Discussing expectations for 2015, Brandon Phillips said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Our goal coming to spring training is to win the World Series, and if we stay healthy and go out there and play small-ball and do the right things, I feel like we can achieve our goal as a team.Ã¢â‚¬Â
We know the Reds didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t stay healthy in 2014, but they also often did not do the right things. I take PhillipsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ use of the term ‘small-ball’ not simplyÃ‚Â to mean moving a runner over with a groundout and getting him in with a sac fly, but also making good decisions, protecting late leads, and taking care of routine plays that can ultimately make the difference in a close game. The Reds lost 38 one-run games last year (up from 22 in Ã¢â‚¬â„¢13 and 21 in Ã¢â‚¬â„¢12), and they lost even more winnable games than that.
I started with 45 losses that I thought the Reds had a reasonableÃ‚Â chance to win, and narrowed it down to 12 games they shouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve won in 2014:
Down 4-3 in the 5th, Bryan Price looked at his depleted bullpen and had to call on NickÃ‚Â Christiani, Logan Ondrusek, Trevor Bell and Curtis Partch to finish out the game. Christiani and Partch pitched admirably but Bell and Ondrusek allowed 2 walks and 3 singles to start the 7th inning. The Cardinals finished their scoring on a 2-out wild pitch by Ondrusek, affording them just enough runs to hold the Reds off 7-6.
A 2-run homer to Curtis Granderson was Johnny CuetoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lone blemish, and he gave way to Sam LeCure in the bottom of the 8th with the Reds up 3-2. LeCure retired David Wright, Granderson and Lucas Duda in order on 11 pitches, but he mustÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve worn himself out because Bryan Price went to J. J. Hoover in the 9th. To be fair, at this point in the season Hoover had given up nothing but a walk in 1.1 innings. But on this particular Saturday he faced the 6-9 positions in the MetsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ lineup and allowed all 4 batters to score on a walk-off pinch-hit grand slam by Ike Davis.
In his second start of the season, Homer Bailey was staked to an early 4-0 lead. It was 4-4 before the game got to the 3rd inning, but it couldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been 4-1 if Todd Frazier hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t made an errant throw on a potentially inning-ending double play. With the Reds up 5-4, Ondrusek gave up 2 runs in the 6th when a 2-out fly ball glanced off Jay BruceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s glove in right and was scored a double.
Alfredo Simon made one mistake all day, resultingÃ‚Â in a solo homerun by James Loney. With no outs and Votto on 2ndÃ‚Â base in the bottom of the 4th, Brandon Phillips singled. Steve SmithÃ‚Â waived Votto around 3rdÃ‚Â and he was thrown out easily. In the 6th, Zack Cozart was on 3rd with one out and Billy HamiltonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fly ball to left wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t deep enough to get him home.
The Reds scored twice in the top of the 8th to go up 5-4. However, Jay Bruce was thrown out at home with no one out, so they managed just 2 runs out of an inning that began with 2 singles, a double, an IBB and another single. Bryan Price brought in lefty Manna Parra to face right-handed Andrew McCutchen leading off the bottom of the 8th. In his career, McCutchen has slugged 100 points better against lefties, and his OPS has been 137 points higher. He tied the game with a homer. J. J. Hoover couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t survive the two walks he allowed in the bottom of the 9th, and Neil Walker walked off with an RBI single.
Bryan PriceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lineup featured Chris Heisey, Skip Schumaker, Neftali Soto and Tucker Barnhart. Yet, the Reds started the 2nd inning with a walk, a double and a single off of Felix Doubront, resulting in a run and Ryan Ludwick on 3rd with no outs. He failed to score. Homer Bailey lost his control in the 3rd inning and walked in a run before giving up another run on a single. The Reds tied it with 2 runs in the 8th, but they could manage no more and Price was forced to pitch Ondrusek for 2 innings in extras. The Red Sox walked off against him with 3 straight singles to start the bottom of the 12th.
Due to errors by Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart, Johnny Cueto gave up 3 unearned runs. The DodgersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Hyun-Jin Ryu had a perfect game through 7 innings, but the Reds knocked him out in the 8th,Ã‚Â scoring 3 runs against Ryu and the Dodger bullpen. It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t quite enough to come back.
Who could forget this one? The Reds sent 11 men to the plate in the bottom of the 2nd inning and scored 8 runs on 7 hits, including 2 home runs. Mat Latos was lifted in the 6th with the score 9-4 and two men on; Parra and Ondrusek walked back to back batters to make it 9-5.
