Thursday, June 24, 2010

Games 71, 72, and 73: Reds sweep A's

I really liked Oakland's park. But that's probably because I hate crowds. When individual tickets went on sale this off-season, we got tickets to the Monday night game. Good seats in the 20th row behind the dugout. This was section 113, which we shared on Monday and Wednesday with Dusty Baker's family (and maybe Jonny Gomes's mom on Wednesday). We went with our friends Thomas and Amy who live in Mountain View. The attendance was about 11,000 but it seemed less, because it is such a big stadium. I hear the place is absolutely crazy for Raiders games, which I would love to see. But it's not a great place for a baseball game.

Coming off of the sweep in Seattle, the Reds took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Phillips (out of the lead-off hole) got on on an error and Votto doubled off the wall. A sign of improvement? Not really. It was quiet until the 9th. The A's got a run off of Leake in the 5th with a walk and two singles. In the top of the 9th, Stubbs walked and stole second. Bruce, batting for Heisey (Bruce didn't start against Gonzalez, a reasonably tough lefty) knocked in Stubbs. Three outs away from the win. But Cordero gave up a home run to Kouzmanoff on the first pitch he threw to tie the game. But leading off the tenth, Hernandez hit a line shot that hit about half way up the foul pole. It was the offensive highlight of the trip. Votto and Rolen homered back-to-back later in the inning and the Reds had a four-run lead. Cordero walked the first two guys in the bottom of the tenth and Dusty yanked him. It's one thing to give up an opposite field home run to the lead-off guy when you're up one. It's a completely different thing to walk the first two with a four-run lead. Herrera came in and gave up a hit to Jackson to load the bases, but he got Sweeney to ground out. Jordan Smith came in and got another ground-out and a strikeout to earn his first career save. To me, that left the obvious question: was it time to make Rhodes the closer?

Apparently not. After the 6-4 Monday win, Dusty went right back to Cordero to save a 4-2 game Tuesday night, which he did without incident. He gave up a lead-off hit, a strikeout, and another hit, but he finished it off with a double play. Tuesday night we had a big group with some of our friends and some friends of friends. We sat right near the top of the lower section, right behind the plate. I told you the outcome, but the big story was Arroyo, who went 8 innings only giving up two runs. He didn't walk anyone and gave up only 5 hits. The win evened our record on the road trip (the Reds were 2-3) and set up a shot at a sweep, which they did on Wednesday. The crowd was about 12,000.

We had no tickets for Wednesday afternoon, but got two right behind the Reds' dugout. Same section as Monday night, but only about 7 rows behind the dugout. Surprisingly, there were over 20,000 in attendance. But our section was not full. We had no one directly in front of us or right beside us. The weather was absolutely beautiful, sunny and 70. And the Reds did not disappoint. Bruce's day-off apparently worked. Counting the big pinch hit on Monday, he was 7-9 for the series, including 3-3 on Wednesday, with a big two-out two-run single in the first. That was all Cueto needed. He pitched in and out of trouble but did not give up a run in 7 plus innings. He left after he gave up two hits to start the eighth. He was helped out by Massett who came in and got a double play (on a very nice play by Cairo, filling in for Rolen) and a strikeout to end the threat. The big play of the game, however, happened in the fourth inning. With the bases loaded and no out, Gross hit a soft liner/pop-up to Phillips at second. Phillips let it drop in front of him and fired home for the force. Hernandez fired to third to get the next force, but Cairo kind of waited to tag the runner. I'm pretty sure if he had fired to second they might have had a triple play. But the double play was enough. Rosie struck out to end the inning.

Bob Geren, the A's manager, went nuts and got tossed. The crowd didn't really react to anything other than Geren's tantrum. I'm not even sure the crowd knew why he was arguing. Later in the game, there was a very small mock cheer when the umpire called the infield fly rule. If that had happened in Cincy, the crowd would have gone crazy both times.

Today, we're off to Yosemite. One of my favorite places in the world.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Games 69 and 70: Blue Sox Baseball goes to Seattle to see the Reds; Reds' offense doesn't make the trip

I’m on the plane to Oakland from Seattle looking at snow caps below and the Pacific Ocean on the horizon. Beautiful. We headed west on Saturday (we were supposed to leave Friday, but that didn’t quite work out -- I blame the Cubs) to see the Reds take on the Mariners and A’s in interleague play.

The Reds were swept in Seattle. Good pitching, but no offense. They lost two games 1-0 and only scored one run in the three game series. I’m not sure they even got an extra base hit. Safeco Field lived up to its reputation as a pitchers’ park; the ball did not carry at all. The Reds hit a lot of deep flies that were easy outs for the terrific Seattle outfield, mostly Ichiro and Franklin Guiterez.

The Reds’ pitching was solid, with Cueto and the pen combing to give up only one run on Friday, and Harang and the pen repeating that on Sunday. LeCure gave up 5, but three were on a three-run homer to the next-to-last batter he faced.

Seattle was fun. I swear the sun peaked out once, the entire time we were there, and just as we were taxiing down the runway to take off for Oakland. I’m not exaggerating.

