Daily Archives: April 29, 2006

April 29, 2006

Game 24: Astros 3, Reds 6

The Reds won the game and the series against the Houston Astros this afternoon by a score of 3-6.

Pitching stud Aaron Harang started with the pitching and worked seven and two-thirds innings, allowing three runs (earned) on five hits and two walks to get the win.

Pitching--well, I don't want to say “dud,” but…--Kent Mercker finished out the eighth, but not before allowing an inherited runner to score on two hits. I was a little afraid of what might happen if Harang boiled over sitting in the dugout watching Mercker's performance. I can see how that fella can be pretty intimidating. But when Ryan Freel caught the final out of the inning and Harang cracked a smile, I released the breath I didn't realize I'd been holding, and all was well.

As is becoming commonplace, David Weathers worked a hitless ninth to get the save.

The Houston Astros have been out-homering the Reds this series. They first got on the board in the second inning when Jason Lane sent one flying out over left field while Preston Wilson stood on base. Score: 2-0.

The Reds didn't make an appearance on the scoreboard until the fourth inning. After getting Rich Aurilia out, Andy Pettitte walked Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns to set up Edwin Encarnación for the RBI double. Brandon Phillips used his superpowers to coax a bad throw to first from Pettitte to score Kearns and Encarnación while keeping himself safe on first.

Phillips advanced to second on a single by Harang, stole third base, and then scored when ball four to Freel got away from the catcher. Let me tell you, this play confused the heck out of me when it happened, because I couldn't figure out why Freel was running to first when he hadn't swung at the pitch. It took me a moment to realize that, though he had walked, he was running to get out of the way of Phillips. Score: 4-2.

Aurilia hit the Reds' first home run of the series (and only the second of the last two series) in the bottom of the fifth. Dunn then doubled, moved to third on Kearns' single, and came home two batters later when Phillips grounded into a fielder's choice. Score: 6-2.

The top of the sixth featured a truly remarkable catch by Jason LaRue. Willy Taveras popped up a bunt, oh probably six feet into the air and maybe four feet in front of the plate. LaRue managed to lunge forward and catch the ball right at the ground, then had the presence of mind to get up and double Craig Biggio off second base.

Felipe Lopez committed an error on the very next play that required Harang to face a couple more batters in the inning than he otherwise would have. The giving away of outs had been a hallmark of the Reds 2005 team that I wouldn't mind never seeing again. Nevertheless, the score remained 6-2.

Harang allowed a single to Chris Burke to lead off the eighth before getting Biggio and Taveras out. Still, Narron pulled Harang in favor of Mercker to turn around Lance Berkman. Berkman promptly singled to center to bring in Burke. Mercker then gave up a double to Ryan Ensberg before finally inducing the fly ball to center from Mike Lamb. Final score: 6-3.

The win brings the Reds record to 17-7 and gives them a one-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLC standings. The Reds go for the series sweep tomorrow at 1:15 p.m. Elizardo “The Lizard” Ramirez faces off against Taylor “Sweetie Face” Buchholz.

April 29, 2006

Bloggers, the Press, and Major League Baseball

Denver Sport Zone, a sports blog, has uncovered a blanket policy of Major League Baseball to ban all blogs not associated with a traditional media outlet from press access to games. Denver Sport Zone thinks MLB giving access to bloggers would be a step in the right direction. However, JD says that he doesn't want a press pass anyway since he doesn't have any questions that the existing media doesn't already ask.

Yeah, I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with JD on this one, for at least three reasons.

Number one, I do have questions that the media doesn't already ask. I serve a niche audience looking for humor, quirks, and the human side of the sport. Among the most common non-porn related searches that lead readers to Red Hot Mama are queries for information on Felipe Lopez's tattoos and the marital status of Adam Dunn. You would be shocked at how many people looking for information on Raquel Aurilia end up right here.

The stuff you find on Red Hot Mama isn't the stuff you find in the Cincinnati-land papers. Well, it is, but it's aggregated into one place from little tidbits gathered from human-interest stories over the years. I could serve my audience more quickly, easily, and completely if I had more access.

