View Full Version : Reds winning (surprise!) with unusual tool — pitching (USA Today, 5/2)

05-03-2006, 02:05 AM

Reds winning (surprise!) with unusual tool — pitching

CINCINNATI — Genuine article or a one-month mirage?

The Cincinnati Reds, supposed cannon fodder, have the best record in baseball. There they are, 19-8, after slapping around National League bullies Houston and St. Louis four times in the past five days. And as we know, numbers don't lie.

But sometimes they tease.

You remember the Reds. No winning season since 2000. Finished 27 games out of first place last year, hitting more home runs than any team in the league — a noisy feat that was ruined by having the worst pitching.

The only magic number with the chronically non-contending Reds lately has been what date Ken Griffey Jr. would go on the disabled list. He's there now, by the way. Something about the muscle behind his knee. Due back soon.

And yet the Reds rarely lose these days. They're 11-3 in close games — those decided by one or two runs. They pitched three shutouts in April. All last season, they had one. They're relying less on home runs and more on fundamental baseball, and teams like that have to be taken seriously. At least until they gave us a reason not to.

"The attitude in the clubhouse now is we believe we can play with anybody in baseball," infielder Rich Aurilia was saying Tuesday after the Reds beat the Cardinals 3-2.

"As individuals it's always fun to prove people wrong. As a team, it's even more fun. That's just not one person, it's 25 guys going there trying to do it together."

That makes 11 wins in the past 13 games. They took two of three against the Astros over the weekend, and swept a two-game quickie series with the Cardinals, a team that destroyed them the past two seasons, going 25-10.

"It makes a statement," pitcher Aaron Harang said. And that would be?

"We're just as good as you guys are. We're here to play."

But are they here to stay?

"These guys really think we can be competitive and win a lot of games and stay in it," manager Jerry Narron said. "I know it's early (if he didn't use that cliché, we would have had to). But facing the two best teams, it means a lot to win four out of five."

The Reds are rising with pitching. Boston import Bronson Arroyo is 5-0. The other pitchers have seemed to tag along. The earned run average the past nine games has been barely over 2.00.

"Everything in this game is contagious," Arroyo said.

Arroyo keeps this up and he's a Cy Young candidate. Know how many of those Cincinnati has had in its long and mostly offensive history? None.

These Reds have discovered the knack of producing runs. Before, it was homer-or-bust. Not that they still don't distribute ample souvenirs to the bleachers, and allow them, too. Through Monday, the Reds were No. 2 in the league in home runs hit, No. 1 in home runs allowed.

This place is like a missile silo. There have been only nine homer-less games of the 254 played in Great American Ball Park. Still, it takes more than muscle. Eighty-nine losses last year showed that.

But Cincinnati is on a roll. Just down the street, the Bengals made it to the NFL playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Now the Reds are playing like contenders. Even if they're a novelty act at the moment.

The pitching will need to hold together. The confidence will need to hold together. Griffey will need to hold together. April does not prove anything. But 19-8 gets your attention.

"Teams like St. Louis are going to say, 'You know what, we'll see what happens in September,' " Arroyo said. "It's going to take to the All-Star break for people to realize we're the real deal. If we can keep it up.'"

Contact Mike Lopresti at mlopresti@gns.gannett.com


Aaron Harang must just LOVE reading this stuff all the time! I love Arroyo (and he's soooo cute too), but Harang's success is certainly being overlooked in his wake.

05-03-2006, 02:09 AM
COMMENTARY - Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Pitchers better than advertised for Reds
BOB HUNTER / Columbus Dispatch

CINCINNATI — Last year, the Reds were supposed to be good and they were awful. This year, they were supposed to be mediocre and, so far at least, they have been very good.

Interesting twist, huh?

You don’t suppose that the 2005 Reds were the fluke and the 2006 Reds are the real ones, do you? I know it’s a little early to be making definitive judgments about any of the teams that have performed above or below expectations, but after the Reds’ 6-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals last night, this implausible theory is at least worth considering.

The Reds and the Cardinals entered the game tied for the second-best record in baseball (17-8), behind only the Chicago White Sox (17-7), and Bronson Arroyo stopped the defending National League Central champs with the kind of fourhit, complete-game performance good teams are supposed to have.

It is what the Reds were supposed to have last year when they signed free-agents Eric Milton and Ramon Ortiz and re-signed Paul Wilson. It is what they’ve had so far — in seven games before last night, Reds starters were 6-1 with a 2.63 ERA — and Arroyo (5-0) is one reason for that. He came to the Reds in a trade with the Red Sox on March 20 for outfielder Wily Mo Pena, and at this point, the deal looks like a steal.

