2017 Reds / Titanic Struggle Recap

Reds bash four solo home runs to beat Pirates

Final R H E
Pittsburgh Pirates (68-80) 2 7 0
Cincinnati Reds (64-84) 4 9 0
W: Homer Bailey (5-8)  L: Chad Kuhl (7-11)  SV: Raisel Iglesias (27)
FanGraphs Win Probability | Box Score | Game Thread | Statcast

Look out, Indians; the Reds are coming for your winning streak record — only 21 games to go!

After another losing road trip, Cincinnati returned to the friendly confines of Great American Ball Park and crushed four home runs to get back in the win column with a 4-2 victory over the Pirates.

Here’s how tonight’s titanic struggle went down:

The Hitters

It’s going to be difficult to see Zack Cozart leave at the end of the season, assuming the Reds don’t re-sign him or extend a qualifying offer. His incredible season continued tonight, hitting two of the team’s four solo home runs. Cozart now has 22 home runs on the season, the most by a Cincinnati shortstop since Felipe Lopez (23) in 2005.

Joey Votto and Scott Schebler also got in on the action.

Votto started the scoring in the bottom of the first inning, depositing the first pitch he saw from Pirates starter Chad Kuhl into the right-field bleachers. It was Votto’s 35th dinger of the season and his 11th on the first pitch of an at-bat. His ability to be simultaneously patient and aggressive is something few big-league hitters can do successfully, and it’s incredible to watch.

After the Pirates tied up the game in the third, Cozart promptly untied it in the bottom of the inning, smashing his 21st home run of the season to put the Reds back up 2-1. Cozart’s second dinger came in the fifth to make it 3-1. Schebler sent another solo blast into orbit three batters later, launching a ball 131 feet into the air before it finally landed in the front row of the right field seats.

The Hurlers

The first batter of the game, Adam Frazier, battled Homer Bailey for 14 pitches before lining out to right field. That was indicative of the night to come for Bailey. He had to work hard for it, but ultimately had a nice bounce-back outing after a rough go of things on Saturday.

Although he lasted only 5.2 innings (101 pitches), he struck out seven and allowed just one run on five hits and two walks. The splitter and fastball were really working for Bailey tonight, which was good to see.

The right-hander dealt with a high pitch count early on. He threw 27 pitches in the third inning and allowed a single, double, and a walk, but escaped with only one run allowed. Bailey got through the fourth and fifth on 11 and 14 pitches, respectively, and looked as if he was going to get through the sixth, as well, but gave up a two-out single and a double before hitting a batter to load the bases.

Although Bailey was not happy about it, Bryan Price removed his starting pitcher in favor of Michael Lorenzen, who got out of the jam in one pitch.

Lorenzen came back out for the seventh and retired the Pirates in order, including two strikeouts. He ran into trouble in the eighth, however, recording only one out while giving up a walk and a single. He was lifted for Raisel Iglesias, who struck out David Freese and Gregory Polanco to end the inning. Iglesias gave up a walk and an RBI triple in the ninth before escaping with his 27th save.

Not-So-Random Thoughts

— Votto also doubled in the third inning, the 340th of his career. That broke a tie with Tony Perez for sixth in Reds history. The underrated Vada Pinson is next up with 342, so Votto has a good shot of sitting in fifth by the time the season ends.

— Patrick Kivlehan has been a below-average hitter overall this year (82 wRC+), but there’s a lot to like about his game for a bench player. He’s not afraid to take a walk (10.5 BB%) and provides nice pop (8 HR in 182 PA). With a little better luck (.250 BABIP), his numbers would probably look better this year. He deserves a shot to be in the mix again in 2018.

— It was not a night to remember for Eugenio Suarez, as he wound up with a golden sombrero, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Even one of the top third basemen in baseball will have a bad game from time to time.

— With runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth, Bryan Price asked Jesse Winker to bunt for some reason. The rookie got the bunt down successfully, but giving up the free out proved to be costly, as the Reds wound up scoring zero runs.