Number two, it's not just the questions I would ask, but the way I would ask them. I have more-or-less the same information as every other Reds source on the Internet, yet the number of people who make their way to Red Hot Mama every day to read what I have to say continues growing. Why? People must love listening to my voice. I know I do.

Currently I can regurgitate the information I read in the papers and on other blogs in my own words, and I can give my perspectives on that information. Who knows what I would find if I could gather that information myself. Perhaps I'd still be posting up Human League entries that sound remarkably like the MLB bio, but maybe I'd be giving you all-together different content. I cannot know that without having the access to try.

Number three, press-level access for bloggers would keep the press honest. I don't know why big stories, like players using steroids, don't get reported in a timely manner, but certainly the fact that reporters have so much on the line has something to do with it. They have a steady job and a vote for the Hall of Fame and a press box with a loud-speaker to feed them their lines. The legitimate media has too much to lose to stay legitimate.

On the other hand, you let in a blogger and all bets are off. Even if the blogger doesn't report the news first, she'll be a constant reminder to the actual reporter that he'd better stay on his toes or he'll lose something more important than his free buffet: his credibility.

This may, in fact, be the single biggest reason that Major League Baseball (and the national media) doesn't want to give bloggers access. However, as blogs continue to grow as favored news sources, excluding bloggers will only give the impression that MLB has something to hide.

It would be smart and proactive of Major League Baseball to begin figuring out now how to make themselves available to the blogosphere, and the Reds are the perfect team to do it. They're the first professional team. The first team to play at night under artificial lights. They can be the first to demonstrate that they're not ashamed of their team operations by opening up to bloggers.

Lately the Reds have fallen out of their trendsetter role, but we've got a new ownership group with a Senior Director of Business Operations who told me to my face that the Reds would be looking for ways to incorporate weblogs into their marketing operations. Sure, he then failed to return every message I left him, but still it seems like a step in the right direction.

April 29, 2006

If This Is A Dream, Don’t You Dare Wake Me Up!

Yesterday, as we all know, the Reds played the Astros, with Claussen going against Oswalt. Oswalt was 15-0 against the Reds, and Claussen not only had never beaten the Astros before but had gotten ZERO run support from his teammates in his last three starts against 'em.

So what happens? Phillips scores two runs and drives in two more, the Reds beat the Astros and finally hang a loss on Oswalt for the first time ever, 5-4.

Today, they handed Andy Pettite his third straight loss, getting to him for 11 hits, three walks, a throwing error, a wild pitch, and six runs in five innings. Harang got his fourth win in a row after losing on Opening Day. Maybe he just wanted to get it out of his system that first time out. Reds win it, 6-3.

All that's pretty impressive. But even more impressive to me than what they have done, is the way they have done it.

In recent years the Reds have basically had one approach to scoring runs, which was to stand around and wait for somebody to hit a home run. It worked to some extent, they led the league in runs scored last year. They also lost a lot more than they won, and when they faced top-shelf pitchers such as Oswalt they were lucky if they scored any runs at all.

This team, this year, isn't like that. They swept their recent three-game road series against the Nationals while hitting just one homer. They got a couple wins against the Brewers by using speed to manufacture runs. During one game in Milwaukee, Phillips scored on an infield single. What's the big deal about that? He scored on an infield single, all the way from second base!

Friday against the Astros they scored two runs on groundouts, and another on a sac fly. Today (Saturday) they two runs on one infield single, thanks to a throwing error by the opposing pitcher. Phillips scored on a wild pitch. Another run scored on a groundout - Phillips scored it even though the Astros had their infield “in” to prevent the run from scoring. Oh, they did score one on a home run, too, as Aurilia led off the sixth with a dinger. For that matter, they also hit six homers in a single game against the Cubs. So, go ask Glendon Rusch if the Reds can still hit the long ball. Then duck.

