Wednesday, September 19, 2012

8/18/12 Chicago Cubs 9, Cincinnati Reds 7

Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH
Game 3 of 4

Today, my wife and I were fortunate enough to be the guests of friends of ours who have great seats in Section 130 a few times a year.  They offered for us to join them for today's game and I was hard pressed to refuse...not only would it be the first (and probably only) chance for me to attend an MLB game this season, but the CUBS are in town...and I can't say NO to that!

I also can't say NO to seeing Brett Jackson "in Action" again, for the first time as a CUB since his call-up to the big leagues on August 5th.  You may or may not recall the beginning of my Brett Jackson man-crush, when I saw him with the Tennessee Smokies during the 2010 BIL Tour, where he graciously signed my scoresheet.
This amazing graphic created by @RandallJSanders, and used with permission!

On the short drive to Cincinnati, I warned my wife (as well as our hosts) that to expect something great from the Cubs today would be an expectation far too great.  I briefly touched on the painful, yet promising, benchmark of the Cubs' 2012 season and also pointed out that the Reds were getting hotter as the season went on.  Sometimes, I really don't mind being wrong.
This evening game turned out to be the second of an unscheduled day/night doubleheader, with the day game being a makeup of a postponed game earlier in the season.  The Cubs fell hard in that contest, losing to the Reds 5-3 as Todd Frazier continued his campaign for NL Rookie of the Year with 2 RBI and his 17th HR.  Johnny Cueto bested Jeff Samardzija, cruising through 8 innings and 2ER.  On the mound tonight is Brooks Raley, who has yet to earn his first MLB win, against Todd Redmond.

Hold on...Todd Redmond?  Yes, he was just traded to the Reds for Paul Janish only a few weeks ago, has pitched reasonably well in Louisville, and was called up this afternoon to make this start due to the 26-man roster rule for make-up doubleheader games.  The good news: Redmond's infamous invisi-ball did make an appearance (and was documented by FanGraphs in this article, using information from today's game).  The bad news: well, far be it from me to accuse the Reds of throwing Todd Redmond under the bus by having him start against Brooks Raley and the whimpering 2012 Cubs, but yeah...that just happened.

Redmond seemed to labor from the very beginning, throwing 27 pitches in the first inning and facing 6 batters (two of whom he walked).  His second inning wasn't much better, adding 23 pitches to his count, facing 6 batters again, this time opening up with a spectacular solo HR by my BFF Brett Jackson to put the Cubs on the board first.  Redmond's struggles continued, allowing 6 hits, 4 runs (3 ER), walking 5 and striking out 2 (one swinging) by the time he was lifted in favor of Alfredo Simon in the 4th inning, throwing 91 pitches total (52 for strikes).

Raley, however, was throwing 28 pitches total by the end of the 3rd inning and went 5.1 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs (3 ER), walking 2 and striking out 4 (2 of them swinging), throwing 76 pitches total (49 for strikes).  He wasn't exactly on fire, but was indeed smoldering by comparison.

The Cubs took a significant lead by the middle of the 6th, 8 runs to the Reds' 2, but Raley's exit and Manuel Corpas' relief found the Cubs giving the Reds every chance to strike back, and the score was 8-4 at the end of the 6th, then 8-6 after a Ryan Ludwick 2-run HR (his second HR of the game) in the 7th.  Miguel Cairo's 2-out pinch-hit RBI triple in the 8th added another run for the Reds (and was this close to giving some temporary justification to the whole "clutch hitter" manifesto) but in the top of the 9th, with 2 outs, David DeJesus brought forth his 5th HR of the season to add a late-inning insurance run (also clutch, he he) and pad the Cubs' lead by 2.

I was wrong here, again, when DeJesus approached the plate, worked a full 3-2 count, and my wife proclaimed "OK, he's got a HR comin' right here" and I laughed sarcastically and said, "No, honey...not David DeJesus..." --CRACKKKK-- "...OK, David DeJesus!" You can't predict baseball.

We rode the MarmolCoaster as Cubs fans often do in the bottom of the 9th, and the Cubs Tums were required!  

More good news today: Starlin Castro, who has been slumping recently, went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs and a marvelous deep right field triple in the 6th.  More bad news today: after his 2nd inning lead-off HR, Brett Jackson struck out three times, once swinging.

