Friday, May 11, 2012

Closing the door on a Closer

Close, the act of closing; and that’s just what it is, an act or the lack there of during Wednesday’s Reds and Brewer’s hurling showdown. Starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Zach Greinke couldn’t get any better, both shutting down their opponents deep into the game. Cueto was relieved by Chapman who easily worked three in a row while Greinke finished up the 8th himself. Two runs were given, and I stress given, to the Reds when the Brewers’ closer John Axford threw back-to-back doubles to speedy Drew Stubbs and Joey Votto. Phillips demonstrated immense discipline at the plate and looped one into center field, driving in Votto and putting the Reds up by two.

That’s when things got interesting and it all started with the obvious. At this point any team would mount their deadly closer on the mound to pound in the coffin nails; only if your team had a closer right? The Reds relieved Chapman, who is yet to give up a run this year, with their “closer” Sean Marshall. The problem is that Marshall isn’t a closer and if anyone did give him that title, the paint would still be wet. Marshall gave up a home run to Ryan Braun bringing it to a gut wrenching 2-1 ballgame. Marshall couldn’t stop the crew there after giving up two more singles. Enough was enough for the Reds’ skipper Dusty Baker, and much to our surprise, Dusty pulled Marshall off the mound. Logan Ondrusek, who has never had a major league save, inherited a two out, runners and first and second, pressure situation. Ondrusek walked the first batter he faced, loading the bases. Luckily, Ondrusek was able to pop out the next batter and notching his first major league save.

However, the two out, bases loaded, 2-1 ballgame could easily been avoided had the Reds not been suckling from the mainstream closer position teat. Aroldis Chapman stepped into the top of the 8th and didn’t give anyone anything under 100mph to swing at. His fastball and slider were untouchable much like his 2012 season with 3 wins, 0 loses, a 0.00 ERA, and 27 strike outs in 15.2 flawless innings pitched. Effortlessly getting the Reds into the 9th the Reds opted out and pinch hit Miguel Cairo who marked the last out for the Reds. Had Chapman swung his own bat, which he can do well, he could have easily fanned the next three brew crew batters. The Reds had almost fallen victim to statistics; by using Marshall, the closing, non-closer, trying to put another notch in his save column. Marshall is not a closer even if we knew what a closer was. The Reds shouldn’t worry about what other teams have, what they call them, and when they are used. The Reds bullpen is probably the finest in the league and they shouldn’t be afraid to use it unconventionally. The 1990 Reds opted for a similar strategy, and it worked out well. Hopefully Wednesday ‘titanic struggle’ is an eye opener for the Reds skipper. Baker knows he has got some talent in the bullpen, and I think Wednesday showed us exactly how he plans to use it. When Dusty made his way to the mound to relieve Marshall, many saw a pitching change, a few of us saw something different; when he made his way to the mound I saw a manager who was serious about getting this club into the post season, no matter what.

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