Monday, April 17, 2006

Reds Roll to Easy Win Over Marlins, 9-1

In Monday night's action, the Reds cruised over the hapless Marlins in the first game of a three-game series (and brief homestand) in a 9-1 final. Cincinnati started the offense early off Florida starter Brian Moehler (former Red himself) while the Reds' starter Brandon Claussen was able to set it on automatic pilot.

After the Marlins went quietly (1-2-3) in the top of the first, the Reds offense went to work. While leadoff man Ryan Freel grounded out to shortstop, Felipe Lopez doubled to right. Adam Dunn, who has thrived in the three spot all year, crushed a two-run homer to center to score Lopez and himself. Austin Kearns followed with a walk, but Scott Hatteberg ended the scoring threat with a double play to end the inning. The Reds led 2-0 after one inning.

In the second, the Marlins offense was quiet once again (a lonely single by Wes Helms in the top of the inning), and the Reds offense kept clicking. Javier Valentin led off with a double into the left-center gap. Edwin Encarnacion reached on an error by Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez, allowing Valentin to reach third. With runners at the corners and nobody out, Brandon Phillips, the recent acquisition from Cleveland, sparked the scoring with a doulbe to left, allowing both runners (Valentin and Encarnacion) to score. The pitcher's spot was next, but Claussen failed to get down a sacrifice bunt and struck out. Ryan Freel came up next and helped to redeem Claussen's failure by hitting a double that scored Phillips. Freel was caught stealing third for the second out of the inning, and Lopez followed with a ground out to end the scoring. The Reds led 5-0 after the second inning, and the rout was on.

Neither team threatened to score in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, but the Marlins threatened for the first time in top of the sixth. Ramirez singled to center followed by a fly out to right by Dan Uggla. Miguel Cabrera then doubled deep into the right-center gap, wisely cut off by Kearns and flipped to Freel, who fired the ball back into the infield to save a potential run by Ramirez. With runners on second and third in scoring position with only one out, Claussen single-handedly ended the threat. He stabbed a bouncing ball back at him by Josh Willingham that could have scored both runners, but he looked them both back before firing on to first for the second out. Then, on the next batter (Helms), he knocked down another comebacker to the mound and fired again to first to end the inning. The score remained 5-0.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Reds scoring peaked again, as Kearns led off with a solo homer into the right field stands. Hatteberg followed with a double down the left field line, and then Valentin followed with a singled line to left that put runners on the corners. At that point, Marlins manager Joe Girardi had seen enough and brought on Randy Messenger to relieve Moehler. Messenger got a ground ball to shortstop, but Ramirez could only throw on to first to get the fielder's choice first out while Hatteberg scored and Valentin moved to second. Phillips, the run-producer of the second inning, made a repeat performance with a single into right that drove home Valentin and gave Phillips his third RBI of the night. Claussen struck out for the second out while Freel hit a liner to center that ended the inning. The Reds led by a wide margin, 8-0, after six innings.

The seventh inning came and went quietly while the Reds manager Jerry Narron decided that Claussen had pitched enough in this game by relieving Mike Burns for him in the eighth (and double-switched him with Quinton McCracken for Dunn in left). Burns didn't start the inning well, allowing an infield single to Ramirez, who then advanced to second on a throwing error by Lopez. Burns then walked Uggla before allowing an infield single to Cabrera (Lopez was unable to force out Uggla at second on the play) and loading the bases with nobody out. Willingham came to the plate but failed to deliver a major punch as he grounded to shortstop and into a 6-4-3 double play. Ramirez scored on the play, but only Uggla remained on the bases (at third) with two outs. Things stayed interesting for another batter as Helms was hit by a pitch that got away from Burns, but Burns closed out the inning with a fly ball out to right by Chris Aguila. The Reds continued to lead, now 8-1, through seven and half innings. In the bottom of the inning, Joe Borowski came on in relief of Franklyn German (who had pitched a scoreless seventh) and started off much like his predecessors had. Encarnacion led off with a double to left, and the game's star, Brandon Phillips, came up with another RBI hit, a single into left, that scored Encarnacion and advanced himself to second with the throw to the plate. The rest of the inning was a quiet one as McCracken, Freel, and Lopez went down in succession, and the Reds led 9-1 after eight innings.

In the final frame, the Reds brought on Chris Hammond, who had struggled in earlier appearances this season, in a non-save situation to help build his confidence in getting some outs. Reggie Abercrombie flied out to center followed by a strike out of Matt Treanor. With two outs, Hammond looked ready to knock off batter Matt Cepicky, but Cepicky managed to single up the middle into center to extend the inning one more batter. Hammond closed out the game in style by ringing up Ramirez on a swinging strike out.

Brandon Claussen (1-1) notched his first win of the year, while his opposing number Brian Moehler (0-3) remains winless with his balloonish 13.14 ERA. Claussen delivered a quality start in this one, pitching seven strong innings while allowing only five hits and no runs on seven strikeouts versus two walks. Moehler's line was no so pretty: five innings with nine hits and eight runs (seven earned) on two walks and two strikeouts with two homers allowed. Messenger certainly didn't help Moehler by allowing both inherited runners in the sixth to score and boost Moehler's earned run total, but the runs really were moot in an eight-run loss.

The Reds record moves back to three games over .500 at 8-5, as they remain tied for third in the NL Central with the Cardinals behind the Cubs (a half-game ahead at 8-4) and one game behind the division-leading Astros (9-4). With the exception of the struggling Pirates, the NL Central is full of teams with winning records, from the Astros at the top to the Brewers (7-6) in fifth place. Only the AL East can make a similar claim, although the bottom two teams (both surprising, as the Yankees and Blue Jays) are at .500 (6-6). The cellar dwellars are defining themselves already (not surprisingly) as the Royals (again), the Marlins (just no depth and no payroll), the Nationals (despite doing well last season), and Pittsburgh (hindered by a poor start and not getting better with injuries).

In Tuesday's game, the Marlins should be sending Jason Vargas (1-1, 5.73 ERA) to the mound to counter Reds starter Eric Milton (2-0, 2.63 ERA), who is hoping to continue his hot start to this young 2006 season. The Reds are in a good position to win this series, either taking at least one or both of the next two games, before heading off to Milwaukee for a longer four-game set on the road. A series sweep would be the best-case scenario as the upcoming road trip may do some damage to the win-loss record by this point next week. After the Brewers, the Reds will be facing the Nationals in D.C. but may do well there against that struggling team.

All in all, fans should be pleased with the performance of this team so far. While results have been far from perfect, the record is better than some of us may have been led to believe was possible if the experts were to be believed.

[Reposted at (Ramblings of Rentz: The RentzFree Sports Journal), at The Sporting News .com]

No comments:

Post a Comment