I had a bad day with the camera, not sure why, but I did manage to squeeze out a few interesting shots:

Here's Starlin Castro nailing a single in the 1st inning, it's a little blurry but the "bat action" is awesome.

The bases are loaded with CUBS in the first inning, Redmond is pitching to Steve Clevenger.  Steve Clevenger, you're on the Jumbotron, bro!

Brooks Raley on the mound...yeah!!

Another blurry, yet significant, shot...Brett Jackson CRUSHES in the 2nd inning.

Todd Frazier in the house...still with his particular batting stance, only his thighs are pressed MUCH tighter in the process...whatever, it's totally working for him.


SCOREKEEPER'S NOTE: Anthony Rizzo's lead-off single in the 6th was ruled an error by Cincinnati's Official Scorer.  This was a very hard hit groundball that caught Frazier with his back nearly turned to first base, several feet away from the bag; Frazier attempted to back-hand the ball with his glove, but it snapped out quickly and allowed Rizzo to reach first safely.  Even if Frazier had snared the ball, he would have had no play at the bag, period.  My party looked at me after the play and asked "hit or error?" and my immediate response was "hit...he couldn't have made it at all."  The gentleman sitting next to me (gentleman is something I call someone who is older than I am, hrm) agreed with me, both of us were profoundly shocked when the play was ruled as an error.  Per my usual practice, I can be convinced of a hit or an error, one way or another, but if I maintain my stance after consideration, my ruling stands on my scoresheet...because it's mine and I can do that if I like.

My favorite souvenir from the game, this enormously #kVlt ticket stub featuring Jay Bruce apparently experiencing some sort of arcane flatulence...

Official Program (the only scorecard you can get is inside this monstrosity) featuring Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban MISSile Crisis

Saturday, September 15, 2012

8/10/12 Cincinnati Reds 10, Chicago Cubs 8

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Game 2 of 4

Only 5 days ago, Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson were called up to join the Cubs while they were on the road in Los Angeles.  
Brett Jackson made his first start at Wrigley yesterday, going 0-for-3 with one strikeout in the Cubs' 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.  Today, Vitters makes his first start at Wrigley, at third base.

Vitters goes 1-for-5, crossing the plate once on Welington Castillo's 6th inning double.  Jackson strikes out twice, yet draws a walk in the 8th inning, scores on Castillo's 2nd consecutive double, and the Cubs hang in there to compete with the Reds...but it was the Reds' 6th inning that knocked starter Justin Germano out of the game, where the Cubs committed 2 errors in a single at bat (one of them Jackson's), that pretty much sealed the deal.  This couldn't erase Cincinnati's 3-run 3rd inning with 3 Cubs errors (by Rizzo, Vitters, and Castro) but the Cubs were surging onward late in the game.

Starlin Castro's TOOTBLAN in the 6th inning meant that Castillo's double didn't score him as well.  It wasn't really Castro's fault; Dave McKay waved him to 3rd on Vitter's bloop single, and Castro seemed to have trouble picking up the signal (what Listach was doing during this, I have no idea).  Castro was fooled on an "infield decoy" play, and was thrown out in a 9-4-5 relay.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

8/6/12 Toledo Mud Hens 2, Louisville Bats 4

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 1 of 4

The day prior to the game, I happened to check the schedule to see who tonight's starting pitchers were.  I often forget to do this, which always adds a slight element of surprise...walking up to the East entrance of LSF and seeing the lineups on the Bud sign over the right field bleachers.  As I did check, I found out Drew Smyly would be starting for the visiting Mud Hens, and my baseball fan heart raced a little bit.
Yes, it's true...Smyly was activated by the Detroit Tigers on July 29th and sent to Toledo to rehab after sitting on the DL since early July due to an intercostal strain.  For those of you who don't know what an intercostal strain is, it involves a group of muscles located in between the ribs, so this kind of injury is a little bit tricky for a pitcher, and recovery tends to be a bit slow and sometimes painful.  Drew got the call-up to Detroit in mid-April, and was pitching very well that month, with a 1-0 record, 1.23 ERA and a .222BA/.268 BABIP through 4 starts and 22 innings.  Regression set in during late May/early June, when he finished June with a 2-3 record 4.48 ERA, .270BA/.311 BABIP in 13 starts and 68.1 innings since his debut in April.  Drew was on his way back to his original form in July when the injury sidelined him.

