Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Reds Machine Hits "Rocky" Road on Wednesday, Lose 3-0 in Colorado

The new incarnation of the "Big Red Machine" has seen the Cincinnati Reds do almost everything right and very little wrong. That is not to say that this Reds team is "perfect", but things most certainly have been clicking along the way. The train had a minor derailment on Wednesday evening, though, as the Colorado Rockies, behind the solid performance of starter Jeff Francis, knocked off the Reds in a 3-0 shutout victory over the most explosive offense in the majors.

How could a team like the Reds go scoreless in a scoring haven like Coors Field? Well, with Francis scattering only four hits and one walk over seven innings of work that included five strikesouts, it is easy to see that the pitcher made the difference. Francis' opponent was Reds' starter Brandon Claussen, who delivered a respectable, if not spectacular, performance. Claussen allowed only three runs in six and two-thirds innings on seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts. All of the damage in this game happened in only one inning -- the bottom of the fifth.

The inning started off with a single by Choo Freeman, who then stole second followed by a reach of third on a throwing error by first baseman Rich Aurilia. Danny Ardoin followed that up by a single to center, scoring Freeman as the first run of the game. Francis grounded out (on a bunt attempt) into a fielder's choice as the lead runner (Ardoin) was nailed for the first out at second. Jamey Carroll singled to center as the next batter, moving Francis to second. Ryan Spilborghs flied out to right for the second out before the nail was driven into the Reds' coffin. Matt Holliday, who easily had the night's best performance, hit a double over the head of centerfielder Ryan Freel to score both runners and stretch the lead to three (and the resulting final score of 3-0). The inning ended innocently with an intentional walk to Garret Atkins and then a strikeout swinging of Eli Marrero.

The Reds offense was as silent as a night in Bethlehem on this evening. Claussen (2-3) had no run support from a team that has scored 158 runs in it's previous 27 games (5.85 runs per game), so a shutout is one of those unexpected events on this team. Giving Francis (1-2) credit, he was in command of the Reds from beginning until his exit after the seventh. The save in this game went to Brian Fuentes (6), who pitched a scoreless ninth, after Jose Mesa held the Reds without a hit in the eighth in relief of Francis.

The road trip is not starting as the homestand had ended. With the loss, the Reds still are in a tie for the most wins in baseball, but their lead in the NL Central slipped back to 1/2 game over the Astros (who beat the Cardinals on the night). More discouraging? The next opponent after the Rockies tomorrow is the Diamondbacks on Friday. Why discouraging? Arizona has won three in a row and is headed towards the top of the division to challenge front-runner Colorado. The Reds are hitting the West's two best teams at the wrong time.

I am certainly encouraged by tomorrow's starter, Aaron Harang, to salvage a split in this short two-game series. His opponent is a quality starter, Josh Fogg, who has best been known in recent years as a Pittsburgh Pirate. Harang has been dominant of late while Fogg has been struggling. Let us all hope that both trends continue ... for the Reds' sake.

Rounding Third and Heading for Home ...

No comments:

Post a Comment