In his major league debut, Jumbo Diaz gaveÃ‚Â up a solo shot and a 2-run homer to make it 9-8. Jonathan Broxton walked 2 in the 8th and former Red Dioner Navarro doubled in the tying run. Chappy had a rare meltdown in the 9th and the routers became the routed.
(It should be noted that the Reds won 8 of 9 after this game. One could argue that this embarrassing loss inspired them to play better for a while. We all know from Back to the Future 2 that when you change history, Biff becomes some sort of bizarro Donald Trump, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not good for anyone. No, had the Reds won a certain game, they mightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve lost other games and Marty McFlyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sister mightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve disappeared completely from the polaroid.)
The Reds took a 5-4 lead to the top of the 9th, but Andrew McCutchen (again!) homered off Broxton to send the game to extras. In the bottom of the 10th, Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri walked the first two batters, and then Jay Bruce singled off Justin Wilson. Steve SmithÃ‚Â decided to challenge the arm of Gregory Polanco with the slow-footed Ramon Santiago. The rookieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s aim was true and Santiago was out at the plate. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Ludwick failed to get a ball in play, and Brayan Pena struck out too. McCutchen (double again!) took J. J. Hoover deep with 2 outs and nobody on in the 11th for the winning run.
This was probably the loss of the year. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m willing to bet it was the game of the year for Drew Stubbs. In this first game of a double-header against the RockiesÃ¢â‚¬â€the team with the worst record in the NLÃ¢â‚¬â€ Bryan Price called on his closer in the top of the 9th, just to be sure 9-5 lead was safe. But Chapman walked all 4 batters he faced, causing Price to bring in Hoover with the bases loaded and no one out. After a sac fly and a line out it seemed that J. J. might actually get out of this one. But you had to guess the center fielder the Reds gave up on after 2012 would be swinging for the fence. Stubbs teed off and sent one into the sunset like Gary Cooper.
Obviously, they lost game 2 of the double-header, and the Cardinals walked off against them in 10 innings the next day, setting up:
The Reds took a 4-1 lead in the 6th inning with Alfredo Simon on the mound. Simon was pulled after giving up a solo homer to Jhonny Peralta and a single. LeCure came on to allow the runner to score on a 2-out RBI single by pinch-hitter Shane Robinson. Jumbo Diaz blew the lead in the 8th on a 2-out pinch-hit RBI double by Daniel Descalso.
2 days after the Drew Stubbs disaster, Bryan Price sent J. J. Hoover back out to lose his 10th game of the year. Hoover walked the first batter he faced and gave up a single on the next pitch. At this point, Price had clearly conceded the game because he left Hoover in to walk the next batter and then hit Jon Jay for a walk-off HBP.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve omitted as many September games as possible because the team was out of contention and looking at some call-up players. The lineup was often weak in September. Bryan Price recently said Ã¢â‚¬Å“Great teams are able to create runs in that bottom third of the order. We canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have throwaway innings because weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re sitting seven, eight, nine.Ã¢â‚¬Â You end up with a lot of throwaway innings when the 5-8 spots are full of bench players.
The Mets won this with 4 unearned runs. With one out and nobody on in the 6th inning, Wilmer Flores lifted one to center that hit Billy Hamilton in the glove for a 2-base error. After what shouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been a harmless single and an inning-ending pop foul, Anthony Recker hit a 2-run homer to make it 3-1.Ã‚Â At least one of the homers hit off of J. J. Hoover in 2014 shouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve never happened. Curtis Granderson led off the 8th inning with a pop foul to the first base side. Jack Hannahan waited under it and fell backwards as the ball hit the center of his open glove and dropped to the ground. A few pitches later Granderson pulled one out to right. The Reds scored 2 in the 9th and Mesoraco struck out with the bases loaded to end it.
The Reds finished 12 games behind the Pirates and Giants, who earned the NL wild card spots. Had the bullpen been fully stocked in April, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s possible our guys couldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve gotten off to a great start and maybe couldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve weathered the injury to Joey Votto like they did in 2012. Maybe a better record at the end of July wouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve inspired the front office to make a move. But ultimately, with Votto needing the offseason to get healthy, Hamilton and Simon declining in the second half, Jay Bruce enduring the worst season of his career, and late injuries to Bailey and Latos, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unlikely the Reds couldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve pulled together a playoff run.
Someone recently commented on this site that the majority of the RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ April schedule this year is against the NL Central and that they could go a long way towards contending with a strong month. LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hope they start 2015 healthy, focused, and doing the right things.
In response to Mat LatosÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ questioning of the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s leadership Joey Votto said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re alright. We just lost last year. Last year, I would like to think was a bit of an aberration.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Me too Joey, me too.