— The Indians’ 22-game winning streak came to an end tonight. It was one of the most incredible feats in baseball history, and it’ll be hard not to root for them the rest of the way. And, of course, it’s great to see Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion enjoying such success.

Up Next

Coming off another solid — though inefficient — start, Sal Romano (4.54 ERA, 4.69 xFIP) takes the hill tomorrow afternoon for his 14th career big-league appearance. He’ll be opposed by Ivan Nova (4.25 ERA, 4.12 xFIP), who has really struggled in the second half for the Pirates. First pitch is set for 4:10 p.m. ET.

30 thoughts on “Reds bash four solo home runs to beat Pirates

  1. Yep, the Old Cossack is going to say it again…the Reds are going to miss Zack Cozart a lot if they don’t resign him during the off season.

    • It comes down to the money and the years. I think the Reds missed players like Johnny Cueto or Mike Leake, but we can’t resign everybody.

      • Especially when they overpay the ones they do sign. Had they spent wisely I am not sure even signing someone like Cueto or Leake would have made this team much better or competitive, let alone signing a top tier FA . The only the way they compete is finding guys like Simon, Strailey, and Scooter off the scrap heaps and flipping them for prospects

    • Did we miss BP? I didn’t. It’s time for Cozart to go. Save that $$$ and use it more wisely. IF that’s possible for the Reds.

  2. Agreed Cossack. I’ve been saying that all summer. It’s not just that Cozart has had a really good year at the plate, but he’s still very solid at short and there’s no clear, even remotely comparable replacement. Unless Suarez somehow develops at short the way he did at third this could be the last month for a while where the shortstop position isn’t a problem.

    Nice to see two other “old” guys have a great night as well. A tip of the cap to Bailey and Votto tonight too. Plus I’m really glad the Reds had Barnhart to take over for the failed Mesoraco situation. That could have been ugly. Nice win tonight.

  3. It was not that long ago that a season like Cozart’s 2017 campaign would have people suspecting he was taking Performance Enhancing Drugs.

    I am not accusing or suggesting that Cozart is juicing. What I am suggesting is how Dick Williams or any other MLB GM can evaluate a guy going forward who is doing the following for the first time at age 32:

    -40 pts higher on BABIP
    -career high in HRs
    -2x the WAR
    -wRC+ in 140s

    Sentiment aside on “deserving a big contract”, which team has the need at SS and would actually gamble on 3 yrs/$40M (or similar) for Cozart?

    Reds don’t even need to worry about a qualifying offer for Cozart, IMO. Let him see the market this winter (or lack thereof). He could very well be back in 2018 in Cincinnati at 1 yr/$8M or 1 yr/$10M, if Williams actually wants him back at all.

    • what is really bizarre is how consitent he has been. After a consistently horrendous 2014 where he did not have an a single month OPS over .700 (some below .600) he only has has 2 months below .700- over 3 seasons. That was during the last 2 months of last season which you could attribute to injuries.
      As the injuries have piled up he has gotten better since a .769 June, with a .991 July, .895 August,& .898 September. His flukish first half was answered with even more brilliant 2nd half power wise

    • I think this Cozart was always in there. If you remember when he came up, he was quite phenomenal until injured with that freak Tommy John injury while attempting to put the tag on a steal at second. Of course, that was a miniscule sample size, but it showed promise that he only now seems to be realizing. He said in an interview on the reds website that he is now content to wait for his pitch, not trying to force a hit…and of course he relaxed his bat. Its all so simple!!

  4. Zack should have hit 20 HRs about 4 times now

    Bring him back. It old be sad to see him become a Giant or some team that values veterans and hit 300 with 20 HRs for the next 3 years

    • It would be sadder to pay him the money and see his numbers revert back to what they were for most of his career. At 32 that would be more the norm. The real shame is there was no market for him at the deadline.

  5. I think Zach Cozart might be one of those guys that has just figured it out more as he has gone on. I don’t really see any physical differences as much as his new stance and being less aggressive and waiting for a pitch to hit.

