Monday, April 10, 2006

Pirates Win First Game of Season; Reds Winning Streak Broken at Four

With a little time to recover on this Monday off-day for the Reds, it is a bit easier to reflect on the loss from Sunday to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Given that the Pirates were 0-6 through their first six games, they truly were overdue for a win. They may be one of the "doormats" of the NL Central, but they are not as bad as their record would indicate. The Reds, on the other hand, may be overachieving record-wise through six games (now at 4-2), but the flaws in the pitching staff are still easily observable.

I won't beat a dead horse that pitching will make or break this team, but Sunday was the first time this year that the offense didn't score enough runs to compensate for the pitching. The Reds still have yet to allow less than five runs in a game, and Sunday's game was no exception. In the 5-3 loss, the starting pitcher (Dave Williams) pitched a reasonably good game against his former teammates, allowing three runs (only two earned) on five hits, two walks, and three strikeouts in six innings. Matt Belisle, who showed some vulnerability only a day earlier against the Pirates, was roughed up for two runs on two hits in the seventh, which ended up being the difference in the game. Kent Mercker and Todd Coffey had bright spots for the bullpen on the day, as Mercker struck out the side in the eighth and Coffey had a 1-2-3 outing in the ninth.

Ultimately, the pitching was better than the average has been, but, for the first time this season, the offense just wasn't there. The offensive opportunities were there, but the Pirate bullpen shut down the Reds' scoring for the first time in the series.

Despite the solid start on the season for the Reds, the NL Central is looking pretty top-heavy at this point. Only Pittsburgh has a losing record of the six teams in the division, while St. Louis got back to one game over .500 with a win on Monday. The Cubs are probably overachieving at this point as well, now at 4-1 with their only loss to the Reds in the second game of the season. Now, both teams (the Reds and the Cubs) will be squaring off again, but this time the games will be at the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field. Wrigley could be favorable to Cincinnati's offense, clearly dependent on the wind, but wins on the road by any team can be a challenge. Chicago will hardly go down quietly in this upcoming series, which commences on Tuesday afternoon.

With a day of rest, hopefully the pitching staff gets a chance to regroup and get some rest.

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