GAME 125: Message Sent!
In the first head-to-head confrontation between the Cardinals and the Reds since the Cardinals suffered a humiliating sweep after the All Star Game, the Cardinals stunned the Reds with a sixth-inning outburst that featured back-to-back homers. It was a statement: the Cardinals intend to fight for supremacy in the division. With a convincing 8-5 win, the Cardinals (69-56) moved to within 6 games of the division-leading Reds. Getting interesting!
PANTS LYNN: Observers have been grumbling about the recent downturn in the performance of Lance Lynn. The velocity is down, the first inning is a disaster, and his confidence seems shaken. He’s throwing more off-speed pitches for some reason. All of these fears came to pass tonight, as the Reds blasted Lynn for two innings and four runs. Is he tired? Hurt? Who knows. However, it’s clear that something needs to be done with Lynn. We aren’t going to be competing for anything with a fifth starter getting hammered on a regular basis.
BENT, NOT BROKEN: How about that relief job by Joe Kelly?? It wasn’t beautiful, as Kelly pitched three innings and gave up four hits and a run. However, he struck out six (including five in a row) and played tough. Given Lynn’s troubles, I really wouldn’t mind seeing Kelly back in the rotation.
SPARK: The Cardinals stumbled through five innings, barely answering as the Reds poured on the runs. But then Carlos Beltran led off the sixth inning with a grounder deep behind first base. Reds first baseman Todd Frasier fielded it and hesitated – that was all Beltran needed. He slid into first base ahead of the throw. The aggressive play by the veteran Beltran seemed to spark the Cardinals, who responded with six runs and a new reality for Cincinnati.
BACK TO BACK: The centerpiece of the Cardinals’ offensive attack in the sixth was a back-to-back homer parade by Allen Craig and Yadier Molina. Craig’s blast was the real kicker, a three-run bomb that immediately silenced the Cincinnati crowd and tied the game. Then Molina came up and slammed another homer, which definitely rubbed the Reds fans the wrong way. We haven’t had that kind of offensive attack in a while, and it couldn’t have been timed any better.
WEAK NO MORE: I just wanted to register my astonishment with what Molina has put together this year. After another strong game (3-4 with two runs scored and an RBI), Molina is batting an astonishing .328 for the year. Critics once complained about Molina’s weak bat as the only detriment to his game. Well, what do they think now? Molina’s turnaround has been the best story of sheer work since Ozzie Smith developed himself into a .300 hitter in 1987. Impressive!
INJURY REPORT: A couple of scary moments occurred tonight. Molina pulled up lame after a single, his knee momentarily buckling. He looked stiff running the bases afterwards, but he stayed in the game. Later, David Freese was plunked on the same hand that broke a year ago (the Reds fans cheered – assholes), but he also stayed in. Can’t afford to lose either one of those guys!!
BULLISH PEN: It’s hard to overstate the work of the bullpen tonight. After Goggles threw three sturdy innings, Fernando Salas, Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs, and Jason Motte combined for five masterful innings of relief. Salas struck out all three batters he faced in the sixth, and he looked like the Salas of old in doing it. Mujica continued his amazing Cardinal run with a scoreless seventh – he now has eleven consecutive scoreless innings. Boggs and Motte combined for their typically-strong finish. If the bullpen can keep working like this, our final month is going to be much scarier for the rest of the league.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: So many heroes … Kelly, Molina, Freese, or Beltran? I’m tempted to give it to Freese.
GOAT OF THE GAME: Lynn. Something needs to change.
CONCLUSION: The Cardinals came to Cincinnati with just one mission – sweep the Reds and get back into the Central division race. Tonight’s late-inning win was a huge statement to that intent. Shocking offense, lockdown bullpen work, and a defiant attitude showed the Reds that they are not going to run away with the Central. Tonight’s win is exactly what was needed. Two more left …