    It would be cool if the Reds do sign him up and keep some continuity at shortstop as that is a Reds thing – It would be cool to have him in that McMillan, Cardenas, Concepcion, Larkin line with 8-9 years as the Reds at that position.

    It’s got to say something that his knick name was “Coach” a couple weeks ago on his uniform. I think he would potentially add value in other ways maybe going forward and really he might not be ALL that expensive to keep around.

    • I agree. Cozart’s hitting seems due to a change in approach and Votto’s influence, rather than being flukish or PED-induced. Averages and norms are established by taking into account players who are above-average as well as those who are average or below average. There is no immutable law that prevents learning and improvement in over-30 players. Zach’s injury history is another matter. He’s solid at short, but his range appears hampered. For the right price, I’d love to see him stay a Red, but they’d have to pay attention to resting him regularly.

      • Perhaps more Edwin Encarnacion and couple other Indians had more influence than Votto who Cozart has played with several years. It was during spring training when he adopted their relaxed approach to the plate.

  6. I don’t believe Price asked Jesse to bunt – I believe Jesse did it on his own. The Fox commentators were also thinking the same thing. If you watch the conversation between Price & Winker in the dugout after the play, it looked like Jesse made the decision on his own.

    btw – Jesse’s 3rd AB was not a good one. He fouled off two pitches out of the zone with poor swings. Again, the commentators noted that he looked like he was trying to foul the ball off on his first swing. Jesse knew it too – you could read his lips and body language. Young guys learning – even the good hitters have to learn patience at the plate at the ML level! It has been good to see Jose learning to take a few pitches. His approach, while still too front-loaded, has improved.

    • The conversation went like this:

      Price: Why did you bunt?
      Winker: The infield was playing back and I thought it was the right thing to do.
      Price: You know those guys at Redleg Nation are gonna blame me for this again. Please don’t do that anymore.

  7. Ideally, the Reds would be able to go to Cozart and ask him what type of contract he was looking for this offseason, and whether or not he would accept a QO. Now, Cozart has no reason (at least financially) to be forthcoming with this information, but maybe the Reds could gage his interest. If they get the sense that he’ll hold out for multiple years/more cumulative money then maybe they’ll offer him the QO and get something back for their investment in him.

    If there’s any chance he’d accept the QO the Reds cannot offer it to him. It’s simply too much money to spend on one player who may or may not repeat his current production and may or may not stay on the field. I also don’t think they should take on the risk of extending him, as there is likewise too much injury concern, lack of track record, and the risk of age-related decline to offer him a contract that isn’t well below market value.

    Even if Cozart was inclined to accept a steep hometown discount (something along the lines of 3 years 24m which I’ve suggested in the past as a number I’d be comfortable with) I’m not sure the Reds should consider it.

    One reason is that Peraza has shown improvements in the 2nd half of the season and is only 23 years old. (Cozart was still in AA at age 23) Since July began, Peraza has produced a .328 OBP with 15 BBs vs. 22 K’s during that time. No one is going to accuse him of being Joey Votto-lite, but that is a marked improvement over his first half. I also think it’s important to note that this is Peraza’s first full season in MLB. While the overall results haven’t been what I hoped for, I’m not ready to assign him to a utility role yet, especially with the improvements he’s been able to demonstrate in a short amount of time. Peraza doesn’t get the opportunities to make his case if Cozart is back.

    Another reason is the Suarez/Senzel conundrum. One will play 3B for the Reds in the near future and the other will either be traded or make a position change. Either should be able to transition to 2B, but 2B has a lot of options to consider in the near future. The Reds need to sort out whether Gennett is going to be a legitimate starter, if Herrera can stay healthy and hit like he did in the minors, if Blandino will find a home at 2B or as a utility option, and whether or not Long will continue to develop as he has the past two seasons and challenge for the job. If the Reds determine a move back to SS for Suarez is the best case for the organization’s future due to the options already at 2B then having Cozart return complicates matters.

    The Reds need to sort out their middle infield for the future and next year will go a long way in deterring what that future looks like. Cozart has too many question marks to sign to an extension. I think they’re just going to have to say goodbye and good luck.

