About Me

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I am a freelance writer. I've covered the Cincinnati Reds, Bengals and others since 1992. I have a background in sales as well. I've sold consumer electronics, advertising and consumer package goods for companies ranging from the now defunct Circuit City to Procter&Gamble. I have worked as a stats operator for Xavier University, the University of Cincinnati, the College of Mount St. Joe and Colerain High School.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Reds Breaking Bad But Begin Anew

The last week of the season was the worst for the Cincinnati Reds.

Coming home from Pittsburgh last Sunday on the strength of an 11-3 win, things looked bright as they faced the New York Mets, who had a losing record.  Then a big series that could have won the NL Central Title for the Reds had fans excited for the weekend.

After a stirring 10-inning win on Monday, the Reds slid downhill, losing the last five games of the season.  The 4-2 loss to the Pirates on Sunday capped a horrible end of the season home stand.

Greg Reynolds started on the mound for the Reds.  The Reds regulars were in the game too but the Pirates lone starter Pedro Alvarez and the Pirates bench scored single runs in three of the first four innings to put the game away by the time the Reds' regulars left the soaked Great American Ball Park field.

Jose Tabata singled.  Alvarez walked. Late season acquisition John Buck singled to plate a run in the first.

Jordy Mercer circled the bases on a 240 foot home run that eluded Jay Bruce's sliding attempt to make the catch in the second inning.

Mercer tripled to the gap and scored on a single by Princeton High School and University of Cincinnati graduate Josh Harrison.

By the time the Reds batted in the ninth inning, Garrett Jones hit his 15th home run of the season to put the Pirates ahead 4-0.

Meanwhile the Reds' first seven batters went down in order at the hands of Brandon Crumpton, who made his fourth start of the season with a record of 1-1.

Cesar Izturis playing in place of Brandon Phillips, who had a lump on his shin from a foul ball on Saturday, singled to break the ice.  Zack Cozart led off the fifth inning with a double but was left there.

The Reds finally got on the board in the eighth inning against Jeanmar Gomez.  Derrick Robinson singled.  Izturis doubled.  Fan favorite Corky Miller doubled, his fourth double in his last five at-bats.  Those at-bats have been stretched from August 7.

Miller moved to third on a bunt by Billy Hamilton but Neftali Soto hit into a double play.

"We are 0-0," Dusty Baker said.  "We have to forget what happened this season.  The season starts over on Tuesday."

The Reds take off Monday at noon to take on these same Pirates for a chance to advance the National League Division Series against either the St. Louis Cardinals or Atlanta Braves.

"I don't think we worry about how we finished," Ryan Hanigan said. "We know it comes down to one game."

Johnny Cueto will pitch the game for Cincinnati.

"Cueto looks like he hasn't missed a beat.  We have confidence in him.  He has a lot of weapons. He used all his pitches and his last two starts were real good."

Carl Lowenstine Great Scout Better Man Retires Today

Carl Loewenstine completes 38th year in professional baseball and 34th as a scout with the Dodgers today in the Reds' press box. 

He has been an uncredited source for this blog over the years.  He has always been willing to explain what happened on the field and why.  He has been a good friend and be missed at Great American Ball Park by the many that know him.

Lowenstine joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1980 as an area scout and currently serves in the role of Major League scout. He began his scouting career with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1976. 

A native of Cincinnati and resident of Hamilton, Loewenstine has helped find Dodger talent that has produced six National League West Division titles and two World Championships, including shortstop Dave Anderson, who played 10 seasons in the Major Leagues, including 116 games for the 1988 World Champion Dodgers. 

Loewenstine was named as the Scout of the Year at baseball's annual Winter Meetings in 2005. 

"Carl has Hall of Fame credentials as a scout, but those of us who know him know that his integrity distinguishes him from the rest of the class," said Dodgers' Scouting Director Logan White at the time. "Not only is he a great example for young scouts to follow in their jobs, but also the way he handles himself off the field."

No truer words were ever spoken.  Lowenstine has never big leagued anyone and had plenty of baseball tales to tell which he willingly shared.

"You hear a lot about the Dodger way and Carl exemplifies that in every sense of the phrase," said Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti said of Lowenstine after the award.. "This honor speaks volumes about his work ethic and his character and the Dodgers are proud to have him as part of the family." 

 "This is probably one of the best things that have ever happened to me because it's an honor that comes from my peers," said Lowenstine in his acceptance of the honor. "They're my family away from my family." 

Lowenstine made a point of calling me a friend earlier today.  Carl the feeling is mutual.

Johnny Cueto Happy For Another Playoff Chance - Mat Latos Has Soreness

For the second year in a row the Reds' postseason pitching plans had to be scrapped early.

The Reds will start Johnny Cueto and not Mat Latos.

The Reds took great pains to set up the playoff pitching rotation to allow Latos to pitch Tuesday but the right elbow will not allow the 25-year old 14-game winner to pitch.

He informed Dusty Baker after the game on Saturday.

"Latos arm is barking a little bit," Dusty Baker said.  "We are hoping a couple of extra days off will have him ready for Atlanta (or St. Louis)."

Cueto had to leave the playoffs after eight pitches in San Francisco last season after 19 during the year.  He spent much of this season on the disabled list but has been excellent in his last two starts.

"It is out of necessity," Baker said.  "Whoever gets the best pitched game, hits with runners in scoring position and plays the best fundamental defense will win the game in Pittsburgh.

Cueto is happy to get another chance after leaving the mound in San Francisco.

"It is a meaningful game but it is the same game. I am happy to be able to pitch in it," Cueto said through interpreter Tomas Vera.

Joey Votto is confident in Cueto.

"There is no question that Johnny Cueto is our ace, injured or not," Votto said.  "Mat Latos made great strides this year challenging to be the ace."

There were times when Baker thought he would never have Cueto and it is fortunate for the Reds to be able to call on Cueto when bone chips in the elbow caused Latos to be skipped.

"You never know how someone is going to heal," Baker said.  "The injured player himself doesn't know.  Latos has bone chips floating in his elbow.  Most pitchers have them and they move.  Some pitchers have pitched with them for years.  We are hoping Latos will be ready by Thursday.  We are thankful to have Johnny Cueto back.  He is one of the best competitors we have on the team. We have full faith in Johnny Cueto."

Latos told Baker he could pitch in relief on Tuesday but will not be on the roster that day.

"I didn't like that idea," Baker said.

Cueto admitted that he may have tried too hard to get ready for the Giants last October.

"It is the same game and I try to do everything the same, but looking back, I may have been so excited that I may have tried to do too much," said Cueto of his sore oblique that forced him to leave the mound last October 6.  "I don't know how I got hurt but it may have been from doing too much."