We got in just in time to get to the ballpark early on Saturday afternoon (about 17 hours after our planned arrival). We stayed at the Westin and walked down First Ave. all the way to the ballpark. About a 35 minute walk. After the game it was right back to the hotel, which was really nice and centrally located.

On Sunday morning we met some friends at the Public Market for breakfast at Lowell’s. I got the breakfast fish tacos and Rachel had Seattle Joe’s omelet. Good food with a good view of Elliott Bay. Our friends were there for the game Friday, and then heading down the coast to the beach and Oregon wine country.

After the game Sunday, we did the Underground Seattle tour which was cool. We realized, however, that we were basically walking around in our basement at home, which is just a couple years younger than Seattle after the 1888 fire. We’re going to start an Underground Covington tour.

This morning, we stopped at Starbucks (when in Rome) and walked the other direction (north) to the Space Needle. I always love to get the lay of the land and the Space Needle was a great way to do that. We got a great view of the awe-inspiring Husky Stadium. Then it was off to the Public Market for some cheese and more chocolate covered cherries.

Three games in Oakland; let’s hope the offense makes the trip with us.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Game 65: rain

Last night's federal employee night at the ballpark was not as good as last year's. We had good seats (and at half price) but not a great outcome.

Harang gave up three runs in the first. He started to settle down (struck out the side in the third) but didn't come back after a long rain delay interrupted the fifth inning. We waited a couple of hours, but the game didn't start up again until we were already at home getting ready for bed. The Reds lost 12-0. I guess I have to count that one against my record, but I don't like it.

We did get to spend the wait with some friends up for the game from Lexington, so not a waste. And the Reds did show the NBA Finals on the jumbotron during the delay.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bullpen help

Thanks to a loyal reader, I provide this link from John Fay on the Reds' bullpen.

Reds draft

Here is what prospect guru Kevin Goldstein said recenlty about the Reds in his N.L. Central draft re-cap for Baseball Prospectus:

Cincinnati Reds
Day One Selections
12. Yasmini Grandal, C, Miami

Inside the Pick: In the days leading up to the draft, Grandal is rumored to have floated a big price tag, which made the Royals nervous at four, and had some thinking he might slide all the way out of the first round. In the end, he went about where his talent belonged.
What He is: An excellent offensive prospect for a catcher as a switch-hitter with power and patience. He also has a plus arm and earns huge grades for his makeup and leadership skills.
What He is Not: Other than the arm, Grandal's defense can be slow and sluggish, with one scout saying, "When I look at him back there, it's like watching some 34-year-old Triple-A veteran." Like Yonder Alonso, another first-round pick from Miami with the Reds, he struggles at times against lefties.
Path with the Reds: If the pre-draft rumors of a big-money request are true, Grandal likely won't sign until the deadline. It was be interesting to see if the Reds try to get him some time in the Arizona Fall League or just wait until 2011.

Through Three Rounds
2. Ryan LaMarre, OF, Michigan
3. Devin Lohman, SS, Long Beach State

LaMarre is a lanky, toolsy outfielder who impressed with his athleticism at Michigan, but didn't exactly fill up the stat sheet. He has already signed and tied a team record with three stolen bases in his second pro game for Low-A Dayton. Lohman is one of those polished college infield types with solid tools across the board and great makeup, but nothing that really stands out.

Of Note Afterward: Fourth-rounder Brodie Greene is, in many ways, a clone of Lohman. Sixth-round pick Drew Cisco is the grandson of former big-league pitcher and coach Galen Cisco and it shows, and while he doesn't blow anyone away on a stuff level, he has three average-to-slightly-plus offerings and the command of a veteran.
Summary: Much of the success of this draft could end up revolving around Grandal, as the remainder of the Reds’ selections were predictable, if not out-and-out boring.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Relief help

The Reds offense is humming, and the starters have been good enough to keep up. But the bullpen is in trouble. You think Dusty wants to use Rhodes in the seventh inning of an 11-5 game? The pen has some good arms, but the guys seem to be getting tired. Masset has been plain bad, and probably needs to move out of the high-leverage role he filled so well last year. But for who? A lot will depend on Sam LeCure today. If he looks good (and he's already down 1-0 in the first) today, he can stay in the rotation while Bailey heals. But he could also move into the bullpen and just give the guys some relief (no pun intended).

But I think the real answer is Edinson Volquez or Aroldis Chapman. Either could do probably do what David Price did for the Tampa Bay Rays during their 2008 post-season run. Those two are raw (Chapman) or rehabbing (Volquez) so the Reds don't want to rely too heavily on them in the rotation. But boy could the Reds use a couple of live arms in the bullpen.

Game 63: Scotty Gomes

Rachel and I were at a bobblehead night for WMP a couple years ago and he hit two home runs and robbed a home run. We went to Jason LaRue tractor hat night and he didn't even start. Instead, David Ross started and hit two home runs. We immediately started calling him David LaRoss.

Rachel asked me yesterday what I thought Rolen would do for his bobblehead night and I said, "hit two home runs and rob a home run." He had a great night, two for four with an rbi and a run, and a nice defensive play, but the big story was Jonny Gomes, who hit two three-run homers in his first two at bats. He then got hit twice and struck out. Here is what I said the night Gomesy hit three home runs in a game.

