Let’s recap today’s titanic struggle….
W: J. Henderson (4-5)
L: Z. Duke (1-2)
–Todd Frazier was 2-4 with a homer and two RBI. Jay Bruce and Joey Votto were each 2-4 with a walk; Bruce scored two runs and Votto drove in one. As noted below, Bruce was also robbed of a ninth-inning homer. Brandon Phillips had two hits.
–Votto made a particularly sweet defensive play. Go watch that video.
–Bronson Arroyo was really good, until the seventh inning (again, see below). On the day, he pitched six and a third, giving up two runs on three hits and four walks. It was the first time Arroyo had walked four batters in a game in more than three years.
–The Reds had a 5-1 lead as the game entered the bottom of the seventh. Arroyo walked the bases loaded before Dusty Baker removed him from the game. Sam LeCure — who has struggled a bit in the second half of this season — performed very well in permitting only one run to score (and almost escaped scot-free, but BP couldn’t quite turn the double play).
Then came the eighth and ninth innings, when Dusty turned into Tony LaRussa for a little while.
LeCure walks the leadoff hitter in the eighth and is immediately replaced by Manny Parra. Parra hits a batter with a pitch and is immediately replaced by JJ Hoover. With two on and no outs, Hoover surrenders a triple to Jean Segura (that Bruce nearly caught), scoring two runs and cutting the lead to 5-4. A Jonathan Lucroy sacrifice fly later, and the game was tied, a 5-1 lead completely erased in the blink of an eye.
After recording the inning’s second out, Hoover is relieved by Zach Duke. Duke escapes the inning. In the top of the ninth, Jay Bruce hit a towering drive that appeared to be a three-run homer…until Brewers CF Carlos Gomez leaped high to rob him. Shades of a similar robbery that Gomez performed on Joey Votto earlier this season.
So the Reds can’t score, and the game heads to the ninth, tied 5-5. Duke remains in the game, and retires the first batter on a ground out. To the plate walks Sean Halton, a right-handed hitter, to face the lefty Duke. Even as Marty Brennaman questions the decision to have the lefty face Halton (although, if you are going to use a lefty, why this lefty, instead of the All-Star who is wasting away out in the bullpen?), the Brewer hits a walkoff homer to end the game and complete today’s collapse.
So, in the heat of a pennant race, when every game means so much, Dusty used four relievers in the last two innings, including one who was in the minor leagues all year, not good enough for the roster until the very end of last month…but he didn’t use the best reliever he has. At any time in the 8th or 9th, seems like Aroldis Chapman could have helped the cause.
Why keep your golden bullet in your gun? What possible reason could there be to save Chapman for another time? I’m perfectly willing to believe there’s a logical explanation, but someone smarter than me will have to clue me in.
Dusty Baker: Managing for Tomorrow Since 1993.
–More bad baserunning today, of course, as Phillips was thrown out at third.
–Some of you were upset with me when I wrote this in yesterday’s recap:
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Nation, but there is something you need to know: this team is only going to break your heart in the end. Don’t get too emotionally invested.
Indulge me for a moment, please. Today is another example of why I just can’t get emotionally invested in this team. It’s not worth it to me.
Listen, I’ve been writing about the Reds nearly every day here at RN for the last nine seasons. Most of that time, this team was awful. But I hung in there because I love the Reds, and I love baseball. My bona fides as a Reds fan have been long established.
But last year’s playoff collapse changed something in me. This team is managed in such a fashion that it will be difficult to win a short series. The lineup nonsense and bullpen shenanigans that we see from Dusty Baker on a daily basis are magnified in the post-season. In-game management is much more important, in my opinion, during the playoffs than it is over the long haul of the season. In a short series, the many things that Dusty does well over the course of a long season are less important than what is happening on the field.
In 2010, I led the charge here at the Nation: BELIEVE! I do not believe in this year’s version of the Cincinnati Reds. It’s as simple as that. I’m not jumping off a ledge, or freaking out, because I haven’t believed in this team all year. And that’s mostly because of what I witnessed in last year’s National League Division Series against San Francisco.
Now, let me be very clear about something: the season is decidedly not over. This Reds team is talented. They could easily win that one-game wild card playoff, behind the brilliance of Mat Latos or Homer Bailey. That would put them into the
NLCS NLDS, and if the bats get hot at the right time, they could well go on a run that ended in a World Series championship.
It’s really not difficult to imagine that happening, and I am definitely not saying that we should just give up, the season is over. It’s not over, not by a long shot! If the Reds go on that run, I’ll be the happiest person in the room.
I would LOVE to be pleasantly surprised by this team. But at least I know I won’t be disappointed in them. If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be let down in the end.
Maybe that’s no way to go through life, but I’ve decided that I have too many things in my life that are actually important and deserve my emotional investment. The Reds, as currently managed, just don’t rank high enough for me to waste my time getting upset when they lose. I’ll enjoy the wins — because I love baseball and I love the Reds — and I will try my best to forget about the losses. That way, when they break everyone’s hearts again, well…as for me, this.
–The Cardinals, Pirates, and Nationals all won today. You know, just to make things even worse for the Reds.
–The Segura triple in the eighth could have been caught by Bruce. Jay got a great jump on the ball and it just caromed off his glove, but it appears that the blame actually lay with Shin-Soo Choo. Choo looked like he was making a play on the ball until the very end, and Bruce had to pull up a bit to avoid what looked like an imminent collision. That tiny bit of hesitation was enough to cause him to miss it.
–Reds have lost series’ this week to the bottom-dwelling Cubs and Brewers. They’ve lost three straight series against Milwaukee. In the middle of a so-called pennant race. Draw your own conclusions.
–Let me say one more thing: I’m not calling for Dusty Baker’s firing, either. Not that anyone in the Cincinnati front office would care, but I’m not. At some point, I’ll compose a long post detailing my thoughts on this matter.
Certainly, if the Reds really want to “win now,” as we’ve heard, they need to assess whether Dusty’s weaknesses (in-game, as I discussed above) outweigh his strengths (and he does have strengths, and they’ve contributed to three playoff appearances in four seasons for a once-moribund franchise; we can argue about how much they’ve contributed). I’d love to be a fly on the wall for those conversations deep within the bowels of Great American Ballpark. If the Reds don’t make it past the one-game playoff, those conversations will definitely take place.
But mostly, I’m not calling for his firing because I’m scared of who might replace him. Dusty is an awful in-game manager, but he’s not even close to being the worst of my lifetime. Ray Knight was worse. Jerry Narron was worse. Dave Miley was worse. Bob Boone was way, way, way worse.
Dusty Baker is not a good manager. Some nights, his decisions are truly cringe-worthy. Assure me of a reasonable replacement, and maybe I’ll join you on the FARR DUSTY!!! campaign. Until then…