Greg Reynolds will start the season finale on Sunday.

Brandon Phillips will not play Sunday.  He fouled a ball off his left shin on Saturday and had to leave the game.

"I'm feeling much better now," Phillips said. "When it first happened it looked like an egg. I am looking forward to Tuesday.  I don't think I will be playing tomorrow.  If it was for the home field, I would have played."

"All my teammates came in to check on me.  I thought it was broke.  If Byrd would have thrown to first he would have got me.  I couldn't feel my toes."

Phillips was as disappointed as the fans that the Reds have to travel to Pittsburgh.

"It would have been nice to play at home in front of our fans.  I back up what Luddy said but it is up to us to supply the energy.  We put ourselves in this situation and it is up to us to get ourselves out of it."

Baker expects to pencil Phillips into the lineup at PNC Park.

"Brandon went home with a machine they gave him to use for special treatment," Baker said.  "

Baker will start the normal lineup but they won't play the entire game.

"I thought about not playing any of them but that's not fair to the fans," Baker said.  "We will get the other guys in early to get some at-bats.  We will need them in the playoffs.  As badly as things went this weekend, we should still be greatful that we are in the playoffs, instead of being down about it."

Tony Cingrani will go to Goodyear, Arizona to get stretched out in case he is needed later in the playoffs.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Johnny Cueto Will Start The Wild Card Game In Pittsburgh

The Reds will start Johnny Cueto and not Mat Latos.

"Latos arm is barking a little bit," Dusty Baker said.  "We are hoping a couple of extra days off will have him ready for Atlanta (or St. Louis)."

Cueto had to leave the playoffs after eight pitches in San Francisco last season after 19 during the year.  He spent much of this season on the disabled list but has been excellent in his last two starts.

"It is out of necessity," Baker said.  "Whoever gets the best pitched game, hits with runners in scoring position and plays the best fundamental defense will win the game in Pittsburgh.

Joey Votto is confident in Cueto.

"There is no question that Johnny Cueto is our ace, injured or not," Votto said.  "Mat Latos made great strides this year challenging to be the ace."

Greg Reynolds will start the season finale on Sunday.

Bucs Bombard Veteran Arroyo - Send Wild Card Game To Pittsburgh

It may have been Bronson Arroyo's last pitch thrown as a Red.

Marlon Byrd hit the Pirates fifth home run of the game with Justin Morneau on base.  The blow followed Neil Walker's second home run of the game in the fifth inning and gave Pittsburgh a lead on the way to an 8-3 win that sent the wild card game to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

Arroyo pitched out of trouble in the second inning and got the first two outs of the third to reach the 200 inning mark for the seventh time in eight seasons with the Reds.  He also had a 200 inning season in 2005, his final season in Boston.

The last two innings were a complete nightmare for the 36-year old right-hander, who will be a free agent this winter and may opt to test the market.

Walker hit his first home run of the game.  Andrew McCutchen hit his 21st of the year before the crowd settled back down.

The Reds came back with three runs to take a 3-2 lead.

Shin-Soo Choo was hit by a pitch for the 26th time, extending his team record.  Choo leads the Major Leagues in that department.  The Pirates have hit him seven times this season.

Ryan Ludwick grounded out as Choo advanced to second.  Joey Votto walked for the second time in the game.  His first walk broke Joe Morgan's team record of 133 walks.  During the walk Choo advanced to third on a pitch that got away from catcher Russell Martin.  Brandon Phillips singled to right to score Choo.  Jay Bruce doubled high off the wall in leftcenter to drive in his 108th and 109th runs of the season.

Pedro Alverez quickly tied the game with his 36th home run of the season in the fourth.  Walker's 16th home run put the Pirates on top by a run.  Byrd's two-run shot ended the day for Arroyo.

Andrew Lambo hit his first Major League home run off Logan Ondrusek as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning.

The Reds faced an uphill battle from there

The Pirates bullpen has pitched the most innings of any bullpen in baseball coming into the game, 537.

Vin Mazzaro inherited a bases-loaded, one out mess from starter Charlie Morton, but he struck out Zack Cozart and got Ryan Hanigan on a fly ball that McCutchen made on the run in center.

Reds' Struggles At The Plate Explained

When a team is not scoring runs it looks listless.  There is no activity.  Everyone takes a right turn on the way to a bench seat.

Fans see this and assume there is a lack of effort.  The reality of the situation is that hitting is hard.  Teams are going to struggle from time to time.  They hope that they don't struggle at a bad time but really there is no good time.

The Reds have scored one run in its last 22 innings against the likes of Jon Niese, Daisuke Matsuzaka and A.J. Burnett.  The current slump has come at a time when the team was playing for the division title, then home field advantage in the wild card game on Tuesday night.

"You have to things that got you to this situation (playing in the playoffs).  You  know there are going to be times when you're up and down offensively," Baker said.  "I think it is easier to be more consistent on defense.  It's easier to be consistent in your pitching, if you have good pitching.  Offense tends to go up and down.  There are a lot of factors.  Who you're facing.  If you're not finding any holes, sometimes you're htting but not finding any holes.  Sometimes they are helping you out on the other side with errors or just not making plays.  I've said it 100 times.  It's not easy sitting over there and watch your team struggle.  They say that hitting the baseball is the most difficult things to do in sports.  Then they say that good pitching beats good hitting.  How many times have you heard that?  Then when you're not hitting they ask, 'How come you're not hitting?'  That doesn't make any sense when you think about the first two things."

The Reds have had three second year players that have struggled at various times this season.  Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco have struggled on and off.  Ryan Hanigan and Ryan Ludwick have battled injuries all season.

"There are guys that aren't at the same point in their career as far as knowing how to hit," Baker said.  "Some guys are ahead from the beginning. Some guys learn.  Some guys take longer to learn.  Chili Davis asked me, 'How do you walk?'  I said you walk by not swinging at a bad 1-1 pitch that makes it 2-1 or a bad 3-1 pitch.  A walk is a byproduct of the pitcher not making pitches."

"When David Concepcion came up he couldn't even spell hit," Baker said.  "He hung around Tony Perez and he learned.  It's not an over night process."