Anyway, what happened today was against a top-shelf pitcher, Andy Pettitte. They've also beaten Carpenter, Zambrano, Livan Hernandez, Oswalt, and Sheets so far this season. They basically beat Willis too, although Dontrelle didn't get charged with the loss. That's seven pretty good pitchers whose heads the Reds have collected in April. Furthermore, much of this has happened with Dunn in a slump and Griffey on the DL.

Oh, and along the way, Arroyo and Harang have for the most part looked like a darn good 1-2 punch at the front end of the starting rotation, and Todd Coffey has pretty much been Lights Out in the bullpen.

Dunn is still among the league leaders in home runs. But now Encarnacion and Phillips are among the league leaders in RBI, Freel and Lopez are among the league leaders in steals, Harang is among the strikeout leaders, and even Weathers has gotten into the act, challenging for the league lead in saves.

In short, this is no longer a team that relies on one or two guys to do the damage. It's much more of a team effort - and the effort is paying off. The Reds are alone in first place (having just personally knocked the Astros out of first by beating 'em twice in a row), and have the best record in baseball, plus a six-game winning streak, the longest active win streak in the majors.

All I can say is, if this is a dream, I've got a dark alley and a bad idea that says nobody better wake me up anytime soon.

John (HMZ)

April 29, 2006

Game 23: Astros 4, Reds 5

The Reds continued to a four-game winning streak and handed Roy Oswalt a loss for the first time last night with a 5-4 win over the Astros.

Lefty Brandon “The Pickle” Claussen pitched five and a third innings, allowing two runs (earned) on six hits to get the win. He struck out two, walked five, and hit Biggio to prove that lucky is, indeed, better than good.

Rick White, of all people, took over for Claussen in the sixth and didn't allow a hit to the two batters he faced. Todd Coffey sprinted in for the seventh and eighth innings and kept the Astros quiet with just a hit and a walk. David Weathers pitched in the ninth, allowing two runs (earned) on two hits to get the save.

Brandon Phillips, who must be starting to singe from being on fire so long, got the Reds on the board in the second inning when he hit a double and Jason LaRue knocked him in. Score: 0-1.

The Astros tied it up in the top of the fourth when Morgan Ensberg took a walk and Chris Burke knocked him in two batters later. Claussen would yield three walks in the fourth inning, but allow only one run. Score: 1-1.

The Reds came back in the bottom of the fourth, though. Phillips singled to lead off the inning, stole second while LaRue batted, advanced to third on LaRue's groundout, and scored on Claussen's groundout. Ryan Freel would provide one more hit in the inning, but just one was all Phillips needed to take back the lead. Score: 2-1.

By the way, though it didn't affect the score today, Felipe Lopez also successfully stole two bases, to take the lead in stolen bases with nine to Ryan Freel's eight. I might also point out that Lopez hasn't been caught stealing yet, while Freel has been caught four times.

In the bottom of the fifth, Rich Aurilia singled, moved to third on Scott Hatteberg's outfield hit, and scored on Austin Kearns' sacrifice fly. Score: 3-1.

Preston Wilson led off the top of the sixth with a 2-1 home run. It was the only legitimate home run of the game. Score: 3-2.

The Reds tacked on their final two runs of the game in the bottom of the seventh when Adam Dunn, Aurilia, and Hatteberg each singled to load up the bases. Again, Phillips came through with the two-RBI hit up the middle two batters later. Score: 2-5.

The Astros tried to get back into the game in the ninth when Willy Taveras doubled and Lance Berkman hit a ball into the waiting hands of an interfering fan. It was ruled a home run and brought the Astros still one run away from forcing the bottom of the ninth. Final score: 4-5.

The win brings the Reds record to 16-7, the best record in baseball. They continue the series this afternoon at 1:15 at Great American Ball Park. Aaron Harang takes the mound for the Reds against Andy Pettite.

April 29, 2006

All-Star Alternate Dimension

According to the official site, the All-Star Ballot is now available. Also according to this story, Dunn has never been to the All-Star game.

Help me out here. Did I hallucinate 2002?

My grasp on reality notwithstanding, you can vote here.