Saturday, April 15, 2006

Cardinals Crush Reds in 9-3 Offensive Explosion

This was one of those games that you knew wasn't going to be good for the visiting team from the early going. Although the Reds struck first on a towering solo homer by Adam Dunn in the top of the first, things quickly went downhill in the bottom of that inning.

Dave Williams, the Reds' fifth starter and arguably the weakest candidate to keep the role for the rest of the season, was burned early and often in his short three innings of work on the day. His line score tells the story: 3 IP, 6 hits, 6 ER, 3 BB, and 2 KK with 2 HR allowed. His counterpart was the Cardinals' fifth starter, Sidney Ponson. Ponson is hardly a fifth starter on most pitching staffs, considering he once was near the top of the Baltimore Orioles rotation, but his last couple of years have been a little rough after having 17 wins in 2003 (between Baltimore and San Francisco). With losing records of 11-15 and 7-11 in each of the past two seasons, one might wonder why the Cardinals invested in Ponson, but, if he finds his 2003 form, he is a better fifth starter than many teams have in the two or three spot.

Williams was rocked in the first inning by a series of hits that scored three runs in the frame. After David Eckstein grounded out, So Taguchi doubled and Albert Pujols walked. Then, Scott Rolen walked as well. With the bases loaded and only one out, Juan Encarnacion popped out to first. Williams looked like he might escape major damage until Yadier Molina singled back up the middle, allowing both Taguchi and Pujols to score. Then, Hector Luna singled to left to drive in Rolen before Skip Schumaker ended the inning with a flyout to left.

The second inning was similar to the first for the Cardinals, as Eckstein reacked on a single with one out. Taguchi struck out for the second out. That brought up Reds' killer Pujols, who proceeded to homer to left, a two-run shot, that started to put the game out of reach at 5-1. The bottom of the third saw Luna homering to left to bring the score to 6-1. That inning marked the end of Williams with only three innings to his credit.

With Matt Belisle's relief in the fourth, both offenses were quiet through the sixth inning. Austin Kearns drove in the second run for the Reds with a single in the top of the seventh, scoring Edwin Encarncion and making the score 6-2. Before the Reds could score any more runs to narrow the margin, reliever Mike Burns came in in the seventh to relieve Belisle. Burns did not fare well, however, as Encarnacion doubled, Molina sacrificed Encarnacion to third, and then Luna drove in Encarnacion with a single (then 7-2). After Schumaker flied out, the Cardinals brought out pinch hitter Scott Spiezio, who promptly delivered the knockout blow with a two-run homer to deep right and made the score 9-2.

The Reds could muster only one lone run in the ninth, making the final score 9-3. There wasn't much positive to discuss on either side of the ball for Cincinnati today, including the so-so pitching and the lack of offense.

The finale of this series tomorrow (Sunday) in Busch stadium is the rubber game of the series and will determine who wins the series. Another Reds' win would be very big to build suspense amongst these best of the best in the NL Central. I like the Bronson Arroyo versus Mark Mulder matchup, but this looks (on paper) to be slightly in favor of the Reds and Arroyo.

The Reds' record going into game play on Sunday is 7-4, still good enough to build some momentum. Best of luck, Redlegs ... this series could be yours.

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