Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Cubbies Fall to Reds at Wrigley; Cincinnati at 5-2 (tie for first in NL Central)

This was a great day for the Cincinnati Reds. The offense was even more spectacular than usual, clubbing six homers out of wind-blown Wrigley Field. The pitching was more respectable, allowing only two runs (less than five runs for the first time on the season). Bronson Arroyo, for the second straight start, did the double duty, pitching a heck of a game (no runs allowed on six hits in seven innings of work with no walks and four strikeouts) and belted his second homer in as many games. Who would have guessed that Arroyo would have more home runs than some of the biggest names in the game at this stage of the season? Certainly not this writer ...

With the final score of 9-2, this game was a thorough Reds' win. The offense clicked, the pitching was effective, and just about everything that could have gone right for the visiting team did. If there was one negative to note in the game, Chris Hammond once again did not survive a full inning without allowing a run. This time, though, Hammond was not given the chance to finish what he started, getting the first two outs in the eighth and leaving a runner on first. Rick White came in and allowed a double to Derek Lee that scored Todd Walker (the runner on first), so Hammond was charged with another run to his ridiculously high ERA (72.00). White allowed the only other run of the game on a solo homer by Michael Barrett to lead off the ninth, but he managed to get through the rest of the inning unscathed.

The Reds' offense is certainly worth mentioning, with nine runs scored on the afternoon. Ken Griffey Jr started the day's scoring with solo shot in the first inning. Adam Dunn followed that with a solo shot of his own in the second. The string continued as Arroyo led off with a solo homer in the third, and then Dunn homered again in the fourth. Although the fifth was the first scoreless inning in the game, the sixth was the clincher for scoring. Griffey and Aurilia singled to start the inning and then moved up bases on a passed ball. With first base open, the Cubs pitched cautiously to Dunn, who earned a walk, to bring up Edwin Encarnacion. Even though Dunn had done damage already, Encarnacion provided the big pop with a grand slam off reliever Will Ohman to double the lead from four to eight. Austin Kearns closed out the scoring in the very next at-bat with a solo shot of his own. The score at the middle of the sixth: 9-0.

Winners of five of their last six, the Reds look like a team a far cry from their opening game debacle. Maybe that was exactly the motivation this team needed to prove they were better than that ... but the question remains: Are they this good? They are a team reminiscent of the 2000 Cleveland Indians to me right now, very strong on offense with some pitching question marks. That Indians team made the World Series against the Marlins, so maybe there is some hope for this year's Reds squad yet.

I am certainly enjoying this ride so far, regardless of where it ends.

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