solo shot, his 11th of the year. Billy Hamilton added a double and a triple, but was stranded at third, both times, as the Reds gave the Dodgers free pizza (aka, the Reds struck out 11 times).
Scooter Gennett managed one hit in four tries, keeping his season batting average at .321.
The Reds finish 6-and-1 against the Dodgers in 2018. They have never gone an entire year undefeated against LA, so a win on Wednesday would have been historic, but all things considered, Cincinnati liked its matchups with their old NL West rivals. They hit .280, as a team, against the Dodgers, with 34 runs scored to go along with a team ERA of 3.14. The Reds racked up 63 strikeouts in the 63 innings pitched against the Dodgers.
Scooter will personally miss the LA pitching staff as he compiled 16 hits (.727 batting average) in five games played. He also had two homers and 10 RBI.
Also of note, all three former Dodgers (Scott Schebler, Jose Peraza, and Brandon Dixon) homered in the season series against their old team. Schebler even had a pair of dingers.
Luis Castillo dominated the pitching performances for the Reds in this season series. He started a pair of games, pitching 12.1 innings, and compiled 17 strikeouts. He won both his starts, allowing just nine total base runners (though they got at him with three homers).
The Redlegs hit the road again with an off day, Thursday. They will play a weekend series against the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs. We’ll see if they can play spoiler as the Cubs lead is razor-thin over Milwaukee.
Keep your eye on @lockedonReds and @jefffcarr on Twitter!