    • I totally agree, I don’t even know why they would even consider signing an oft injured, aging shortstop who’s lost a step in the field, during a career year at the plate which he’s never even come close to in the past. The risk far outweighs the reward for a team looking to spend wisely that will soon have a jumbled middle infield to begin with.

    • I’m not sure Cozart has any more question marks than Peraza, Suarez at SS, Herrera, or Blandino. I suggest keep Cozart, package Hamilton and Gennett (sorry to seem the go) w/ one or two other minor league sweetners and get a good future short stop to slip in behind Cozart, keep Peraza at 2nd for now, and reposition Senzel to 2nd for a year or two from now.

      • Cozart has proven more at the MLB level. That doesn’t necessarily equate to having less questions.

        The others have age on their side. The aging curve that equates to production is pretty well established. Players typically continue to improve until their peak (27-29) years and then begin to decline. The decline becomes more drastic as you progress into your 30’s and most players fall off drastically in that 34-35 age range. Some players defy this, and some are late bloomers, but on average this is what you should expect.

        The other players (outside of Herrera) also don’t have significant injury history. Cozart has dealt with injuries for the better part of the past three years. As he ages he will experience less bounce-back from these injuries.

        The other players have cost-controlled (cheaper) salaries as well for the next few years.

        The major question marks about the young guys is how/if they will produce and continue to develop at the ML level. We do have a good sense of what Cozart can do, although we also have a lot of evidence that could suggest this season is an outlier. We do not know how he’ll produce moving forward, whether this career year is the new norm or if he’ll revert to previous levels of production. We do know if the injuries will continue or affect his play in the field or prevent him from taking the field at all. We do not know how much that will cost the Reds and where else that money could have been used.

        With the young guys, you’re betting on your their natural talent, your scouting department, and your coaches to further their development. With Cozart you’re betting he can defy the aging curve and continue to produce at levels he hadn’t reached until his 30’s. You’re also betting on his health. I know which bet I’m taking.

        • Aging curve: See Joey Votto. Averages are instructive in a general way, but their application to an individual player requires caution. Some people exceed expectations, some meet them and some fail to reach them. The factors behind an individual player’s performance need to be taken into account.

          • I would argue Votto is the exception to the rule. Not many players are Joey Votto and there are few with the same amount of dedication to their craft. I would also note that his approach to hitting is more suitable to long term success, he has a much more extensive track record of success, and plays a position that takes less of a toll on his body.

          • I agree, Hotto4Votto. Joey is unusual–very unusual–but not unique. The average age of decline doesn’t apply to him, but it also doesn’t apply to some other players. My point is only that evaluating players individually is important.

  8. If the Reds want to contend in in the NL Central 2018 — and there isn’t any reason why they shouldn’t — then they will need to extend a QO offer to Cozart or make a deal to replace what he does and how his presence impacts the team as a whole, because that replacement isn’t on the current roster.

    Peraza would be a downgrade both offensively and defensively. Moving Suarez to SS weakens two positions defensively, and who is going to play 3rd? It would be stunning to me if Vincej developed into a capable big league hitter. Senzel can’t play SS and won’t start the season in Cincinnati anyway. Blandino isn’t an everyday SS at that level. Gennett isn’t a SS. Etc.

    Others can and probably will disagree, but In my opinion, Reds are a much better team with Cozart at SS and in the lineup, and Peraza as a sort of super-sub filling in at multiple positions. I hope it happens.

  9. I wish it were different, but with Cozart’s injury history I don’t think it would be a good move for the Reds to extend him. If the Reds are going to go young, with the exception of Votto, then they should give Peraza the shortstop position and time to mature. For 2018 that would leave Suarez at third and a combo of Gennett/Herrera at second. The money not expended to extend Cozart could be use for a middle range pitcher to stabilize the starting rotation.

  10. I wish it were different as well but Cozy should explore the market to see what he can get.He has earned that right and I wish him the best.Could be the market just isn’t there for him but we will see.

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