Monday, May 31, 2010

Catching Up

I haven't really been able to keep up with all the action over the holiday weekend, so I'll give a bit of a recap of the interesting things I saw.  On both Friday and Saturday, the Reds were awesome.  They poured it on a struggling Astros team.  Then came Sunday.  Felipe Paulino pitched great for the Astros, and the Reds' powerful offense suddenly disappeared.  Mike Leake worked to keep the Reds in it though, and the Reds had a great opportunity to win the game, stranding five runners between the eighth and ninth innings.  The Reds have been so good at driving in runners in situations like that this season, so this was uncharacteristic.  The Reds still took the series though and could look forward to taking a one game lead to St. Louis to play the Cardinals.

That brings us to today.  The Reds got whipped by the Cardinals.  I didn't listen to much of the game, but the parts of the game I did hear were very interesting.  First, the Reds jumped on the board early and held a 2-1 lead going into a rain delay.  The rain delay lasted one hour and one minute, but both managers brought their starters back to start the fourth.  Jaime Garcia looked shaky in the fourth, and the Reds pushed across another run before Garcia got a big double play groundout to get out of the jam.  (That shouldn't come as a surprise to fangraphs readers, as Garcia has been getting a lot of attention there this season because of his ability to induce ground balls.)  So, after an hour rain delay and a long inning, Bronson Arroyo comes on to pitch for the Reds.  Hindsight is 20/20, so it is easy to say that Dusty should have just brought in Micah Owings for long relief and called it a night for Arroyo.  If I recall, Arroyo was already at 58 pitches through three innings at that point, so it wasn't like he was sailing through the Cards lineup anyway.  If it was any other team that the Reds were playing, I think Baker pulls Arroyo.  Still, I can't fault Baker too much because of the importance of the game.  This was shaping up to be a series where the Reds could really establish themselves and put the pressure on St. Louis to keep up.  The move backfired.  Arroyo would finish allowing 7 runs in 4 1/3 innings, while throwing 103 pitches in the process.

The other thing that caught my ear (as it were) about the game was the way the Cardinals exploded out of the rain delay.  Arroyo got two outs, but then he walked the pitcher, Garcia.  Felipe Lopez then singled and Garcia aggressively went to third base on the play.  On the next play, Ryan Ludwick also singled to right, and Jay Bruce came up throwing.  In attempting to cut Lopez down at third, he allowed an alert Ludwick to take an extra base.  It seemed like kind of a moot point, in that it allowed Albert Pujols to be intentionally walked.  However, when Matt Holliday hit a two-run double giving the Cards their first lead, it leaves you to wonder how differently the inning might have played out.  Shortly after this, I went to dinner.  When I got back, the Cards were way out in front.  No need to rehash how they got there.

The thing that has my attention right now is how the Reds have been a different team these last two games.  The offense hasn't been explosive, as it was almost all May long.  They didn't hit against the Astros when the key situations came up.  On the mound, even though Mike Leake didn't give up any runs, he was constantly working out of trouble, just as Arroyo was today.  And on the bases, the Cardinals were the aggressive team today - something that has really defined the Reds so far this season.  Even the decision-making has been a bit questionable.  Jay Bruce's attempt to throw out Lopez today was a throw that shouldn't have been made.  It's conceivable that Dusty's leaving Arroyo in after the rain delay was a poor decision (and not simply a poor result).  Hopefully the Reds get their act back together quickly, but I suspect they're feeling the weight of being hunted by St. Louis, and it's messing with them a bit.  The teams are even now, so we'll see if the Reds can right the ship with Johnny Cueto on the mound tomorrow.  A win tomorrow would help the team get their confidence back.

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