GAME 7: GotAway Game
With a day off tomorrow, manager Mike Matheny gave several key veterans the day off with a much-criticized “getaway” lineup filled with bench players. The lineup played like All-Stars behind a decent Jaime Garcia, but Aroldis Chapman shut the Redbirds down long enough for the Reds to peck away at the bullpen as the Cards drop the final game 4-3.
HE-MAN GARCIA: Jaime Garcia wasn’t perfect, but when faced with a tough situation (like in the third, with runners at second and third) Garcia was able to throw his excellent, skimming off-speed stuff for crucial strikes (see the strikeout to end the fourth). The cold didn’t bother him. The early road start didn’t bother him. The cab picking him up 45 seconds late didn’t bother him. He is definitely making improvements in his game, and is poised to become an ace. He just needs to overcome one big problem (see below).
BEST AT BAT: How about that epic, breathtaking at bat Erik Komatsu had against Johnny Cueto? Komatsu took 14 pitches against Cueto in the third, fouling off some tough offerings before popping out to short. It was the key to the game, however, as a tired and frustrated Cueto surrendered a single to Jaime Garcia before the offense nicked him for three runs. Awesome job, Mr. Komatsu!
START ME UP: Anybody complaining about today’s getaway lineup didn’t appreciate what was going on at the top of it. I have long said that I’d like to see Rafael Furcal/Tyler Greene/Jon Jay in the first and second spots in this lineup ahead of Matt Holliday. That worked beautifully today, as Furcal slashed a triple into the right field corner to score the first run, and then came home on a Jay two-run homer. These guys are high-contact hitters with speed, and good things will happen when they’re lumped at the top of the lineup.
HATE-O CUETO: Johnny Cueto is a cowardly, spike-wielding bitch. I’d love nothing more than seeing him purposely injured on a high fastball after what he did in 2010 (NEVER FORGET!). So I must admit to grinding my teeth when Cueto plunked Furcal in his lower back around his kidneys. I CANNOT STAND THAT GUY.
POINTS OFF: Ryan Ludwick said that he grew up loving the Reds, and playing for them is a “dream come true.” Oh, Luddy … don’t make me burn your jersey, buddy.
MELTDOWN: If I had one complaint about Garcia throughout his career, it’s his tendency to suddenly unravel in one inning. Is it a concentration issue? Who knows. But the fifth inning was another example, as Garcia allowed two hits and a walk before giving up a sac fly and a shocking bunt hit to tie the game. His pitches were up and he wasn’t mixing them as well. Then the bunt really got into his head; you could see the frustration in his face. And just like that – again - Garcia was gone.
NOT SO SMARTE: The moment finally came where I disagreed with a move by Matheny (gasp!). When Matheny pulled Garcia with runners on first and second, he chose Victor Marte (ERA of 9.00+) to come in and get the final out. Marte immediately walked Ryan Hanigan to load the bases. It worked by accident, as Willie Harris checked a short fly into center. It could’ve been bad, though. Marte should not be on this team, or on the field unless we are losing by seven or more runs.
SUPER SUB: Daniel Descalso is not a star. He will (probably) not have a plaque in the baseball Hall of Fame. But a great baseball team needs players like D-Money, who does whatever is asked of him with a high degree of accuracy and professionalism. His perfect bunt in the sixth to put Yadier Molina into scoring position is just another small moment in a long list of ways Descalso helps a team win behind the scenes.
STILL AROUND: It was surprising to see Kyle McClellan on the mound in the bottom of the seventh. He hasn’t been seen much in the first week of the season, and rumors still swirl around the guy. In fact, Baltimore had a scout watching K-Mac today. Once again K-Mac showed some control problems, but he had good enough stuff today to toss a quality pitch when he needed it.
MISTAKE NUMBER TWO: Matheny made another bizarre decision in the eighth with the score still tied. Dusty Baker brought in lefty reliever Aroldis Chapman (also switched in Scott Rolen at third) in an obvious move to take control of the game and try to win. Matheny chose to leave lefties Matt Carpenter and Daniel Descalso in to face the 100 mph fastball of Chapman, and they ended up looking bad. Meanwhile, righty power sat on the bench in the form of proven major league sluggers David Freese and Carlos Beltran. Not a great move.
NO MORE MR. NICE GUY: Anybody suffering delusions that Mike Matheny would be some sort of “Mr. Rogers” kind of manager received a surprise when Matheny and Berkman chewed out the home plate umpire for his wide strike zone for Chapman. And, according to Fox, they were right to be upset.
SCRABBLED: Marc Rzepczynski took over the ninth inning and promptly put the winning runs on with one out. Fernando Salas, struggling of late, came in and quickly surrendered a single to lost the game. A frustrating end to a tough game.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: McClellan. His two innings of scoreless baseball were just what we needed as he matched Chapman pitch-for-pitch. A nice comeback for him.
CONCLUSION: A 5-2 road trip to open the season is incredible, and very much a reason for this team to be proud of themselves despite a frustrating loss today. Now they’re coming home for some much-needed World Series love! Welcomg home, boys!