Sunday, April 30, 2006

An Opportunity Lost, Astros Squeak By Reds 3-2 (Tied with Cards for First in NL Central)

Sunday afternoon's game at GABP was an example of an opportunity lost by the Cincinnati Reds. After winning two games against arguably Houston's best two pitchers (Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte), Cincinnati was facing rookie Taylor Buchholz, who should have been an "easier" adversary to conquer. However, on this day, the young pitcher did not go quietly.

Buchholz was pitching a very solid game until finally relinquishing his position in the seventh inning. His only blemishes came with a single in the second inning (to Austin Kearns) with no runs scored before allowing two hits and two runs to score in the sixth (McCracken singled to start the inning before Dunn cracked a two-run homer with two outs). All of the Astros' runs to support Buchholz came on home runs. Lance Berkman started things off right for the visitors by cranking a no-doubt two-run homer into the left field stands with Willie Taveras on base. Jason Lane homered for the second time in as many games, providing the (eventual) game-winning run on a solo shot in the fourth inning.

Beyond the sixth inning, the bats for both teams were silent. The bullpens were particularly effective in shutting down any offensive scoring. Despite a quality start, Elizardo Ramirez, who allowed only three runs in his six innings of work, did not pitch well enough to outmatch his opponent Buchholz. He certainly did what he needed to do to keep his team in the game, but this was one of those unusual games where the Reds just couldn't score runs.

The loss drops the Reds to 17-8, in a first-place tie with the Cardinals, who are coming to town on Monday for a brief two-game series. Only once this season have the Reds lost a series against a team -- that team was the Cardinals in St. Louis two weeks ago. The Cards did not "dominate" the series by any stretch in the earlier match-up, so look for this rematch to be fairly even. In Monday's game, St. Louis sends Mark Mulder (the second best starter on the team) against Reds' fifth starter Dave Williams (whose ERA is 9.53 with a poor 1-2 record). Cincinnati is going to have to score runs against Mulder to give Williams a chance in this game. Tuesday's game should see a pretty good pitching match-up between undefeated pitchers: Sidney Ponson (3-0, 3.13 ERA) and Bronson Arroyo (4-0, 2.34 ERA). Arroyo has been lights out for the Reds so far (excluding his no-decision on 4/16 head-to-head against Mulder and the Cardinals), while Ponson owns a win against the Reds already this season (on 4/15).

The Astros (16-8, 1/2 game behind) will be traveling to Milwaukee to face a Brewers team (14-11, 3 games back) with renewed hope after taking two of three from the Cubbies at Wrigley this weekend. The Pirates (7-19) have been a non-factor in the division but could play spoiler against the Cubs (13-10) by taking a couple of wins away in the next couple of days.

Somebody will have to lose in the St. Louis - Cincinnati matchup on Monday and then again on Tuesday. A split of both games seems posible, but the Reds would like nothing more than to knock off the formidable Cardinals twice in these two games and have a stellar homestand (possibly four wins in five games if these next two can go their way).


  1. The good news is it was a close game and Ramirez kept the team in it.

  2. Point well taken. Ramirez did pitch well and provided his team a "quality start" that is so highly valued. Thankfully, with today's game (Tuesday, 5/2), Dave Williams was able to do the same. Quality starts typically equal more wins.