Reviewing his previous start for Toledo following his activation, it appears that Drew is starting out slow with limited innings per game...coincidentally enough, this start was against the Louisville Bats in Toledo, where he pitched 3 innings, allowed 2 hits, 2BB, 5 strikeouts and no runs in a no-decision.  All indications point to another brief outing for Drew, and a first-hand look, for me, at what this 2010 2nd round draft pick is all about.
As of tonight's first pitch, there was only one team in the International League West division worse than the Bats...and that team is the Toledo Mud Hens, one game behind Louisville's 26 games behind the division leading Indianapolis Indians. Once again, I feel obligated to notify my daughter (Kei, this time around) that the Bats just aren't playing well and not to expect a win.

Smyly is facing Tim Gustafson, who is the Bats starting pitcher you don't hear a lot of tonight, he's 3-3 with a 4.64 ERA in 11 starts.  His 35 strikeouts seem modest, but compared to Sean Gallagher (who I have yet to see pitch this season) who has 80 strikeouts in 23 starts, that's not bad for a small sample size.

I should also mention that former Bat Danny Dorn is in tonight's lineup for the Mud Hens, playing first base.

Smyly's first inning is magical, retiring the side in order on a groundout and two Ks (one swinging).  His second inning is less than magical, as he allows both Neftali Soto and Mike Costanzo to reach base on back to back singles to start the inning.  Chris Valaika successfully sacrifices to allow them to advance, and Major League veteran Willie Harris doubles to bring them both home.  Smyly gets out of the inning on another swinging strikeout, stranding Harris and Corky Miller (who walked on a 3-1 pitch).  His 3rd inning goes better (walking Denis Phipps, plus two flyouts and another swinging strikeout), but bad luck smacks in the 4th, as Willie Harris hits again (a single this time), and advances to 2nd on a Balk.  After Smyly retires Cody Puckett (who strikes out swinging for the 2nd out), Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin gives the ball to Matt Hoffman and Smyly's night is over, having tossed 79 pitches (51 for strikes).  Harris scores on Corky Miller's seeing-eye grounder to short off of Hofffman, Smyly's 3rd ER.

Gustafson, meanwhile, delivers the performance I expected from Smyly, with fewer strikeouts (4) , only allowing one run (earned) and walking one to go 6.2 innings, 106 pitches (64 for strikes).  Toledo would score again in the 8th inning (on a throwing error by Corky Miller), but that's it.  The Bats would score one more time, in the 6th, on a 2-out solo HR by, you guessed it...Willie Harris.  Willie finishes the game by driving in 3 of Louisville's 4 runs, going 3-for-4 with 7 total bases. 

Tonight's Mystery Rookie Card Game was full of surprises...

Kei's selection was this 2010 Topps Update Rhyne Hughes RC (sorry, kiddo...not Gold).  Rhyne was drafted in the 50th round of the 2003 draft by the Pirates, but did not sign.  The following year, he was picked in the 8th round by the Devil Rays and was the player to be named later in the 2009 deal that sent Gregg Zaun from the Orioles to the Rays.  Hughes only appeared in 14 games for the Orioles in 2010, striking out 19 times in 51 PA.  He spent most of 2010 and 2011 in AAA Norfolk, but has been in AA Bowie for the 2012 season, striking out 74 times in 313 PA.

Ahh, I picked this 2008 Upper Deck Timeline Mike Parisi RC.  Mike was picked in the 9th round of the 2004 draft by the St Louis Cardinals, and made appearances in 12 games for the Cardinals (2 of those games were starts) in 2008, with a record of 0-4, 8.22 ERA, and 2.261 WHIP (consisting of 15BB and 13K in 23 IP), he returned to AAA Memphis and was eventually drafted by the Cubs in the 2009 Rule 5 draft.  After appearing in only 6 games between AA and AAA, Parisi was granted free agency in October 2010, again signing with the Cubs in November 2010, and was released in March of 2011.  Parisi pitched for 2 months in 2011 with the Independent League Long Island Ducks, and was selected to appear in the 2011 Atlantic League All-Star Game.  His tenure with the Ducks led to a new deal with the Dodgers, pitching in only 9 games during each season of 2011 and 2012 with AAA Albuquerque, sidelined since May 28 with shoulder pain. 
Which isn't great news for Mike Parisi.  By the way, a Mike Parisi fun fact: he recorded the first win as a pitcher in the new Busch Stadium on April 4, 2006.  This occurred during an exhibition game between the Memphis Redbirds and the Springfield Cardinals (both Cardinals affiliates, of course) prior to the actual MLB first home opener on April 10, 2006.

