May 8, 2013 – Braves @ Reds – 12:35pm – Fox Sports Cincinnati – The Radio at Work
Reds Record (19 – 15)
Home Record (13 – 5)
Braves Record (19 – 13)
Away Record (10 – 8)
Starters: Minor (3 – 2) vs. Leake (2 – 1)
The Setting: Unfortunately, I will not be in Cincinnati like seemingly everyone else from Huntington. I will be at work, but will watch some of the game while I go home for lunch.
The Game and Analysis:
•Oh boy. That wasn’t quite what I envisioned as a follow up to last night’s walk off home run. It was a pitcher’s duel until the eighth inning. Guess when I started watching! The Braves clubbed the Reds 7 – 2 in a game that got out of hand quickly.
•Listening on the radio at work, we had a low-scoring game that was poised to come down to one at bat by the looks of it. Then, around the start of the seventh inning, I make it home to watch the game. With the Reds batting in the bottom of the inning, there are two outs when Donald Lutz singles and Devin Mesoraco walks. It is 2 – 1 Braves, and the Mike Leake is due to bat. He has thrown 93 pitches, and his spot is coming up for what could be the final time of the game. It is decided that Leake should bat for himself, as there aren’t many right handed options on the bench to face the lefty Mike Minor. Leake is a tremendous hitter for a pitcher, but this was obviously a questionable call. The options off the bench were the backup catcher Corky Miller, the switch-hitting Derrick Robinson (whom I learned after the game has an undisclosed injury that hampers his batting from the right side), lefty Jack Hanahan, and switch hitter Cesar Izturis. Leake flew out to end the inning.
•Leake returned to the mound to pitch the start of the eighth inning, which I was wondering about more than the previous decision to let him bat for himself. Here is how the top of the inning unfolded. Leake started out 3 – 0 on Jordan Schafer before getting to a full count and giving up a single. Andrelton Simmons followed with a single on a hit and run play. It was placed perfectly, as it looked like a routine grounder to the shortstop, but he was helping cover second on the play. That put runners on the corners with no one out, and sent Leake to the showers. Sean Marshall came in and gave up a single to Freddie Freeman, scoring Schafer for a 3 – 1 Braves lead. On the play, Jay Bruce charged in and dove for the ball, but missed catching it by a couple of feet. It was a nice effort, but he was luckily the ball didn’t get past him and allow more runs to score. Marshall was replaced by J. J. Hoover, who walked Justin Upton to load the bases. Dan Uggla grounded into a force out at home, leaving the bases loaded. Former Red Juan Francisco followed with a laser beam into the Reds bullpen for a grand slam and a 7 – 1 lead. Reed Johnson walked, and then the second out is finally recorded when Gerald Laird lined out to centerfield. The ninth batter of the inning, pinch hitter Chris Johnson, struck out to mercifully end the barrage.
•I left to come back to work shortly after that, and the announcers on the radio were pondering the decision to let Leake bat for himself. I don’t know what I would have done in the situation without the power of hindsight, but I do know that the decision was made by manager Dusty Baker partially due to his reliance on righty versus lefty matchups. He lives and dies by it. After the game, I look up the splits on Mike Minor to find that lefties only hit .100 off him in 40 at bats this year, so Dusty had a legitimate reason to follow this matchup strategy this time.
•Earlier in the game, the scoring came about on two solo homers by Dan Uggla and a solo shot by Zack Cozart.
•Andrelton Simmons finished his fabulous series against the Reds by going 4 – 5 on the day. For the series, Simmons was 8 – 13 with two doubles, two homers, and four RBI. He raised his average from .233 to .276 in the three game set. Including the game before this series, Simmons is 10 – 18 (.555) and tacked on another two doubles to his totals listed above. His slugging percentage jumped from .330 to .431 over those four games.
•Jay Bruce hit a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth for the final score of 7 – 2. It was only Bruce’s second home run of the year.
What Worked: Leake didn’t pitch badly at all until the eighth inning when he seemed to be out of gas. Besides the home runs by Uggla, he had scattered his hits and worked out of jams. Cozart and Bruce hit homers. That’s about it, sadly.
What Didn’t Work: Obviously, it was discussed that the strategy of leaving in Leake did not work out. The Reds bullpen was not effective either.
Where They Stand: The Reds are 19 – 16 and trail the Cardinals by 3.0 games and the Pirates by percentage points in the NL Central.
Overall Thoughts: Yeah, my lunch break just had to coincide with the Braves taking batting practice off the Reds in the eighth inning. Have you ever watched a game and the opposing team dominates while you are watching, making you question yourself of whether you might be a bad luck charm? Me either; I was just asking.
Up Next: The Reds have a day off before welcoming the Milwaukee Brewers to town for a three game series.