"There are only two things a pitcher can do to you and that's what I'm trying to stress," Baker said.  "They can either come at you, then run from you or run from you and if you take pitches come at you. Very few pitchers come at you and come at you and keep coming at you. You have to decide what a pitcher is trying to do to you early in the series.  You hope they don't try to get you out the same way all the time.  That means you're not making any  progress.  You adjust they adjust.  It is a series of adjustment.  You look at good hitters.  Over time there has nothing that hasn't been tried on Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Hank Aaron or Willie Mays.  Then after they tried everything and they see if they could hit on their backs.  You don't have that anymore.  If you're going to stick around here (major leagues) for a long time, you've  got to narrow your holes and figure out what they are trying to do to you.  And when your hitting out there you have to recognize fear.  Barry Bonds was the best at recognizing fear.  It's like that dog, if you show fear he is going to bark you around the corner."

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Reds' Back To The Wall

The Pirates got another well pitched game from A.J. Burnett to beat the Reds 4-1.

The Reds need to win Saturday and Sunday to host the wild card game.

The Pirated took advantage of wildness by Homer Bailey in the third inning to get all the runs Pirates' starter A.J. Burnett needed.

Bailey hit Starling Marte with a two strike pitch. After Neil Walker flied out, Bailey walked Andrew McCutchen and Justin Morneau on 3-2 pitches.  Marlon Byrd, who along with Morneau is one of three veteran players the Pirates traded for late in the season, grounded a single between short and third to score two runs.

"I was all over the place," said Bailey, who walked four in his third straight game.  Bailey had walked no more than three in his previous 21 starts. "It's tough. I have to go to videos and find out how to correct it."

"Homer lost command in the strike zone that one inning," Dusty Baker said. "He was trying hard.  Sometimes that is counter productive.  He didn't have it tonight."

Todd Frazier hit his 19th home run, two outs into the fourth but Burnett shut down the Reds for the second time in a week.

"He pitched a great game against us," Baker said.  "He threw more fastballs this time."

"He (Burnett) pitched a hell of a game," Frazier.  "We needed to break the ice there.  We thought we could get another spark going.  We know what they've got.  They know what we've got.  We can't put our heads down now.  We're in the playoffs.  We have to come in here tomorrow get a win and away we go."

"You look over at the Reds.  They have Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Shin-Soo Choo and Zack Cozart.  These guys can swing the bat," Byrd said.  "They have a great approach but A.J. knew when to throw the curve, the fastball.  He knew when to throw the change up."

Pedro Alverez belted his 35th home run high off the batters' eye in centerfield one batter after Byrd hit a ball off the leftcenterfield wall that was close enough for a home run to be reviewed.

Alvarez came into the at-bat 2-for-19 against Bailey with eight strike outs.

"I was just trying to compete," Alvarez said.

The Reds have been down a lot this year.  They have been playing catch up since falling 6-1/2 games behind as late as August 7.

"This team knows how to come back," Baker said.

The know that nothing is settled.

"We have another game tomorrow.  They all count," Burnett said.  "I was locked in tonight.  It helps that I've been through it all, the good and the bad.  I used the one pitch mentality, that's what I roll with. When I throw a good pitch.  I know I have to throw another one."

Ryan Ludwick Batting Second In Big Game Against Pittsburgh

Every arm chair manager in Cincinnati will do a double take on the Reds lineup.

Ryan Ludwick will be the ninth player to hit in the second spot in the batting order.

d The first question that Baker had to answer in the pre-game press conference was, Why Ludwick?  For some reason, very few people in Cincinnati has agreed with Baker's choice all season.

Baker explained, "I talked to Luddy about it.  He said that he batted second some in St. Louis.  I didn't see him as really being ready 100 percent.  They were walking Joey and then I had him between Joey walking a lot and Jay (Bruce) prone to the strikeout.  Ludwick was not very hot.  I was taking him out of the game late for defense, so we had a huge hole in the lineup.  If we went to extra innings, we had a big hole.  It came to me at night like things usually do.  I thought, 'Let me talk to him about it.' "

On Tuesday with Ludwick batting fourth behind Joey Votto, the Mets walked Votto a record five times.

The plan coming out of spring training, Brandon Phillips was going to bat second with Ludwick the cleanup hitter batting fourth between Votto and Bruce.

Ludwick injured his shoulder in the third inning of the first game of the season.  He missed four months, leaving Baker to scramble to fill the second spot in the lineup.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mets And Daisuke Matsuzaka End Reds' Division Championship Hopes

The Reds failed to come up with the run they needed to keep their hopes of a division championship alive. They still hope to play the wild card game at home.

Daisuke Matsuzaka scattered four hits in 7 2-3 shutout innings to win his third consecutive start, outdueling Cincinnati's Mat Latos in the New York Mets' 1-0 victory over the Reds on Wednesday.

The Reds came into the game in third place in the Central Division and second in the wild-card standings, one game behind Pittsburgh. The Pirates and Reds end the regular season with a three-game series starting Friday in Cincinnati. The Reds can only tie St. Louis but the Cardinals own the tie-breaker by winning the head-to-head series, 11-8.

Eric Young Jr. drove in the only run for the Mets, who won two of three in the series to further dampen Cincinnati's hopes of hosting the National League wild-card playoff game on Tuesday.

"We have to find a way to get that big hit," Dusty Baker said. "This team (Reds) seems to take the hard road most of the time. It is very important to have the home field advantage but its not impossible no matter where you play."

Baker is not worried about the team's "sense of urgency". In fact he believes it is an overused, meaningless term.

"No matter how urgent you feel, you can't hit the ball where you want to. If you could do that, you could feel the sense of urgency and get it done all the time. I think people use that term too much. Go into that clubhouse. You will see the guys are down but not out. It's o.k to be down. Just don't stay down. Anybody that has played sports knows that urgency does not help you. If anything it hurts you. I don't even like that term. We don't like to lose. We hate to lose."

Matsuzaka (3-3) allowed two walks and hit a batter. He struck out six and evened his record after three losses and a no-decision in his first four starts after joining the Mets in August.

He left the game with a runner on second and two outs in the eighth. Pedro Feliciano came on to walk Shin-Soo Choo before getting Joey Votto to fly out to center fielder Juan Lagares for the fourth time in four at bats.

LaTroy Hawkins pitched the ninth for his 13th save.

The shutout loss was Cincinnati's 11th of the season, after only four last season.

The Mets (73-85) earned their 10th shutout, three fewer than last season, and New York finished its road schedule with a winning record (41-40), wrapping up a 5-1 trip.

Before a crowd of 26,223, which lifted Cincinnati's season attendance to a Great American Ball Park-record 2,371,103, the Mets pushed across a run in the third.

 Latos hit Wilfredo Tovar to open the inning. Tovar went to second on Matsuzaka's sacrifice and moved to third on a passed ball before scoring on Young's single to right through a drawn-in infield.

