With only 40 games to go in the season, the Cincinnati Reds have slood (as Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean would say) 12.5 games off the pace in the NL Central Division race. After running off four consecutive wins, the Reds have started yet another losing streak, currently at two games.
The defending divisional champs rode into the nation’s capital in hopes of using the Nationals as a springboard with which to bounce back into contention. Nobody thought to tell Davey Johnson’s squad they were supposed to roll over. Using long balls from Michael Morse and Ryan Zimmerman, they beat the Reds 6-4 in the opener of a three-game series.
The Reds started off uncharacteristically strong in the first inning racing to a 2-0 lead. The first defensive play for the Reds proved to be a precursor of things to come. On a routine fly to shallow left field, rookie Yonder Alonso misplayed the ball and allowed Rick Ankiel to get a single. He later scored as the Nats took the lead 3-2 after one inning.
Manager Dusty Baker said about the play, “A faster outfielder would have [caught it]. That’s the one thing he lacks is speed. It’s something, most of the time, you’re either born with it or you’re not.” Alonso hit two singles in four at bats, raising his average to .435 showing that he needs to be playing somewhere.
Starter Mike Leake, (10-8), turned in one of his more dismal performances of the year. He was rocked for seven hits and five earned runs in six innings while being tagged with the loss.
Injuries continued to be a problem for Cincinnati as shortstop Edgar Renteria pulled up lame after smacking a double off the center-field wall. He was diagnosed with a strained left groin and will be evaluated again on Wednesday. After the game the veteran said, “I did not feel a pop. I felt it a little bit. Tomorrow we will see what happens.”
Rookie shortstop Zack Cozart who was called up from Louisville earlier this season is already lost to the season to Tommy John surgery, leaving weak-hitting Paul Janish as the only available shortstop on the 25-man roster.
Chein-Ming Wang, (2-2) won his second game in a row for the first time since June 15, 2008. After the rough first inning Wang settled down and didn’t give up another hit until MVP Joey Votto doubled leading off the sixth inning. His final line in the game was 7H and 4 ER in 6.1 IP with 1BB and did not strike out a batter.
Morse continued his hot hitting, getting two hits in four at bats with two knocked in. His .323 BA is third in the National League behind Jose Reyes and Ryan Braun.
The Reds have some ties in the capital city. Laynce Nix, Todd Coffee, manager Davey Johnson and of course recently traded Jonny Gomes, all formerly were with the Cincinnati club.
Rookie left-fielder Dave Sappelt sat out the game after batting .333 in his last two games. This lends credence to my criticism of Baker’s continued practice of not playing the hot hand. After Alonso went 2-4 last night see if he doesn’t sit out tonight. As a sidebar, the speedy Sappelt would most likely have made the play on Ankiel’s blooper which may have changed the dynamics of the game.
I know of at least two instances where Baker let the strong horse stay in the stable. On May 28 for the second year in a row Gomes was 4-5 and sat out the next game.
On July 25 after being re-called from Louisville, Janish went 3-4 against the New York Mets and was not in the lineup the next day. Just sayin’.
Cincinnati will attempt to even the series tonight when they look to their ace, Johnny Cueto, (8-5) who has the best ERA for a starter in MLB at 1.94. He will be opposed by lefty Ross Detwiler, (1-2).