Game 9 Cincinnati at Chicago
On a beautiful spring day, my boss made us all leave work early today. It was like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, without calling in sick and hanging out with my friends in Chicago on a crazy adventure. Besides that, my day paralleled all facets of the movie.
I made it home to take a powernap, and I was up and eating meatless hotdogs right at the start of the game.
The Reds have now won two out of three series (the Reds split the 2-game Cubs series to begin the season). That’s truly the main ingredient to earning a divisional championship. The series against the Cubs was particularly impressive because it was the first road trip of the young season. To throw a divisional rival into the mix made this series even more meaningful.
Eric Milton continued the string of Reds’ starting pitchers not only pitching well, but doing it offensively, too.
Adam Dunn opened things up with his fifth homer of the year, a solo shot, in the top of the first.
In the top of the third, Milton reached first on a fielder’s choice. For reasons only known to him, Cubs’ starter Carlos Zambrano attempted to pick off Milton without first baseman Derrek Lee holding Milton on. A balk was called on Zambrano, and this caused Zambrano to go into his meltdown mode. This was a stupid play by Zambrano for two reasons. One, DeLee wasn’t even covering the base. Two, Milton has never stolen a base in his eight year career. On the very next pitch, Zambrano hit Ryan “I’ll Have Another One” Freel in the thigh, and Felipe “Flip” Lopez made Zambrano pay, hitting a 3-run homer. Flip’s homer put the Reds up 4-1.
Zambrano has absolutely nasty stuff, but until he gets his act together mentally, he’ll never be the 20-game winner that many project.
In bottom of the fourth inning, Cubs’ leftfielder Matt Murton hit a solo rainbow shot to center field off of Milton (4-1). Two good things for Milton on this homer: At least it was a solo shot and it wasn’t a cheap homer.
In the fifth inning, Milton hit a triple. The rarest of all hits was done by a pitcher. The only thing bad about the play was Milton looked like he was pinching one off as he was rounding second and straining (no pun intended) to reach third base. Zambrano, in an attempt to foil the sacrifice squeeze, threw over to third to see if Milton would be caught heading for home. Zambrano’s throw was errant and sailed into the stands. Milton walked home, pushing the lead to 5-1. Again, this is Eric Milton on base, not Freel, not Flip, or Phillips, but ERIC MILTON. I bet the absolute last thing on manager Jerry Narron’s mind with a 3-run lead was a sacrifice squeeze.
In the bottom of the fifth, with Henry Blanco at third and Zambrano on second, Jerry Hairston Jr. hit a routine single to left field. With Zambrano running the bases, he was going to be held at first, allowing only 1 run to score. Dunn booted the ball around and allowed Zambrano to score easily (5-3). That basically nullified Dunn’s homerun earlier in the game. Dunn’s poor fielding continues to hurt the Reds. Like I said in yesterday’s write up, this team is not good enough to be giving away runs. Dunn now has a 2:1 home run to error ratio.
In the top of the eighth, after a Dunn walk and a Scott Hatteberg single, Austin Kearns gave the Reds a five-run cushion. On Bob Howry’s first pitch in relief, Austin Kearns jacked a 3-run homer (8-3)
It was another great day of pitching for the Reds. Milton is slowly starting to rebuild his reputation. With a 2-0 record, a few more starts like this and I will be a full fledged believer. On the day, Milton pitched 6 2/3 innings giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits. Milton’s ERA after two starts is 2.63.
Todd Coffey protected Milton’s lead by pitching a scoreless 8. Kent Mercker did issue a base on balls and a hit, but he was able to obtain 3 strike outs to close out the game. Reds win 8-3.
With Mercker’s long hair, I’ve noticed that he slightly resembles Randy Quaid’s character Ishmael Boorg in Kingpin. I don’t think Mercker can pull of the long haired look like Milwaukee Brewer Derrick Turnbow, but I’ll let you decide.
The Reds have the offensive prowess to be a quality team. If the pitching can hold up, the 2006 Reds can surprise a lot of people. I say that knowing that my dad, Uncle Kevin, and I have said the very same thing since the wonderful 1999 season.
Now it is off to St. Louis to visit the newly completed Busch III.