Let’s recap tonight’s titanic struggle….
Los Angeles 2
W: M. Leake (12-6)
L: J. Howell (2-1)
S: A. Chapman (35)
–Joey Votto broke out of his 0-for-13 slump by going 2-2 with two walks, two runs scored, and two RBI. The RBI came on a huge two-run homer (his 22nd) that gave the Reds the 3-2 lead.
–Mike Leake came through with an outstanding start. After a recent run of poor performances, it looked like he was starting on the wrong foot when Hanley Ramirez went deep in the first with a two-run homer. Leake settled down almost immediately, though, going seven and two thirds, and giving up only those two runs, on five hits and no walks. An excellent performance.
–So Aroldis Chapman pitched again. Fourth day in a row. As you’ll remember from yesterday’s recap, I was in favor of using Aroldis to finish last night’s game. I think it was the right idea. But when Chapman entered the game tonight, I confess to being concerned about what we might see.
What we saw was sheer, unadulterated dominance by the Cuban Missile. He struck out Yasiel Puig to begin the inning, on fastballs of 99, 101, and 102. He then blew through Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez to strike out the side. Facing the meat of the Dodgers order, Chapman was untouchable.
Wow. Just wow.
–Billy Hamilton, eh? Brandon Phillips led off the eighth with a single, then limped down to first (the quad injury from last night was bothering him). No worries; in comes Hamilton to pinch-run. It was amusing to watch Dodger lefty Paco Rodriguez lose his concentration as he openly worried about Hamilton at first, and ignored Votto at the plate (Votto would ultimately walk).
It didn’t matter how much attention he paid to Hamilton. Stolen base #3 for the young guy. He’s fast. Have you noticed that?
–To Dusty Baker’s credit, he removed Leake at precisely the correct moment. Manny Parra came in to finish out the eighth in fashion.
–That’s four wins in five games for the ol’ Redlegs, after struggling through three straight series. Good stuff.
–Billy Hamilton is tied for 5th on the Reds in stolen bases this season. And he’s never had a single plate appearance in the majors.
–I would have had the recap posted sooner, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Tonight, after the game, they held a “Great 8” ceremony, in which the Big Red Machine starters returned to the field in Cincinnati. It was pretty darn cool but, then, I love dumb stuff like this.
Johnny Bench turning his cap around and crouching behind the plate was the best moment. And though I long ago tired of the Pete Rose debate, it was certainly a nice moment when he stepped onto the field and teared up at the ovation he received.
–All of a sudden (as tHom would say), the Reds are playing some good baseball. This week has been…fun? I didn’t expect that, but I’m enjoying it.
–Mat Latos vs. Zack Greinke tomorrow. Should be a good ol’ good one.