Mesa, Arizona hosted the largest crowd for a Cactus League game in history on Friday when 15,331 showed up to see the Reds beat the Cubs 5-2 and improve their March record to 2-2. A massive thank you to Nick Kirby for letting me have this recap and for making Redleg Nation’s first WordPress table/boxscore of the season, thus allowing me to copy and paste it rather than Google “how make a table using HTML code when WordPress thinks it’s cool to hide the table toolbar”.

Final R H E
 Cincinnati Reds (2-2) 5 7 3
 Chicago Cubs (0-2-1) 2 8 1
W: Contreras (1-0) L: Schlitter (0-1) SV: Corcino (1)
| Box Score | MLB.com Recap | AP Recap |

Pitching: Tony Cingrani’s debut was hotly anticipated after Jason Marquis and Anthony DeSclafani made their opening arguments for a rotation spot in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Cingrani began with a fastball-centric first inning in which he showed good velocity for his first start since June of last year, consistently hitting 92 MPH. Bygone Redleg Chris Denorfia made him sweat a bit after leading off with a single and then advancing to third on a stolen base attempt that caused Tucker Banhart to throw the ball into center field when neither Cozart or Phillips covered second base (more on that later). Tony didn’t back down, getting Arismendy Alcantara to pop out in foul territory and then striking out Javier Baez. After walking Mike Olt, David Ross—the second of three former Reds in the Cubs’ starting lineup—grounded out to Cozart to end the threat.

Cingrani may have thought himself to be stuck in Groundhog Day, as the second inning was a near facsimile of the first. Junior Lake singled and stole second, Chris Valaika struck out on a nice changeup from Tony, and Wellington Castillo flew out to left field before the Cubs applied more pressure with aid from the Reds’ defense. Todd Frazier booted a Matt Szczur grounder allowing Lake to advance to third, but Cingrani induced another inning-ending grounder to get out of that jam.

All told, Tony seemed to be very comfortable in his return to action, working out some inconsistencies in his command and getting reacquainted with his off-speed offerings. Like mentioned above, he was regularly touching 92 MPH with his fastball and he dialed it up to 94 a couple of times. He kept the ball down, tried his hand at working a little more on the corners, and induced four groundballs (two for outs, one for a single, one that resulted in the Frazier error) to three flyballs (two singles and a pop out). All this resulted in a nice return and a pretty decent stat line for the day:

Paul Maholm made his first appearance in the following two innings and somehow pulled a stat line of 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB out of his hat. The third inning began inauspiciously with two loud line outs to Kris Negron in left, followed by a high fly out to center. That half-inning probably doesn’t end without a run scored in GABP in July. The fourth inning featured Junior Lake reaching on a fielder’s choice for the first out after a David Ross single. Lake then broke for second on a wild pitch, causing Barnhart to uncork another throw into center (this time, his fault) which induced a barely-audible “Jiminy Christmas” from Marty off-mic. Maholm then got Valaika and Castillo to ground out to the left side of the infield to end that inning. If I may quote myself on Twitter to sum up Mr. Maholm:

The rest of the game was seen through by Pedro Villarreal, Carlos Contreras, Ryan Dennick, Ismael Guillon, and Daniel Corcino, in that order. Villarreal and Guillon gave up the Cubbies’ runs indivually in the fifth and eighth innings, respectively. Contreras had a notable outing while pitching the bottom of the sixth. While facing the first batter, Contreras appeared to tweak something in one of the fingers on his right hand, prompting the training staff to come to the mound. He stayed in for a perfect sixth, striking out Mike Olt and Albert Almora and helped out by a great snag by Donald Lutz on a Kyle Schwarber line drive.

Corcino also had a highlight of his own, striking out the highly-touted Kris Bryant swinging to end the game. An encouraging number from the whole game was 1—the number of walks all Reds pitchers allowed Friday afternoon combined.

Hitting: The Reds’ day at the plate started rather anemically, as they managed only two singles (from Chris Dominguez and Cozart) in the first three innings, both erased by double plays immediately after. Jon Lester kept them off-balance in the first two innings, with Jason Motte coming in for the third. Cubs’ closer Hector Rondon came in for the fourth and did as much as he could to jump-start the Cincinnati offense. Brandon Phillips drew a walk, which was followed by a Frazier pop out. With Jay Bruce at the plate, Brandon got caught stealing second in a cruel reminder of the erosion of time on all men, which stung even more after Jay Bruce doubled on a sharp ground ball up the first base line. That, too, went for naught as Dominguez struck out afterwards to end the inning.

Wholesale changes in the field in the sixth inning netted positive results in the top of the seventh. Juan Duran rapped a single into left to start the inning off against Brian Schlitter, which was followed by a Donald Lutz ground-rule double largely the result of a circuitous route by Chicago’s left fielder Billy McKinney. Crowd favorite Jesse Winker then tied the game on a groundout to shortstop. Skip Schumaker watched strike three for the second out but an Ivan De Jesus walk kept the inning going for Kyle Skipworth, who punched a single back through the box to drive in Lutz and give Cincinnati a 2-1 lead. Following that, Brennan Boesch showed off some opposite-field power by knocking a three-run homer to left field, 5-1 Reds.

The last two innings were nothing but crickets on the offensive front, but the five runs would prove to be enough for the win.

Fielding: Enough happened to merit typing a few words on Cincinnati’s defense on Friday afternoon.  Whether it was rustiness or poor preparation, there were quite a few mishaps, including errors from Frazier, Lutz, and Barnhart and a wild pitch from Maholm that led to another off-line throw from Barnhart. The error credited to Barnhart was probably more Brandon Phillips’ fault, as he and Cozart both broke to cover second on Denorfia’s first-inning stole base attempt, confusing both and resulting in neither being physically present at the bag when the throw arrived. As the hitter at the plate was right-handed, the blame mostly lies on Brandon for not being there. Fortunately, only one defensive miscue resulted in a run, when a safety squeeze in the bottom of the fifth surprised the Reds’ defense and ended up as a bunt single and RBI for Jonathan Herrera.

External thoughts: John Fay on Boesch’s role in the win and Cingrani’s performance. Hal McCoy on Votto, Homer, and a strategy Price is working on with the catchers.

Next Up: The Reds will trot out Mike Leake as they take a trip to visit the Kansas City Royals and Danny Duffy in Surprise on Saturday. Joey Votto will make his first start for the Reds this spring in that game

9 Responses

  1. charlottencredsfan

    Boesch in CH. Now that is interesting.

    I will be happy today if JV can pull one good fastball, fair or foul doesn’t matter.

  2. Daytonian

    Sunday. Game #6

    HR — Boesch — seems to be solidifying his roster spot.

    Gopher pitch — J.J. Hoover –Back to is old stuff. Unfortunately that’s last year’s old stuff. It’s time for the Reds to cut bait here.

    • VaRedsFan

      4 hits in 2 IP for JJ. Not the start to spring we were hoping for

  3. vegastypo

    We also seem to be in midseason form in losing runners on the bases. Doesn’t seem to matter who is on base. Price wants to run.

  4. George Mirones

    Cingrani: 2 ip, 2 hits, 1 walk, 2 Ks. Very encouraging for a guy who hadn’t pitched since June.

    — John Fay (@johnfayman) March 6, 2015

    This about where he was before it all went south and then the DL so if this is where he is there is hope, if he gets better, great.

  5. ohiojimw

    This is a good and encouraging first step for Cingrani as it indicates his shoulder at least recovered to this point.

    However based on 2-3 years of history, the issue is will his shoulder hold up to taking the mound every 5th day as a starter for months and months. That answer (at least if it is to be positive) is an ways off