Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Reds Gut Out Series Split; Arroyo and Aurilia Shine

As bad as the Opening Day game may have been, the second game of the year was that much more redemptive for the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds gutted out a much better performance against the visiting Chicago Cubs to split the short two-game series. The final score in this one: 8-6, in favor of the home team.

Bronson Arroyo, the recent acquisition from the Boston Red Sox for former outfielder Wily Mo Pena, brought hope to a team that his addition couldn't have been better. The musician-on-the-side starting pitcher proved his worth with this reasonably impressive first game in front of the home crowd at GABP. Arroyo's line score was 6 2/3 innings pitched, 6 hits, 5 runs (only 3 earned), no walks (most impressive), and 7 strikeouts. Possibly more impressive, Arroyo was 1 for 1 as a batter with a walk -- oh, by the way, that one hit was a home run, the first of his career. Granted, Arroyo hasn't had many hitting opportunities as an American League pitcher in recent years, but this was a special moment he would likely not soon forget. His offense started off the third inning for the Reds, a game-tying shot that invigorated the team to score twice more that inning.

The first run of the game was driven in by Rich Aurilia, an oft-forgotten cog in this Reds' machine, on a single to center. Aurilia not only drove in Ryan Freel in the first inning but also with a two-run homer in the bottom of the third, following Arroyo's heroics earlier that same inning. The Reds 4-2 through three innings with the combined offense of Aurilia, Arroyo, and Freel.

In the fifth, Ken Griffey, Jr., made news of his own. Although Arroyo would certainly grab the spotlight this day, Junior hit career homer number 537, a solo shot to deep left center, that also accounted for career RBI number 1,538. Those two stats are significant because the home run allowed Griffey to pass Mickey Mantle on the all-time list and the RBI allowed him to pass Joe DiMaggio on that list as well. Two legends of the game passed with one swing of the bat reminded baseball fans everywhere how great a career this future-Hall-of-Famer has had.

The scoring continued after Junior's homer in the fifth with two more runs scoring on a combination of a sacrifice fly from David Ross to plate Adam Dunn and an Edwin Encarnaction run scored on a passed ball to catcher Michael Barrett. The Reds led 7-2 at that point and would not look back.

The Cubs did challenge late in this one, thanks in part to an error in the sixth inning on a foul ball from Derek Lee that turned into a two-run homer only a couple of pitches later and a two-run shot by John Mabry an inning later. The margin was cut to 7-6 through seven innings, but it got no closer. Felipe Lopez drove in run-scoring machine Freel with a groundout in the bottom of the eighth to provided an unneeded but beneficial insurance run, making the score the final of 8-6. David Weathers closed out the game 1-2-3 in the ninth for his first save, and Arroyo (1-0)claimed his first win as a Red.

Additional news tidbit from the game: Aramis Ramirez hit his career 10th homer at the GABP, tying for most by a visiting player at the stadium with Geoff Jenkins.

The Reds are now back to .500 on the season, 1-1, with the Pittsburgh Pirates coming to town for a four-game series on Thursday night. Brandon Claussen, the Reds' second-best pitcher in 2005, takes the mound against his opposite number, Ian Snell (a second-year player), from the Pirates. On paper, I like the Reds chances in this one, but it will be interesting to see Sean Casey face his old team in his first visit to GABP as a visiting player. Casey may help motivate his new teammates to victory, but I think I like the offense of this new collection in town (including his replacement Scott Hatteberg) as well.

Go Reds!

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