"This guy is not a fluke," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "He’s got a great feel for pitching. Anybody who changes speeds off their breaking ball like he does has a chance to be successful. He’s used to pitching to good lineups. In the American League, it’s up and down the order, you don’t get any easy outs ... and he was very successful. The guy has great poise, he’s a great competitor."

No one this side of Boston would argue that case, but the jury on the rest of the staff is still out. There’s no way to be sure that the starters are really better as a group, particularly since Milton — who has looked more like the guy the Reds thought they signed than the human pitching machine who got blistered last season — is on the disabled list for a few more weeks because of knee surgery and Wilson is just preparing to come off it with a rehab start tonight.

Kent Mercker has been on a lot of different teams, including the great and not-so-great, in a 15-year major-league career, so he doesn’t seem like a bad guy to ask. He pitched in two World Series for the Atlanta Braves, made the playoffs when he was in Boston and was one of the few bright spots on that snakebitten Reds staff a year ago.

"I don’t think it’s a fluke," Mercker said. "I don’t think you can expect to win 17 games every month, but I thought leaving spring training ... we know we’re going to score. We did that last year and finished fifth. We know we’re going to get runs, and then it’s all a matter of us pitching.

"Last year, out of 11 guys, we had seven guys struggle at the same time. … When I played with the Braves, Smoltzie (John Smoltz) used to struggle, (Tom) Glavine used to struggle, but they never struggled all at one time. I compare this year’s staff to the Cardinals a few years ago when they had (Chris) Carpenter coming off surgery and (Jeff) Suppan coming off and Matt Morris ... they didn’t know what they were going to get. They had guys with potential and they were all healthy, and they steamrolled the whole year."

You’re probably thinking the same thing I am: Mercker has to say this stuff because this is his team. He has to believe and he wants to believe.

Nonetheless, his argument is compelling, because it is based on one elemental baseball truth.

"Pitching’s the key," Mercker said. "It just sets everything in motion."

It did last night. Again.

Bob Hunter is a sports co lumnist for The Dispatch .


05-03-2006, 11:04 AM
"Teams like St. Louis are going to say, 'You know what, we'll see what happens in September,' " Arroyo said. "It's going to take to the All-Star break for people to realize we're the real deal. If we can keep it up.'"

Sounds like waivering confidence to me. He should have left out "If we can keep it up!" ;)

05-03-2006, 11:51 AM
Sounds like waivering confidence to me. He should have left out "If we can keep it up!" ;)

I was on my way to posting the same then I read yours.

Jr's Boy
05-03-2006, 12:07 PM
Sounds like waivering confidence to me. He should have left out "If we can keep it up!" ;)
If we had Clemens,then he could leave the last part out.Cautious optimism I say.

05-03-2006, 12:18 PM
If we had Clemens, we wouldn't be joking about this. I wasn't really inferring that this team was on the verge of collapse because there was some confidence issue with the way this team will continue to play. I just wanted to get a jump on the nay-sayers. Although, now that I think about it.... Nah, they'll be fine.... Maybe.... Yeah they only have to keep it up until the trade deadline, then they'll get another pitcher... But thats a long way off.... No, what this team has done is genuine!... I think.:help:

05-03-2006, 12:38 PM
First, I don't think this is any slight to Harang...Bronson Arroyo has come in and been a GIANT KILLER...Harang and Claussen and even Milton have taken notice and I think he is one of the reasons those guys have been pitching better...competition is a good thing.

Also, I don't think it is doubt but again cautious optimism...and I am right with him...the cool thing is that these other teams need to know that the Reds can take them if they are not bring ing their A GAME and sometimes will take one even if they do.

05-03-2006, 02:48 PM
Anyone got an extra 5 million a month to get Roger to come pitch for us the rest of the season?

Not that it really matters.... I think this new group is gonna land us a starter within 2 weeks... Thats why JR is still on the DL... They are winning without him so there is no need to push him back... They are most likly working on a deal that is going to send Freel, LaRue, Javy, or Kearns (2 of them) to a team for a good starter in return there for clearing the way for the new player and JR to come back at the same time.

Lets hope....... I'd give up a Freel/LaRue combo for a good #2/3 starter wouldn't you?

05-03-2006, 03:02 PM
The pitching will need to hold together. The confidence will need to hold together. Griffey will need to hold together.

Pitching, yes. Confidence, yes. But Griffey?? We have enough of a problem trying to keep everyone in the lineup regularly without him. He's not as good as Freel in center and he's only as good as every other player in the middle of our order. Why not trade him for an upgrade in the pitching staff? I like our 1-2-3, but it couldn't hurt to get another solid starter or maybe a middle/long reliever and prospects...