I was pretty disappointed that the Reds did not retaliate against the Royals. The first hit of Gomes looked unintentional, but the second one was pretty bad. Even if not intentional, you can't hit a guy twice (plus two other guys in the game) and not get plunked. I think Dusty dropped the ball. With an 11-5 lead, you've got nothing to lose. Look for the Reds to plunk a guy today if the Royals get a big lead.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Game 58: Fan Fortune

On a whim, and mostly because of the nice weather, Rachel and I headed down to the ballpark on Monday night for the Reds' game against the Giants. We got upper-upper deck seats, but ended up moving to the lower part of the upper deck after a couple of innings. We have a group outing next week, so checked out that section (418).

In the sixth, a woman (it turned out to be Walt Jockety's daughter) approached me about playing Fan Fortune. It's a Wheel of Fortune type game they play after the seventh inning. I said sure and ended up on the jumbotron figuring out that hitters hand out in the Batters Box. These puzzles are typically pretty easy and I usually get them without even seeing the additional letters provided (they give you R-E-D-S ahead of time. This is what popped up:

_ _ _ _ E R S
_ _ _

I panicked. I had no idea what the answer was, but I had three more letters coming: A, N, and T. (You have to pick your extra letters ahead of time.) Before I saw the added letters some dude in my section yelled out the answer. I like to think I would have gotten it, though with:

_ A T T E R S
_ _ _

Of course, as soon as it happened, facebook lit up and I started getting texts, etc. Fun times, and I won a $100.00 gift card for the Hollywood casino (but not to gamble with).

Oh, by the way, the Reds lost. It was the first loss for me this year when I wasn't sitting in our seats. I'm now 6-5 on the year.

Lost finale

Several folks have asked about my thoughts on the Lost finale. I had mentioned that there was no way they could wrap everything up and that ultimately the finale would have to disappoint. Again, I was half right. They didn't wrap everything up, but the finale did not disappoint. Here is a link to a great recap if you want more.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Jim Joyce

Jim Joyce is a guy most baseball fans don't know . . . until tonight. He will live in infamy with the likes of Don Denkinger after calling Jason Donald safe at first in what would have been the last out of a perfect game for Armando Galarraga (the Little Cat?).

Watching live, I actually thought he was safe. Watching the replay, he was clearly out. I wondered if the ump thought Galarraga bobbled the ball. There was no question the pitcher beat the batter to the base and the ball was to his glove. In fact, the ump hesitated a moment and Galaraga kind of flipped his glove to secure the ball. I'm interested to hear what the ump says. I was watching the Cleveland broadcast and they didn't mention it. In fact, they gave no indication other than Joyce blew the call. The Indians' announcer went as far to say this play changed his mind about instant replay; he's now for it.

You need a little luck to pitch a perfect game, and Galarraga got a little, when a ground ball bounced off his foot and Brandon Inge was able to field it at third and throw out the runner. You also need help, which Galarraga got in the form of a great catch by Austin Jackson leading off the ninth.

He didn't get help from Miguel Cabrera who played the Donald grounder very tentatively (as if he were nervous) and threw very softly to first. Maybe he should have let Carlos Guillen field it at second, but that's a tough call. He should have been a little more aggressive, though. Obviously, it was unlucky for the ump to blow the final call. (I have an interesting theory. The black cloud followed me home from Vegas. I didn't turn on the game until Donald came to bat.)

The most troubling thing, other than the umpire blowing the call, was his aggressiveness (Update: on t.v. Leyland just said the ump told him Donald just beat him to the bag -- nice, the ump can't change his approach -- man, Leyland is being incredibly gracious with the media.) after the play. Joyce was very demonstrative and yelling at the Tigers' dugout. That was way out of line. Basically, the umpires are out of control. After last season's debacle that was the post season, the umpires should be more willing to let the players argue. Instead, they are continuing to push themselves into the spotlight. This is unacceptable. We've already seen numerous instances of the umpires acting inappropriately on and off the field.

MLB wants to implement all of these changes to speed up the game. All MLB really needs to do is enforce the strike zone and the game will be plenty fast.

The best part of all of this; Galarraga handled himself like a pro. He gave a smirk is all to the umpire. Then he pitched out of the wind-up. He started from the stretch and then moved to the wind-up, which I took as an unwillingness to acknowledge the umpire's mistake. The runner stole second and third, but he got the next guy to ground out. He never said anything to the umpire. Complete class on his part

By the way, Jr. retired today. I've been formulating a blog post on my displeasure with Jr. ever since I started blogging. I promise to get it up soon as a reaction to the retirement announcement.

UPDATE: Galarraga's on t.v. saying Joyce apologized to him, everyone's human, and no one is perfect. That is classy. Joyce apologizing is okay, but he needs to call for the umps to be less aggressive and call for replay under this circumstance. I'll do more on replay later.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mets/Yanks rivalry, Seinfeld style

You guys should definitely click on the links within this blog post. I'd like to hear everyone's favorite comments. My favorite: the magic loogie.