Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Maddux Shuts Down Reds' Offense; Cubs Win 4-1

The Reds are starting to play the up-and-down ball I grew accustomed to seeing most of last season. Win a game, lose a game, repeat. Granted, the four-game winning streak was quite nice to have after the opening day loss, but with the record now standing at 5-3, this is beginning to look closer to a .500 team type of performance. The game-by-game so far is: 1 loss, 4 wins, 1 loss, 1 win, 1 loss.

Today, the excuse was somewhat legitimate, as the Reds faced an old nemesis, Greg Maddux. Maddux is a Hall of Famer in waiting, so to lose to someone of his caliber is not necessarily something for which to be ashamed. As today's starting pitcher, Maddux blanked the Reds for the first three innings before allowing his only run of the day in the fourth with two outs. He pitched two more scoreless innings before turning it over to the Cubs' bullpen of Scott Eyre and Ryan Dempster, who kept the Reds scoreless in the closing three innings.

Maddux's opposition on the day was Reds' starter Brandon Claussen, who struggled at the outset (two runs in the first inning) and then settled down over his next four innings while still allowing two more runs (only one of them earned). Claussen's first inning alone was too much given the excellence of Cubs' pitching on this day, though. The Reds' scoring chances were few and far between, allowing the Cubs to win easily at 4-1 on the day.

The Reds must now look to claim the rubber game of this series on Thursday as starter Eric Milton takes on Chicago's Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano, as you may remember, was the Opening Day starter at Cincinnati who didn't manage to get out of the fifth inning while allowing five runs and two homers with five walks on the afternoon. Milton's first outing was against the Pirates last Friday night, when he pitched a very strong seven innings and allowed only two runs with no walks. The question for Milton on Thursday might be: is the wind blowing out?

Tomorrow's game should be an excellent finish to the three-game series, and I look for the Reds to pull out this series if Milton delivers another strong start. If the offense has to carry the game, it could get interesting.

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