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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.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Jay Bruce Blast Busts Cubs Bubble

The Reds and Cubs are heading in opposite directions.

While the Cubs are starting six players 25-years old or younger, the Reds are contemplating a reset. Several players are on the trading block before the July 31 trade deadline. No one knows if Jay Bruce is heading anywhere but Bruce made another argument to stay as the Reds edged Chicago 5-4.

His two-run home run erased the Cubs lead and put the Reds on top for good.

"They all count," said Bruce of his 456' blast high up into the rightfield bleachers. "It was one of those I felt though."

He hit it off Justin Grimm, who had a paltry 1.17 ERA coming into the game.

"Jay was against a pitcher who's had a nice year," Bryan Price said. "He's getting to his power right now and doing some damage."

The Reds' youth movement in the starting rotation was on display with 23-year old Michael Lorenzen on the mound.

"Michael got his pitch count up in the early innings," Price said. "He pitched well but they took advantage in the fifth."

The Cubs got off to a fast start.

Dexter Fowler, one of two players in the lineup over 25, singled to start the game. Kyle Schwarber, the 22-year old Middletown native, followed with a single. Kris Bryant forced Schwarber at second but Anthony Rizzo hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track in center to put the Cubs up a run.

Home Run Derby champ Todd Frazeir, fresh from a Sunday off, lined the first Clayton Richard pitch he saw to the green pasture above the centerfield wall for his 26th home run. Frazier's next home run will be the 100th of his career.

"The day off helped me big time," Frazier said. "It was a long week and I didn't get much sleep, but no excuses. It's time to go."

The Reds jumped on Richard for a pair of fourth inning runs.

Joey Votto started it with a walk. Todd Frazier singled through the hole at shortstop. Jay Bruce hit into a 3-6-1 double play.  Votto scored from third on a wild pitch.  Marlon Byrd followed with his 16th home run.

Frazier was 0-for-10 coming off the All-Star break.

"I was swinging at bad pitches," Frazier said. "It was a little bit of a slow start. I was a little out of my element."

Lorenzen retired seven straight batters heading into the fifth.

Addison Russel singled to start the frame. Fowler lined a pitch to the right centerfield gap.  Billy Hamilton threw Fowler out at secondbase. Schwarber walked. Bryant doubled in Russel and sent Schwarber to third. Lorenzen had good chance to get out of the inning by striking out Rizzo.  Jorge Soler took care of the baserunners by hitting a line drive down the rightfield line for a double.

The Cubs' lead lasted until the sixth when again the Reds combined a double play with a two-run rally.

Brandon Phillips singled but Votto hit into a double play. Cubs' manager Joe Maddon replaced lefty Richard with right-hander Justin Grimm to face Frazier. Grimm had trouble throwing strikes and walked Frazier. Bruce made him pay with a 465' home run six rows from the top of the rightfield bleachers. It was Bruce's 15th home run of the season.

Phillips extricated Burke Badenhop from sticky wicket with an acrobatic force play to end the seventh. With two on and two out, Phillips back handed Soler's bid for an RBI single on the shortstop side of second.  Phillips flipped the ball to Eugenio Suarez, who caught the ball with his bare hand and beat Rizzo to secondbase.

"Brandon works on those plays," Price said. "He enjoys defense as much as he does offense. He doesn't make those plays to be flashy but that was the only way he could get that out. It is a good thing Geno (Suarez) has played with him enough to expect it."

"You watch those plays and it's sad to say, expect them," Bruce said. "Brandon has really amazing core vision. He always knows where secondbase is."

The Reds wasted Suarez's lead off triple in the seventh. Tucker Barnhart hit a smash to shortstop Starlin Castro. He knocked the ball down but couldn't make a play.  Pinch hitter Jason Bourgeois lined to Russel at second.  Former Red Travis Wood replaced Neil Ramirez.  Wood struck out Hamilton and retired Phillips on a ground out to third.

The Cubs returned the favor in the eighth.

Chris Coghlan doubled to greet J.J. Hoover. Castro flied deep to center to send Coghlan to third. The Reds brought the infield in. Votto fielded a smash by pinch hitter Jonathan Herrera to hold Coghlan at third. Hoover walked Russel on a contested checked swing but Fowler popped to Phillips to end the threat.
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Bruce was robbed of his 600th career RBI when his double bounced into the grass above the centerfield fence with Votto on first. Rafael Soriano pitched out of this jam too. Soriano fielded Byrd's comeback and caught Votto off third. Suarez flied to center.

Aroldis Chapman, who pitched a season-high two innings on Sunday, came in to close out the Cubs in the ninth to earn his 19th save.

"Chappy played catch today and told me he was good to go," Price said. "You trust that they will be honest with you. Chappy built up that trust."

Chapman dominated the rookie Schwarber.  He struck out Rizzo to end the game, throwing 102 mph after breaking off an 88 mph slider. Chapman has 502 career strikeouts in 293 career innings.

"That slider to Rizzo was the best I've seen him throw," Price said.

Bruce had another explanation.

"To be honest with you, Chapman is from another planet," Bruce said.

Professionally edited by ML Schirmer
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