Matsuzaka made the lead stand up with help from catcher Juan Centeno, who threw out Reds rookie base-stealing sensation Billy Hamilton, who was trying to swipe second with two outs in the fifth inning. Hamilton had been successful on his previous 13 attempts, and Centeno caught him without the assistance of a pitchout.

"The catcher put the ball right on the toe," Baker said. "Daisuke varied his delivery. He went to a slide step. It was going to happen sometimes and that's what it takes."

Latos (14-7) allowed four hits and one run with two walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings. He also hit two batters in slipping to 0-2 in four starts since his last win on Sept. 2 against St. Louis.

Latos was disappointed in the loss but pleased with his season as a whole.

"To take the positive out of today, I stayed healthy all year, made all my starts, set a career-high in innings," Latos said. "Whenever I do get the ball again, I'll be ready to go, ready to compete. I felt strong. Velocity was up. I'll take it into the next start."

NOTES: In Friday's series opener, RHP Homer Bailey (11-11), who pitched a no-hitter against the Pirates at Pittsburgh last Sept. 28, is scheduled to face RHP A.J. Burnett (9-11), who beat the Reds 4-2 last Saturday. ... Latos 210-2/3 innings pitched is a new career-high.... Billy Hamilton was caught stealing for the first time after 13 successful tries. Catcher Juan Centeno, who threw out 56 percent of runners trying to steal in the minor leagues, got Hamilton. “That’s why I was excited. As soon as he got on base, I got ready. I know he likes to go early,” Centeno said. Centeno stopped Tony Campana at 16-for-16 in minor leagues. “I got him, too.”... The Reds set a new Great American Ball Park attendance record with 2,371,103... Derrick Robinson had a pinch hit single batting for Cesar Izturis.  He is 8-for-29 as a pinch hitter... Reds' relievers have not allowed a run in the last five games, covering 18-2/3 innings...

Billy Hamilton Leads Off - Zack Cozart Off - Second Guessing Starts Now

Both managers are resting key players this late in the season.

The Reds have the playoffs on their individual and collective minds.  The Mets are mostly in salary drives but have the pride to try to play spoiler.

Billy Hamilton is the leadoff hitter and playing centerfield.  Shin-Soo Choo is in leftfield and batting second.  Ryan Ludwick and Zack Cozart are getting the day off.

David Wright the best hitter in the Mets' lineup will be on the bench resting.

Both managers know they may be second guessed by people who have never done their job at all, let alone been as successfully.

Terry Collins, the Mets' manager, has managed for 19 seasons -eight in the major leagues.  Collins has a .528 career winning percentage,  He was the Los Angeles Dodgers director of player development.  He has also managed in Japan.

Dusty Baker played 19 seasons in the Major Leagues, spent five seasons as the batting coach for the San Francisco Giants and the last 20 years as manager.  Coming into Wednesday's game his teams have a .527 winning percentage.

Still fans that think they know the game don't understand why highly paid professional athletes need an occasional day off to stay sharp and contribute.

"I hope that David (Wright) can play at least three of the last four games," Collins said.  "He just got back from an injury.  One thing that's hard for people to understand is how sore your body gets when you're tensed in a defensive position 175 pitches a day."

When asked about Hamilton's present in the lineup, Baker said, "Is there a question about my lineup today?"

"It is everyday," a writer said.  "We had to find out who was batting second, so we could stick up for you on twitter."

"You don't have to stick up for me, man," Baker said.  "I don't read them and I don't care.  I have been doing pretty good for 20 years without them."

"It is fun to argue with them though," the writer said.

"That's fine.  I'll let you do it," Baker said.

"Everybody knows what I should do," Baker said.  "Everybody can do my job.'

"That's because they do it with 20-20 hindsight," Hall of Fame writer Hal McCoy pointed out.

"Or they do it like on a fantasy league," Baker said.  "They can just plug in a reliever.  They don't need time to get loose."

Then Baker explained the lineup.

"You put Hamilton in there to do what he's been doing all his life, run," Baker said.  "Then you hope he can get on base to run.  In the American League, I'd bat him ninth which is double leadoff. Choo can hit any where down in the lineup.  It's no big deal.  Everybody is making a big deal out of it.  It's baseball."

Hamilton has shown that the Major Leagues don't scare him.

"I broke him in, slowly," Baker said.  "I wanted to give him time to work out. I gave him time to feel that he belonged.  The toughest part about being in the big leagues is feeling that you belong.  I didn't just throw him out there."

"The guys on our team have made him feel comfortable.  The guys on the team have accepted him big time," Baker said.  "He's easy to accept.  Some rookies are brash as hell.  You have to spank like once a week."

Choo hit all over the lineup in Cleveland.

"If you can hit, you can hit," Baker said. "It's just don't want to waste Billy Hamilton batting him second.  It is easier for Choo to hit behind Hamilton, than Hamilton to hit behind Choo."

Ludwick has three mult-hit games in the last four.

"I was a little worried about the game before last night.  He was having some trouble.  He is still a little in and out," Baker said.  "He hadn't had enough at-bats. The guy came off a pretty serious operation.  He probably won't be completely back until next season.  He talked to Sean Casey about it in Pittsburgh."

Casey had shoulder surgery.  The next season he hit for average but his extra-base hits were way down.

"Anybody that has had any kind of injury knows.  Sometimes you limp and you're not really hurt anymore but you still protect that area that was injured," Baker said.  "Ludwick is doing pretty good, not as well as he'd like to.  He is hard on himself.  We're hoping today and with tomorrow a day off. He can be ready for the Pirates.  I have interchangeable parts.  I can throw a different game plan on them depending on who is in the lineup."

Cesar Izturis is playing shortstop and batting eighth.

"I have Izturis in there because Cozart has been playing everyday at shortstop.  That's a lot of work," Baker said.  "He's been getting on base.  He's been running the bases. After a hot streak, comes a cold streak because you're fatigued.  You're on the bases a lot.  When you're cold, you're fatigued mentally because all you're doing is making a right turn and go sit down. If I didn't give it to him today, I can't give it to him against the Pirates and then the playoffs.  If I give it to him today, then he gets two days off. I have a little bit of know how."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reds Fall Off Pace

The law of averages caught up to Mike Leake and the Reds.

Leake was on a roll coming into the game with a career-high scoreless innings streak that reached 21-1/3 innings with a scoreless first.  The Mets had dropped six straight to the Reds dating back to last season.

Daniel Murphy put together a 10-pitch at-bat that resulted in a three-run, back-breaking home run to reverse the karma.

Leake's start tied the shortest of his career. He exited the game after 1-2/3 innings.

Jon Niese made the runs stand up by scattering eight hits and two key double plays.

"Niese pitched an outstanding ballgame against us.  We had a couple moments where we could have got back in it but we hit into double plays.  We have to find a way to pick up those runs." Baker said.  "Leake hasn't had a start like that in a while.  Anyone is capable of a bad start."

Leake escaped a first inning threat.  Eric Young singled to open the game.  One out later David Wright singled, sending Young to third.  Leake struck out Lucas Duda swinging and got Juan Lagares to ground out.

The Reds looked like they would put an early rally together in their half.

Shin-Soo Choo singled.  Brandon Phillips singled Choo to second.  Joey Votto was called out on strikes.  Ryan Ludwick, who had a tough night on Monday, singled to center.  Lagares charged the ball hard and threw home.  Choo was running home but the throw was on target and in time.  Choo was the second out.  Jay Bruce struck out looking.

"You had to send Choo there," Baker said.  "It was a big play.  There aren't too many centerfielders that can throw you out on a ground ball.  He made a heck of a throw.  It was good to see Luddy (Ryan Ludwick) swing the bat better."

Mike Baxter doubled to open the second.  One out later Wilfredo Tovar singled to score Baxter as Choo's throw home was late.  Tovar took secondbase.  Niese singled but Bruce nailed Tovar at the plate.  Leake got a break when Young's fly to deep left center bounced out of play to keep Niese from scoring but Murphy fouled off four two strike pitches before depositing the 10th pitch of the at-bat into the right-field bleachers.

"One bad pitch can change the game," Leake said.  "I wasn't making too many good ones."

The bullpen with Zach Duke, Logan Ondrusek, J.J. Hoover, Sean Marshall and Alfredo Simon gave the Reds a chance to come back.  They combined to blank the Mets on two hits the rest of the game.

It was a key moment for Marshall because he passed the test of pitching in back-to-back games.  He came back from the disabled list on September 15 and retired all seven batters he faced until he hit Duda with a pitch. Marshall got Lagares to hit into a force play.

The Reds scored a run in the second.

Todd Frazier opened the inning with a double.  He advanced on two ground outs with Devin Mesoraco picking up the RBI with a ground out to shortstop.

Cincinnati scored again in the fifth.

Choo's line drive to center was misplayed by Lagares into a triple.  Phillips walked but Votto hit a hard ground ball up the middle that Tovar turned into a double play.

Niese finished with seven innings.  He allowed eight hits and a walk but just the two runs.

Starting with Votto's double play, 12 Reds went down in order.  The only runner was Frazier, who struck out but reached first when the pitch in the dirt got away from the catcher d'Arnaud.  Fittingly, Vic Black earned his first career save when Zack Cozart bounced to the mound.  Black turned it into a 1-6-3 double play.

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Playoff Clinch Brings More Questions Than Answers For Reds

The Reds clinched a playoff spot on Monday night by defeating the New York Mets  3-2 and watching the last out in the St. Louis Cardinals' win over the Washington Nationals.

The five National League playoff teams are within 2-1/2 games of each other.

The Reds could even end up with the best record in baseball, not only escaping the one-game wild card playoff game but earning the home field advantage in every round.

Dusty Baker, Walt Jocketty and the coaching staff will have to pare the roster from the current 35 active players to 25.  Adjustments are allowed after each round.

Johnny Cueto's status is one of the mysteries the baseball staff will need to solve.  Another is the inclusion or exclusion of base-stealing phenom Billy Hamilton.

Run Billy Run T-shirts are seen throughout the Great American Ball Park crowd but do the Reds have the luxury of using the player with an exceptional talent but unproven in other facets of the game?

"We will let you know on Cueto," Baker said while acknowledging he could start in the postseason.  "We've talked about Billy (Hamilton).  We haven't decided yet.  There are a lot of variables."

Among the variables are who to leave off.  If Cueto starts, does Tony Cingrani get left out assuming he is healthy to begin with?  If Hamilton is on the roster, does Xavier Paul, who has been a valuable pinch hitter, watch from the sidelines?

"Billy is the topic of the day.  They're selling t-shirts up there but that's not the focal point," Baker said. "Where we're going Billy is a possible part of it. Who do you delete to take his place? Is he ready to start a game or come off the bench and get some hits you might need? There's a lot of factors here."

Baker lobbied to bring Hamilton up from Triple-A Louisville.  The 23-year old was not on the 40-man roster.  Hamilton used the 2013 season to transition from shortstop to centerfield.  He also was in the first year of an experiment to teach the natural right-handed batter to switch hit.  It was a lot to learn quickly.

"He's a fine young man," Baker said.  "I don't think he's in awe of this or anything.  He reminds me of Willie McGee.  When he (McGee) was a rookie, he was MVP of a World Series."

The speedster with 13 stolen bases in 13 attempts is also hitting .429 with two doubles.  He hit .256 at Louisville.

"Hamilton has hit higher here than he did at Triple-A and Double-A.  It doesn't make sense sometimes," Baker said.  "He's paid attention.  He made some changes.  He's learning a lot. I told him not to fool around.  It is easy to fool around when you're a kid.  He's done well."

Cueto has had two good starts after coming off the disabled list three times with lat and oblique problems.

"The other guys have pitched great but Johnny was the man," Baker said. "Nothing against anyone else, but just Johnny has a longer and greater track record. So it was just a matter of (building) endurance."

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UC Health Agreement With Colerain and Northwest Discussed By Reds' Team Dr.

The UC health agreement with Colerain and Northwest High School is discussed by Dr. Timothy Kremchek - team doctor for the Cincinnati Reds in the Business Courier.

See the link below:


Monday, September 23, 2013

Reds Win In 10 - Stay Tied With Pirates

Shin-Soo Choo singled past a drawn-in outfield in the 10th inning to give the Reds a 3-2 win over the New York Mets.

The Reds squandered several chances to score multiple runs off Aaron Harang and seven members of the Mets' bullpen.  The Reds stranded 15 base runners, twice leaving the bases loaded.

Choo made sure the 10th inning chance wasn't wasted.

Devin Mesoraco singled off the glove of Mets' thirdbaseman David Wright with one out in the 10th off Greg Burke.  Defensive replacement Derrick Robinson hit a high chopper over the head of firstbaseman Lucas Duda, sending Mesoraco to third.

The Mets brought in a left-hander to face Choo as they drew the outfield in to cut off a hit to the shallow part of the outfield, giving up the fly deep enough to score Mesoraco.  Choo hit a fly that bounced on the warning track for a single to win the game.

"My numbers aren't good with a left-hander on the mound, but I have confidence in myself," said Choo, who came into the game hitting .201 against left-handed pitching.  "I followed my approach."

Choo missed two games in Pittsburgh with a jammed thumb from sliding into firstbase headfirst on Friday night.

"I was happy to get back and contribute," Choo said.  "These are important games."

Washington lost to St. Louis and Pittsburgh won at Chicago.  All three Central Division teams clinched at least a Wild Card spot.  All three have a chance to win the Division.

"I was hoping the Nationals would win," said Dusty Baker, even though Washington's loss meant the Reds are a definite playoff team.  "We still want to win the division."

There was no celebration.

"This is my first time in the playoffs," Choo said.  "We want to win the division."

Johnny Cueto pitched very well for seven innings and built his pitch count up to 99.

"Cueto was excellent," Baker said.  "He should have given up just the one run.  Each time he goes out there, he gets his endurance up."

Cueto left the playoffs last season after throwing just eight pitches.  He would like to make the playoff roster after making his second start since coming off the disabled list for the second time this season.

"I feel good.  My velocity, everything is there," Cueto said.  "I talked to Dusty about pitching the eighth inning but he said, 'No, no that's enough.  I don't know what they are going to do with me for the playoffs.  That is up to them to decide."

The Reds scored two runs in the second inning.

Todd Frazier led off with a double to the gap in right-center.  Zack Cozart flew out to shallow center.  Ryan Hanigan single sharply to center.  Frazier was held at third.  Reds' starter Johnny Cueto popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt. Shin-Soo Choo singled to center to drive in his 53rd run of the year.  Brandon Phillips walked to load the bases.  Joey Votto drew the second of his career-high five walks to force Hanigan home. Votto tied Joe Morgan's team record with 132 walks for the season.

Aaron Harang starting for the Mets, hit a ground ball behind third to start the third inning.  Frazier's throw sailed out of play giving Harang, second base.  Eric Young Jr. got a bunt past Cueto and beat it out for a hit with Harang moving to third.  Daniel Murphy flied out to Choo in shallow center.  Harang couldn't score on it.  David Wright walked for the second time in as many at-bats.  Lucas Duda flied out to center.   This time it was deep enough for Harang to score the unearned run.

Duda hit a solo home run with the bases empty and two outs in the sixth.

The Reds threatened in the eighth.  Ryan Hanigan singled with two out.  Billy Hamilton was put on first base as the pinch runner.  Hamilton ran on the first move by Mets' pitcher Frank Francisco, who delivered the pitch to Chris Heisey.  Catcher Travis d'Arnaud rushed to make the throw but missed the ball that hit home plate umpire Brian Gorman in a painful spot.  The inning ended when Heisey struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch.

The Reds missed a golden opportunity to win it in the ninth.

Tim Byrdak started the inning for New York.  Byrdak while pitching for the Houston Astros, gave up a the Jay Bruce home run that clinched the Reds' division title in 2010.  Choo doubled to start the inning. David Aardsma replaced Byrdak.  Aardsma had inherited 18 base runners and none of them have scored.  Phillips squared to bunt but let the pitch go.  Catcher d'Arnaud threw to second but Choo took off for third reaching without a throw.  The Mets pulled the infield in.  Phillips grounded weakly to Omar Quintanilla at short for the first out.  Votto got his record setting walk intentionally, tying a team record for walks in a game for the third time.  Ludwick missed for the second time with the bases loaded. The Reds' leftfielder popped to second.  Bruce was walked intentionally.  Frazier lined out to center on a 2-2 pitch.  Aardsma has now stranded all 19 baserunners he has inherited, the most in the major leagues without allowing one to score.

"Choo got caught in no-man's land," Baker said.  "Mr. Choo has a very high baseball I.Q. and is very intelligent besides baseball.  He had the presence of time to keep going.  Most guys stop."

Choo felt lucky.

"It was my mistake.  You don't want to get thrown out at third.  I got lucky," Choo said.

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Reds, Pirates and Cardinals Play For Positioning

The Reds try to make the most of their situation.  They want a division title which is still possible.  It is improbable but the odds are not prohibitive against them.

The Reds are tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates -  two games behind St. Louis in the standings. Since the Cardinals own the tie-breaker with a 11-8 edge in head-to-head competition, the Reds are essentially three games behind St. Louis.

Should St. Louis fall behind the Reds and Pirates, the three-game weekend series between them will determine which team will prevail in a tie.  The two teams have split 16 games evenly.  Whichever team wins the series will have the advantage in the tie-breaker.

The Pirates hold the tie-breaker over the Cardinals by winning 10 of their 19 meetings.

Any combination of Reds/Pirates' wins and Washington Nationals' losses that add up to two will eliminate Washington.

All three Central Division teams will make the playoffs.  It will just be a matter of who wins the division and who hosts the single Wild Card game.

St. Louis can do no worse than the second Wild Card.

Should one of the three teams collapse completely and one of the other teams tie with Washington, the Nationals have the advantage of Cincinnati 4-3, but trail Pittsburgh 4-3.  The Nationals lost three previous meetings with St. Louis.  The best the Nationals can do is sweep the Cardinals and tie the season series 3-3.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

National League Central Race Tightens - Retiring Todd Helton Sends Game To Extras

The St. Louis Cardinals lost in 15 innings to the Colorado Rockies 7-6.

The Cardinals lead the Pisttburgh Pirates, who defeated San Diego, 10-1. by one game.  The Cincinnati Reds are right there; two games back.

The Cardinals apent five hours battling the Rockies.  Much like the Reds on Wednesday night the Cardinals came up empty with the bases  loaded in the 15th.

Pete Kozma hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.  It proved fatal to the Cardinals.

DJ LeMahieu singled off Fernando Salas in the 15th inning.  Charlie Dickerson tripled off the rightfield wall as LeMahieu scored when Yadier Molina couldn't come up with a short hop relay from Kelton Wong.

It was the Rockies' 21st hit of the game.

The Cardinals came back from a 4-0 deficit to forge a 4-4 tie.  St, Louis took a 5-4 lead in the eighth but the Rockies answered.  Matt Holliday singled in the ninth to put the Cardinals ahead 6-5,

Veteran Todd Helton, who announced that he would retire at the end of the season hit his 14th home run of the season off Edward Mujica.  It was the second time the Rockie great faced Mujica in the last 24 hours.

Mujica sealed the Cardinals win Wednesday night by striking out Helton with the bases loaded,

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bearcats Exorcise Demons

Bearcats complete the rout.

Hosey Williams busted a 77-yard run o the middle on the first play of the fourth quarter.  He was caught from behind at the one-yard line.  Williams punched it into the endzone on the next play.  Tony Miliano kicked his seventh extra point.

Bennie Coney, a red-shirt freshman from Plant City, Florida threw his first career touchdown pass.  Coney threw 44-yards to Shakim Alonso.  Millano kicked his eighth extra point.

Michael Colosimo, a junior from Beachwood High School in Ft. Mitchel, Kentucky was the quarterback for the last series for the Bearcats. Colosimo is the son of the Bearcats' team doctor, Angelo Colosimo.

McNicholas High School graduate Rob Rice scored on a one-yard run.  Miliano made it 9-for-9 on extra point attempts.

Final score Cincinnati 66 Northwestern State 9.

Cincinnati had too much speed for Demons' quarterback Zach Adkins.

"The overall team speed was different from the teams we've played.  Their D-line i have to give them credit   They did a great job," Adkins said."This was a reality check for us. We came off two wins.  We see what we have to do. We will go back and work harder this week."

Northwestern coach Jay Thomas couldn't find a weakness in Cincinnati's game but was really impressed with the Bearcats' offensive line.

"Cincinnati did everything well, tonight," Thomas said.  "I'm really impressed with the offensive line. Everything started right there.  We have a couple really big guys on our defensive front on the inside. They managed them.  They created mismatches when they needed some.  Then took it on to the second level, the linebacker, the safety.  I thought they were very polished as an offense. They kept us off balance and were able to get big plays on us."

UC rushed for 322 yards and threw for 347 more.  Three different quarterbacks thrived behind the offensive line manned by Eric Lefeld, Austen Bujnoch, Deyshawn Bond, Andre Cureton and Parker Ehinger.

It was a test for Brandon Kay, who was handed the keys to the offense with the injury to Munchie Legaux, who blew out his left knee at Illinois last Saturday.

"It went well," Kay said. "We executed the offense. We did what we wanted to do. It was like going  back to old times."

Kay has a history of shoulder problems but is living with them.

"It’s good. There’s ups and downs. When the game comes around, you don’t feel it too much," Kay said..

Northwestern State lone touchdown drive was aided by two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.  Ond each by Marques Aiken and Brandon Mitchell.

Tommy Tuberville was able to see a lot of people in game conditions to evaluate their talent.

"We needed a game like that to look at the guys that haven’t been able to play in the first two games," Tuberville said.

Kay was the first in the spotlight.

"He took everything they gave him. Early they played zone and wouldn’t let us throw the ball down the field. He’s got a lot of patience. He knows the offense. He needed to get a start under his belt," Tuberville said. "It’s good to let him know he’s the guy now. He knows how to perform. He’s got to perform with this offense. It’s a little different offense than in the past."

"The biggest thing for us is to get the running game going. That would help Brandon. Brandon throws the deep ball, he throws the crossing routes well. He doesn’t get in a hurry. The thing that can help him is to slow the rush down. Our protection was better tonight. ... He’s learning. He’s got a lot more to learn about playing quarterback in this type of offense, a pro-style offense where the running game has got to be No. 1," Tuberville said.

Bennie Coney also moved up the depth chart with Legaux's injury.

"I said to him (Coney), ‘This thing’s not over. You"ve got to perform.’ ... That’s the first time he’s stepped on a college football field. He performed pretty good. We cut the offense down for him tonight. As the season goes on, he’s going to have to know all of it."

Coney was able to show off his arm.

"He throws the ball better than anybody we have. He throws the ball better than Kay. Sometimes the accuracy’s not there. He’s got a strong arm. He’s got to learn who to throw it to, No. 1. Brandon’s got the complete package," Tuberville said..

Bearcats Continue To Roll

Cincinnati kept the offense in high gear.

Brandon Kay left the game in favor of Bennie Coney after tossing his fourth touchdown pass a 41-yarder to Max Morrison.  It tied his career high from the Belk Bowl against Duke.

Tony Miliano kicked a 30-yard field goal to go with his six successful extra point attempts.

Cincinnati 45 Northwestern State 9.

UC is 0-0 when the winning team scores fewer than 40 points.

Bearcats Add Three Touchdowns In The Second Quarter

UC adds two touchdowns in the second quarter.

Brendon Kay threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Mekale McKay.

Toim Green scored on a three-yard run.  Backup quarterback Bennie Coney led the Bearcats on a 75-yard drive in eight plays.

Northwestern State aided by a pair of  defensive penalties scored on a six-yard run by De'Mard Llorens with 3;43 left in the half.  The Demons were stopped short of the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt.

Cincinnati scored again with 1:34 left in the half on a 15-yard pass from Kay to Anthony McClung.

Demons kicker Chris Moore kicked a 47-yard field goal with eight seconds left to make the halftime score, 35-9

Bearcats Take The Lead On The Northwestern State Demons

The Bearcats host the Northwestern State Demons from the Bowl Championship Subdivision (formerly NCAA Div 1-AA).

The 2-0 Demons are 2-0 on the season beating two teams from their own subdivision.

Northwestern State, coached by Jay Thomas, defeated Missouri State 23-17 and Southern 55-14.

Cincinnati is 1-1 with a home victory over Purdue 42-7.  The Bearcats lost on the road to Illinois 45-17

UC started an Brendon Kay at quarterback after Munchie Legaux injured his left knee at Illinois.

Kay found Chris Moore with a 10-yard pass with 7:34 left in the first quarter.  

After Zach Edwards of Middletown made his first career interception, Cincinnati scored on a four-yard run by Hosey Williams with 2:02 left in the quarter.

The first quarter ended with the Bearcats leading 14-7.

UC has 153 yards of offense to Northwestern State's 25 yards.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Reds Bounce Back - Win To Complete 7-3 Homastand

The Reds got just what they needed to close out an overall successful 7-3 home stand,, beating the Chicago Cubs 6-0.

The Chicago Cubs looked to be the easiest opponent to master coming into the home stand.  That was not the case.  The Reds took three of four games from the division rival St. Louis Cardinals, then swept the West Division leaders, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Cubs had a chip on their shoulders and something to prove. The last place Cubs got two well-pitched game and hit six home runs to take the first two games.

It was Mike Leake's task to stop the Cubs.  Cubs' starter Jeff Smardzija endeavored to continue the trend.

"Momentum comes with pitching," Dusty Baker said.

Jay Bruce singled and Todd Frazier doubled to open the second inning.  Ground outs by Xavier Paul and Zack Cozart put the Reds on top 2-0.

Devin Mesoraco hit his first home run since August 3 when he hit two home runs against St. Louis.  The first of his three hits on the day snapped an 0-for-13 slump.

Leake was pitching around uncharacteristic wildness.  Leake walked Anthony Rizzo with two outs in the first.  Nate Schierholtz doubled, sending Rizzo to third but Brian Bogusevic ground out.

"I didn't have my best stuff," Leake said. 'Sometimes you hit a few games where a couple of pitches hurt you."

Leake walked Starlin Castro and Luis Valbuena in the third but pitched out of the jam.  Leak left the game after giving up his fourth hit to Junior Lake.  He pitched 5-2/3 innings of shutout baseball.

"It wasn't easy. They loaded their lineup with left-handed hitters," Baker said.

Jack Hannahan broke it open with his first home run of the season.  The three-run shot to right was his first career pinch-hit home run.

"It was like getting the monkey off my back," Hannahan said. "The last two years I hit one opening day. I was tired of looking up there and seeing the zero in the home run column."

Hannahan played all of his career in the American League where pinch-hitters aren't needed with the designated hitter.

"This is all new to me," Hannahan said.

The blow gave the Reds bullpen some breathing room.

"Everybody was happy for Hannahan," Baker said. "It was his first home run. It was huge for us to go up 6-0."

Leake won his 13th game to set a career high.  In spring training it appeared that Leake would be the odd man out when the Reds groomed Aroldis Chapman to be in the starting rotation.

"It's an accomplishment," Leake said. "You can't plan how your season is going to go.  The winds have blown me in the right direction."

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Tony Cingrani May Miss Road Trip

Tony Cingrani may miss at least part of the Reds upcoming road trip to Milwaukee, Houston and Chicago to get therapy on his back.

Cingrani left the game Tuesday in the second inning.

"It is the same problem with his back," Dusty Baker said.  "He's had it before.  He told us when he's had it before he worked on his core (abs etc.). We are debating whether he should stay here (Cincinnati) and miss the first part of the road trip to see the chiropractor and get therapy."

Baker would like him to join the team even if he is not ready to pitch.

"I like the guys to stay with us so they can experience the pennant race," Baker said.

The Reds are researching the root cause of the injury.

"We are still learning about him," Baker said. "You don't know what it comes from.  He could have been in a traffic accident when he was 10 years old, or hutt it playing basketball..  We will have to come up with a regimen that keeps it from recurring."

Cueto Throws 60 Pitches In Simulated Game

The look on his face told the story before interpreter Tomas Vera had a chance to translate it.

"I thank God.  I feel good," Cueto responded to the opening question after his simulated game on Wednesday morning.

Cueto pitched a lot from the stretch.  There are theories that the windup Cueto developed with an exaggerated turn in his motion, contributed to his injuries.

'I was working out of the stretch because I don't have the feel for that yet," Cueto said.  "I have changed my windup a little.  I am trying to stay more out in front.  I finished all of my pitches in a good way."

Cueto guessed that he gave up three hits in game in which the only fielders were bullpen coach Mike Stefanski and firstbase coach Billy Hatcher, who took some pickoff throws.

"I didn't give up any runs," Cueto said with a grin.

The next step is unknown at this time.

"It is up to the manager and general manager," Cueto said. "I'll do what they want."

"He's throwing pretty good," Dusty Baker said.  "It's not surprising.  His mechanics are sound. He tired a little bit at the end which is expected. When he got tired he dropped location but not velocity."

Baker had no timetable for Cueto's return.

"We will see how he comes of this," Baker said.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cubs Season-Long Frustration Taken Out On Reds

For 16 games this season, the Reds did what they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do it against the hapless Chicago Cubs.

Cincinnati won 13 of the first 16 encounters which, for the most part, were really no contests.

Perhaps the Reds used all their energy in taking six of the first seven games of the homestand.  Perhaps it was just the law of averages.

For whatever reason, the Cubs shut out the Reds 2-0 on Monday night.

"I can't get a grip on it," Ryan Ludwick said. "I don't think anyone wanted to lose two out of three to the Cubs.  They're a major league team but they're in last place and we're trying to chase down a couple of teams in front of us."

The Cubs clobbered, clubbed and collared the Reds in a 9-1 rout.

Chicago hit four home runs. Welington Castillo hit two of them, the first of which was off Reds' starter Tony Cingrani and gave the  Cubs a 2-0 lead. The Cubs spent the rest of the game building on this lead.

Cingrani was forced to leave the game with back spasms after 1-2/3 innings.

"It was the same injury to Cingrani," Baker said. "He warmed up great.  He didn't feel anything.  In between the first and second he said his back was tight. It was devastating at that point.  We had to go to the bullpen early.  Thankfully, we have a day off on Thursday."

The Cubs bludgeoned Cingrani's replacement Greg Reynolds.  Donnie Murphy hit a two-run home run.  Junior Lake singled and took second on an error by Jay Bruce.  Former Red Darnell McDonald singled to score Lake.

"The back end of my bullpen was beaten up pretty badly," Baker said.

Ryan Sweeney doubled to open the fifth.  Cubs starter Edwin Jackson bunted into a fielder's choice with Sweeney out at third.  Starlin Castro followed with a single that sent Jackson to third. Darwin Barney hit a sacrifice fly for a 6-0 Cubs' lead.

Murphy doubled home a run in the sixth.

Castillo hit his second home run of the game off Curtis Partch. It was his sixth home run of the season as he turned in his first career multi-home run game.  Edwin Jackson hit his second career home run later in the inning off Partch.

Baker emptied his bench, allowing the starters to get some rest and Billy Hamilton to get his first two major league at-bats.  He lined out and grounded out.

"I kept the front end guys strong for tomorrow.  We're still in good shape," Baker said. "I told my guys to go home.  It was a hot game tonight.  They wanted to stick around.  I told them to go home and get ready for tomorrow."

Jackson gave up nine hits in his seven innings but he didn't walk anyone.  The Cubs turned in two double plays that headed off a pair of promising rallies.

The Reds' lone run scored in the seventh.  Zack Cozart extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a double.  Corky Miller doubled Cozart home.  Miller has doubles in his last three plate appearances.  His last at-bat was on August 7 against Oakland.  He hit two doubles in the 6-5 win but had to leave the game with a contusion on his thigh.  He was placed on the disabled list the following day.

The Reds will try to close out the homestand on a positive note on Wednesday.

"We took three steps forward and two steps back," Baker said.  "You don't like losing and you don't like losting to the Cubs.  We have to come back tomorrow.  We can have a 7-3 homestand.  That's .700 ball."

"We played two good teams and played really good baseball," Ludwick said. "I don't know if you call it a let down. I don't know if you call it not focused.  I don't know if you call it not enough energy. I don't know if you call it those guys came in to play spoilers.  Losing Tony was tough. All around it was a bad game frome the first inning on."

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