Reds Make No Dent in Magic Number
Tony Cingrani Debut
Reds Drop 2 of 3 to Hapless Astros
by Robb Hoff
September 10, 2012
The scoreboard stumper at Great American Ball Park on Sunday was somewhat of a sore subject -- how many pitchers had won 15 games in the history of games between the Cincinnati Reds and the Houston Astros.
Of course, Roy Oswalt dominated the Reds during his time with the Astros about as thoroughly as any pitcher has ever dominated another team.
Oswalt may be in the Reds rear-view mirror for good, but suddenly there is another Astros player whose name has become a thorn in the side of Reds fans, even if it was only for 2 of the games in the history between the two teams: Matt Dominguez.
Dominguez has taken a brief spin in the annals of games between the Reds and Astros with quite a wallop. His three-run, ninth-inning blast off Reds untouchable closer Aroldis Chapman was like a kick in the gut. And the three-run blast he crushed Sunday against nearly unbeatable Reds ace Johnny Cueto all but put the game out of reach for the Reds, who have regressed again at the plate.
Dominguez aside, Cueto was hit hard in his four-inning start. He didn't look different, but the results sure were a far cry from the standard Reds Country has grow to expect.
The reality became clear, though, during the course of the game that it wasn't going to matter if Cueto gave up 20 runs because the Reds simply had forgotten how to hit again. In the process, the Reds made Edgar Gonzalez look like the second-coming of Fernando Valenzuela, albeit from the right side.
Right-fielder Jay Bruce continued to pelt the ball, but he was all there was to the Reds offense Sunday that was worth watching.....especially if you were a paying fan at the park.
Paying to watch your team lose -- even if your team is a first-place team playing against the worst team in the entire sport -- isn't necessarily the kind of bummer that makes you wish for your hard-earned money back. Nice weather combined with people who you love to be with goes a long way to defray some of the disgust .
Knowing your team always has a chance to come back is also enough to keep you in your seat, hoping for the best possible outcome right until the bitter end.
There were even some unexpected bright spots on this fallish Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati: shortstop Didi Gregorious notched his first big-league hit and lefty Tony Cingrani made a spectacular debut in relief of Cueto that none at the park will soon forget because Cingrani's last of his five strikeouts was the 11th for Reds pitchers in the game and that can only mean one thing -- free LaRosa's pizza and United Dairy Farmers ice cream for all the fans at the game.
That was the best part of the game as it turned out -- but as I drove away from the game and the city, ate my free anchovy and bacon LaRosa's personal pan pizza and even licked at the absolutely delectable and free black raspberry chip sugar cone from UDF, there was one thing I couldn't pry from craw.
And that one thing was Reds center-fielder Drew Stubbs.
I am one who has exceedingly realistic expectations for Stubbs. I love the way he plays centerfield and I was aware enough during the reign of the Big Red Machine to recognize the integral value of a Gold Glove-caliber center-fielder like Cesar Geronimo.
Like Geronimo, Stubbs was not valued so much for his bat. Stubbs, however, is a far worse hitter than Geronimo ever was.
But even the inability of Stubbs to hit was not what bothered me about Sunday. And Stubbs was hitting seventh in the order, where he should be, after nearly a whole year of having him hit at the top of the order where he had absolutely no business being.
No....none of that really upset me.
What did thoroughly tick me off was the feeble at-bat Stubbs had to end the game -- not that I actually mind watching Stubbs strike out since that is a sight Reds country has gotten so used to seeing that it hardly fazes Reds fans any more.
It was what he didn't do.
And what he wasn't told to do.
When you're down 5-1 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and runners at first and second, the situation is admittedly grim. But when you have probably the fastest player in all the game at the plate and a hitter who is the most anemic hitter in all of the sport among regular everyday players, there has to be some added value given to the significance of trying to get the tying run up to the plate.
Short of a pinch-hitter for the horrible hacking Stubbs, the next best thing would have been for someone -- Stubbs or say maybe a coach or manager -- to notice how far back the Astros third baseman started the at-bat because he was deep, almost to the grass deep.
Of course, it required all of two pitches (both strikes) before Stubbs couldn't be expected to bunt and the likelihood rose that Stubbs would be facing his third strikeout for the game, which he in turn did by watching an obvious strike for yet another in an absolutely endless train of hapless at-bats for Stubbs.
Had Stubbs bunted down third base, he's easily on first and the bases are loaded.
But as easy as this may seem for a Major League hitter, especially one who can run like a deer like Stubbs, it isn't. For some reason that I really never have heard explained, Drew Stubbs does not know how to bunt and apparently lacks the aptitude to learn how to bunt.
I would think by now after watching most of his 200+ strikeouts in 2011 and far too many again this year, that embarrassment if nothing else may spur Stubbs to try to learn how to bunt. But apparently he and his coaches would rather watch him suffer and make Reds fans suffer right along with him by subjecting all of us to one hopeless at-bat after another.
I was all right watching Cy Young candidate Cueto pitch batting practice to a minor league team. I was all right watching not only Stubbs wave harmlessly at one pitch after another but practically every Reds hitter who came to the plate.
The one thing that I couldn't stomach and had me searching for someone to see if I could get a partial refund for my tickets was the garbage at-bat by Stubbs that ended the game.
Then again, if I hadn't been at the game, I probably wouldn't have known how easily Stubbs could've bunted for a base hit because the TV crew probably wouldn't have mentioned or shown how deep the Astros third baseman was playing.
So I guess my money's worth after all.