Saturday, April 12, 2008

red alert!

nate mclouth
Nate McLouth from Pittsburgh

Fundamentals, fundamentals - it's the song we've been singing all season. And tonight the Pirates were far from perfect, but did enough things the right way to whip the Reds again, 4-3.

First, Ian Snell got the game into the seventh even though he was struggling throughout. Then Damaso Marte, Tyler Yates, John Grabow and Matt Capps brought it home. Snell got the win, Capps the save, and the rest of the gang got holds.

In the first, the Pirates kept the Reds off the board when Xavier Nady threw out Cory Patterson, trying to score on a fly ball. The much maligned Ronny Paulino made the tag, both catching and hanging on to the ball while blocking the dish.

The Bucs drew first blood in the second when Joey Votto let a ball get under him and into right. It put Pirates on 2nd & 3rd, and Paulino scored them with a shot to the opposite field. He hit behind the runners and they both came in. Sweet. 2-0, good guys.

The Reds tied it in the fifth, but the Pirates came right back in their half of the inning when Nady drilled a two out single to plate Nate McLouth. 3-2, Bucs.

Cincy rallied to tie it in the sixth. Then the Pirates wrestled the lead back in their half of the inning with some classic small ball.

Brian Bixler got his first MLB hit - fittingly, it bounced off a diving Brandon Phillip's glove for an infield single - and was bunted to second by Snell. McLouth scored him with another two out single. 4-3, Pittsburgh.

The Reds loaded the bases in the seventh with one out. Marte struck out Adam Dunn, and Yates came in to nail Edwin Encarcion on a fly to left. In the eighth, Cincy had two on with one out. Grabow got Patterson on a fielder's choice and Jeff Keppinger on a fly to center.

The ball was hit between Jason Bay and McLouth, and visions of another mash up like in Atlanta briefly flashed before our eyes. But *whew* that lesson was learned. It was a routine play tonight.

The ninth didn't start out much better. Ken Griffey Jr. (who made a couple of nice plays in right and had a pair of hits) led off with a broken bat single into right, and the speedy Ryan Freel came in to run for him.

But Capps got Phillips to roll one to Freddie Sanchez, and Bixler made a nice turn on a high feed to complete the double play. Another hopper to second base, and it was all over.

Once again, Cincinnati did everything but win the game. They stranded 11 more runners and committed three errors. But hey, it's two in a row. Let's enjoy the streak.

On the random thought front: After reading about the eye doc who warned the Penguins that their goalie, Marc Andre Fleury, was giving NHL shooters a great target by wearing bright yellow pads, we saw Ronny Paulino's catching gear in a different light.

Hmmmm...bright yellow highlights on the knees and mid chest protector. A nice little triangular target for our strike-challenged staff, perhaps...? Every little bit helps, even it is just some serendipity caused by the team colors.

We'd really be impressed if someone in the organization actually planned it that way. Maybe Ryan Doumit would like a set of the garish gear, too.

Kent Tekulve, FSN analyst, said recently that he doesn't consider Pirate errors to be a weakness in fundamentals, but just part of the game. We agree, but only to a point.

Making the routine play, to us, is a keystone of fundamentally strong baseball. And to the Bucs credit, they still work on pre-game fielding drills just as if they're back at Pirate City.

On the MLB front:
Nice to see Mike Lincoln back in the bigs. He was a rising star for the Pirates in 2002, appearing in 55 games with an ERA of 3.11. Then, while in Pirate City during 2003 camp, he stepped on a golf ball while doing his outfield running (there was a nearby golf complex) and fell, bruising his shoulder.

Lincoln, a righty, was never the same (in fact, he went on the 60 day DL after his tumble), and after moving on to the Cards in 2004, he had Tommy John surgery for an unrelated elbow injury - twice! The hard throwing 33 year old is just now returning to the majors with the Reds after a four year sabbatical from the game.

And you may remember Cincy SS Jeff Keppinger. The Pirates drafted him in the 4th round in 2001. He was shipped to the Mets with Kris Benson in 2004 for Jose Bautista, Ty Wiggington, and Matt Peterson. The Mets in turn traded him to KC for Ruben Gotay in 2006, and he landed with the Reds last year.

The 28 year old infielder has hit .309 over four seasons in the show, and is hoping to lock up the Red's SS job this year.

The Reds are wearing "Nuxy" patches to commemorate their long time broadcaster, Joe Nuxhall, who died of cancer in November.

He was the youngest player ever to appear in a modern era MLB game when he pitched as a 15 year old high school sophomore in 1944 for Cincinnati, back when the rosters were decimated by the Second World War.

(Fred Chapman was the youngest pro baseball player. He pitched five innings at the age of 14 on July 22, 1887 for the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association. It was his only appearance in the majors. Chapman was born in Little Cooley, Pennsylvania, in nearby Crawford County.)

Nuxhall returned to Hamilton (OH) High and graduated. He then went through the regular minor league drill and ended up pitching 15 years with the Reds, winning 130 games for them and earning the moniker "The Ol' Lefthander," part of his broadcast sign-off.

No comments: