Finally. Hopefully I was right last night when I said last night was rock bottom.
(That’s Griffey, just before his game-winner. Yes, I admit it – I was on my way out. At least I stopped to watch Junior, and I did tell my wife he was going to hit it out.)
Some random thoughts from Tuesday’s game:
– Aaron Harang was just awesome. Mixing fastballs (2- and 4-seamers, it looked like) and sliders effectively, moving up and down; in and out. He dominates without seeming to labor at all. Other than that blast by Cameron, which was saved by Petco, he really wasn’t in trouble all night. Kudos to Narron for sending him back out for the 9th. It wasn’t a hard decision really – Harang was dominating and was just over 100 pitches – but good for Narron for not screwing it up (more on Narron later).
– Junior!!! The Jock-less Wonder really saved his team’s bacon.
David Weathers pitched his rear end off. Three perfect innings. I don’t know when the last time a Reds closer did that. Three innings in 31 pitches made it possible.
Alex Gonzalez really does look good out there at short. Very fluid, quick feet, nice release. He seems to boot a few more than you’d like, but he looks better in person than on TV.
Other impressions: Josh Hamilton looks a bit slower in person than he does on TV, and Junior looks a little thinner than he has recently.
– A freaking balk? Harang blew the shutout by getting a spike caught in the dirt? I really thought this club was snakebit, at that point. Harang looked like he was going to barf right there on the mound. Good for him for recovering.
– Freel blew it to allow that first hit (Cameron’s double down the line). There is absolutely no reason he should be playing in on the grass for Mike Cameron. Encarnacion gets a lot of grief for his mistakes over there, but Freel is just a bad 3b. His instincts are poor, and the position essentially negates his main strength – speed.
– All the hitters were hacking, really helping David Wells, who’d struggled over his past few starts. The Reds were swinging at everything, letting the almost 43-year-old Wells throw 8 innings on only 88 pitches.
The Really Desperate and Confusing:
– Jerry Narron’s managing was just goofy in the late innings tonight. You knew Moeller was going to start, and he hit the ball hard 2 out of 3 times. Other than that, the lineup was one of the better ones.
But once things got into extra innings, Narron just went off the deep end: Dunn works a walk off Scott Linebrink to lead off the 10th, with Gonzalez and Hamilton up next. For some reason, Narron pulls Dunn for a pinch runner in Hopper. I’m not sure Hopper’s that much faster; I’m definitely sure that you want to keep Dunn in the lineup; and I really don’t understand why you go with the pinch runner when you’re going to . . . ask Gonzalez to bunt. Gonzalez may be a middle infielder, but he’s proven lately that he’s not a very good bunter. Either put in Hopper and let him steal, or call for the bunt. Heck, put in Castro and let him bunt, then stay in to play SS.
Anyway, Gonzalez doesn’t get the bunt down, and whiffs as . . . Hopper steals second. Hamilton whiffs, and Narron brings in Hatteberg to hit for Moeller. Valentin is on deck to hit for Harang, if the inning extends. Unfortunately, Hatteberg whiffs himself.
Now, for the bottom of the 10th, Narron goes haywire. He’s batted for his catcher, so he needs to bring in either Ross or Valentin. The natural move is to put Valentin in the 9 spot, Weathers in Hatteberg’s, and you still have Ross and Castro on the bench for later. Nope, too sensible. Instead, he puts Castro in the 9 spot, knowing that he’ll lead off the 11th (if there is one). He still needs a catcher, so he puts Ross goes in the spot vacated by Hopper, shifts Freel to CF, and Hamilton to LF.
Now, he’s used up every guy on his bench except Valentin, who he can’t use for 2-3 innings, because he has to wait until the pitcher’s spot comes back up again. It makes no sense to me – Narron thinks that Valentin is his best pinch hitter, yet he purposely sets things up so that he will use Juan Castro, but probably won’t get to use Valentin, and burns Ross.
Other goofy stuff: (Presumably) sending Phillips with Griffey up in the 11th (failed), and asking David Ross to get a bunt down in the 12th (worked). [Updated: Rosecrans confirms that Phillips was sent in the 11th. I thought it was a bad move – he scores on any extra-base hit by Jr, anyway.]
I didn’t mean to spend so much time dwelling on the negatives after a rare win, but other than the pitching and the outcome, the Reds didn’t look good (Phillips getting picked off second, failed sac bunts, etc.), and Narron’s late game moves were really frustrating to the few Reds fans in attendance. I think that all the Reds, including the manager, were pressing – trying to win the game on every pitch. Hopefully everybody can relax now.
I’ll be back Wednesday, this time in section 118 (behind 3b). Not as good as behind the plate for a pitcher’s duel. Hopefully we’ll see consecutive wins for the first time this month. Peavy vs. Bronson – heaters vs. frisbees. Should be entertaining.