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You Ain't Got No Alibi
by Derek Smart
There are ballgames we watch, and when all is said and done, the quality of play has been such that we exclaim what a shame it was that somebody had to lose, so deserving were the performances of each of the contestants.
Last night was not that type of game, and was, in fact, so ugly that the opposite sentiment was justified: It was a shame that with two clubs playing so poorly that one of them should emerge victorious.
Let me amend that slightly: If the Reds' bullpen were a team separate from the rest of their organization, capable of earning wins and losses that would be registered in the standings apart from that of their parent club, I would gladly award them the trophy for the night, as they were the true class of the contest.
True, the offenses did some hearty work, but I'd be inclined to give negative credit to the hurlers they scored on rather than laud a group of hitters who simply capitalized on repeated helpings of meatballs from the likes of Milton, Zambrano, and the entire Cub bullpen.
It's called doing your job, and while there's a certain amount of credit to be given, it doesn't deserve the type of praise one would get for, say, scoring off a filthy Ryan Wagner - which nobody did.
If you think I'm cranky now, just wait 'till the bullets start flying!
While Big Z had a poor outing, it was good to see him adjust to what he had working for him and give himself a shot at keeping the bullpen out of the game for a decent amount of time.
Initially, he was throwing mostly two-seamers and hard breaking balls, and while they had decent movement, they either zipped well out of the zone, or directly into a hitter's yum sphere.
By the third, Z had figured out that the Reds couldn't catch up to his four-seamer, and that he could spot it well to boot. Then in the fourth, he found a second pitch - his slow breaking ball - that he could get over consistently with nice bite.
Of course, it was moot by the time he plunked Austin Kearns, and while one could conceivably argue against his ejection (although, it looked pretty intentional to me), the fact remains that he had thrown 104 pitches to that point, so his departure with one out left in the fifth didn't significantly impact bullpen usage, as he was unlikely to go in the next frame anyway.
While I've brought up the subject of bullpen usage, if anyone has a clue what's going on with Mr. Baker's brain, I'd really appreciate the insight, in particular regarding this "closer" situation which is beginning to reach Fellini-esque heights of incomprehensibility.
It was clear last night that Dusty had finally driven over the proverbial cliff of sanity, employing his theoretical best closer option (Mike Wuertz) in the seventh, and quickly sending notice that the man he would entrust with the lead at game's end, should such a thing be held that long, would be the recently scorned, LaTroy Hawkins.
I've said this before: you'll never see me worshiping at the alter of the Capital 'C' Closer, but if there's one point I'm abundantly ready to concede, it's that LaTroy Hawkins is ill suited for the job, and turning to him after you've already rejected him for the role is tantamount to giving that fireman's gig to the fella you canned a couple days ago due to his extensive history of arson because the other candidate's didn't have the right 'firehouse swagger'.
I'm also completely unable to grasp the way poor Jon Leicester is being deployed. He's now been brought into critical situations in each of his last two outings despite having sat idle for a week or more, and the worst part is, Baker seems disappointed when those seven plus days of rust aren't instantly shaken off.
If you don't want to use Leicester, for God's sake, don't. Send him back to Iowa so he can work and bring up another position player so you never, ever have to use Jose Macias to pinch hit again, but don't let the guy lie fallow in the bullpen for days on end and expect him to mow folks down when you turn to him out of desperation.
Naturally, I'd rather see him used more frequently because I think he can be a positive contributor to the team's success, but if you're not inclined to do that, don't yank the kid around, putting him in situations where he's unlikely to succeed, then get down on him because he founders.
It's the rubber game today, and I have no idea what to expect. Ryan Dempster has been surprisingly good, but I'm a long way from counting on continued usefulness from him. Hopefully, the team can right the ship and head into the off day with their heads back above water.