No game today. The hated Cardinals arrive in the Queen City tomorrow. Idle hands, devil’s workshop.
I just have to ask:
1. Why were the Reds stuck with Pedro Villarreal as the starter last night?
Johnny Cueto told the Reds last Friday something felt wrong.
Right then and there, the Reds needed to consider there was a real chance he may not make his next start. See, Cueto closely resembles a guy just off the DL for the same injury. It was possible that in four days he’d feel fine. But you know, he might not. The Rockies’ bats were gonna show up regardless.
On Friday, Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker should have looked at the AAA rotation schedule, closed their eyes, and imagined Pedro Villarreal facing the middle of Colorado’s lineup. The specter of the likely damage done to GABP should have provoked sufficient cold sweat to ensure Tony Cingrani, not Villarreal, pitched to Cargo and Tulo in case Cueto couldn’t.
Solution: Tony Cingrani could have either skipped his upcoming Sunday start and throw a bullpen session instead, or pitch only a couple innings for the Bats. If you think that’s somehow difficult, just watch how simple it’ll be to get him lined up for Cueto’s next start. Because barring organization-wide paralysis caused by the trauma of watching those six home runs last night, Tony Cingrani will take the mound Tuesday in the Friendly Confines.
Unless there’s a mitigating factor that I’m missing, it seems like Pedro Villarreal starting last night was awful management. And that’s on General Manager Walt Jocketty, not Dusty Baker.
2. Why didn’t Dusty Baker use the bullpen more pro-actively?
Yet, for whatever reason, Pedro Villarreal did end up taking the ball. Dusty Baker and Bryan Price had to be realistic about that. Only a smart, creative plan would give them a chance to win.
Luckily the entire bullpen was available heading into a day off. Even Sam LeCure had only thrown 24 pitches on Tuesday. Excluding Manny Parra (because … well, yeah), Dusty Baker had six pitchers he could use for an inning each.
If the game is close after three innings, don’t wait for the inevitable Villarreal meltdown. You count your blessings and manage pro-actively. If the Reds get way ahead or slip way behind, you can scrap the plan.
Ironically, the in-case-of-Villarreal-break-the-glass plan had virtue regardless of the score. It meant no rusty arms on Friday. LeCure and Broxton turn the page. Maybe, just maybe, Villarreal somehow guts it out through three.
For the record, the Reds did, in fact, have the lead heading into the fourth inning.
But, instead of a special plan, we got same-old, same-old managing. Dusty Baker watched passively in the fourth as two runners got on base ahead of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. What happened next, you could see coming from at least 476 feet away.
Carlos Gonzalez hit the eleventh longest home run in the history of Great American Ball Park. The one hitter Villarreal retired in the fourth was the Rockies pitcher. Look, you just can’t let Villarreal face Cargo. Not if you had an alternative, or six of them.
Incredibly, that’s not the end of Baker’s mismanagement. With the Reds down only 6-4, he sent Alfredo Simon out in the seventh for a second inning. Simon had thrown 42 pitches on Sunday and had just pitched a tidy sixth inning. Why not Hoover in the seventh and Broxton in the eighth? In the ninth, Chapman if ahead or tied, LeCure if behind.
Instead, an obviously out-of-gas Alfredo Simon gave up three more runs, putting the game out of reach.
Deep breath. Exhale.
Still, there’s plenty of good news as the Reds sail into Holy War this weekend.
Almost nothing of what happened on the field last night is relevant going forward. Sure, Manny Parra might find his way into an important lefty-lefty matchup here or there, but if the Cardinals face any of those pitchers/situations when it counts, something has gone seriously wrong.
Johnny Cueto’s condition doesn’t sound particularly serious this time (caveat: Votto meniscus horror) and he wasn’t going to pitch against St. Louis anyhow. If you want to wring your hands about Joey Votto slumping (did you really think he was going to hit .350?), go for it. But how many times does he need to prove the doubters are silly?
Also on the plus side is the much-needed day off. And all signs point to Brandon Phillips’ return to the lineup tomorrow.
The Reds do have a sparkling 36-24 record. But with the talent comes high expectations, both on the field and off.
Last night was certainly painful to witness, but it was just one lousy game.
Yet, the nagging questions make me wonder if the Reds’ management is generating a headwind that the players may not be able to overcome.