Official Program #4, featuring Didi goodness, they misspelled his name, inside and out!!

Official Scorecard #3, featuring Corky Miller, and autographed by Corky Miller!!

Bat Chat

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

7/24/12 Buffalo Bisons 1, Louisville Bats 4

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 1 of 4

Dollar Hot Dog night is important stuff.  If I don't get 2 Tuesday night tickets in my annual bundle, I end up having to trade with other members of my season ticket partnership.  Both of my daughters enjoy Dollar Hot Dog night, and hey...I happen to enjoy a few hot dogs from time to time as well.  We were promised less than desirable weather tonight, including but not limited to gallons of rain, but when $1 hot dogs are involved,  a rain delay is just another excuse to sit inside and eat a few more.
I'm not sure how Felix Perez feels about hot dogs, or rain delays for that matter...but Chihiro and I had our share of hot dogs, plus a 1 hour 7 minute rain delay with the most violent rain and wind I've ever seen at Louisville Slugger Field, and Felix Perez went 3-for-4 with an RBI against the visiting Buffalo Bisons.  

Didi Gregorius did his part in the first inning, with a dandy of a line-drive solo HR in deep right field to give the Bats an early lead.  The Bisons responded in the 3rd, when Lucas May led off the inning with a double, was advanced to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt by starting pitcher Chris Schwinden, and eventually scored on a 2-out RBI single by Mike Baxter.

The score was locked at 1-1 and hey, even Chad Reineke was having one of his better evenings...through his 5 innings of work, he had only allowed 1 run (earned), 5 hits, one BB and 5 strikeouts (4 of them swinging).  Schwinden was holding his own well after the Gregorius opening potato, having allowed only that 1 run (earned), 6 hits, no walks, one HB and 5 strikeouts (all of them swinging).  The game was moving along at a brisk pace, when at 8:22pm (only 1:17 into the game), the bottom of the 5th, with 1 on and 2 outs, the rain hit hard, the tarp went on, and stayed on until 9:29pm.  By that time, Schwinden (as well as Reineke)  could not have been expected to continue the game...Schwinden was relieved by Jenrry Mejia, who retired Neftali Soto to end the 5th.

Mejia stayed in for another inning, while Reineke was relieved by Will Ohman, Nick Christiani, and Donnie Joseph...all 3 of whom pitched 4 scoreless innings, with 3 combined hits and 8 combined strikeouts.  Relieving Mejia for the Bisons was Dylan Owen, who opened the 7th with a leadoff single to Willie Harris.  Harris advanced to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt by Denis Phipps; the next batter was Gregorius, who was intentionally walked on the 3-0 pitch, and Harris crossed the plate on a line drive single over 2nd base by Henry Rodriguez.  Neftali Soto also walks to load the bases for Felix Perez.  Perez is already 3-for-3 tonight with a double and two singles, and would have made an RBI groundout to 1B Adam Loewen, but Loewen bobbles the ball...Loewen is charged with an error.  Perez still gets an RBI, and Rodriguez also scores (no RBI) and the Bats are quickly up 4-1, they maintain this score through the end of the game.

So, finally Felix Perez becomes the story behind the game, for the first time this season...and not because of his side-splitting walkup music.  Not to be confused with the Venezuelan Felix Perez that played in the Cubs organization in 2010-2011, this Felix Perez is the Cuban outfielder who was infamously suspended for a year by MLB in the spring of 2009, after nearly signing a $3-3.5 million deal with the Yankees that fell apart when it was discovered he had lied about his age.  Perez rebounded from this and signed a Minor League contract with the Reds in May of 2010 for just over a half-million dollars.  Following a rapid ascent through the Reds' system through 2010 and most of 2011, Perez arrived in Louisville in August of 2011, playing in 9 games with a disappointing .206/.250/.235 to finish the season.  Perez is one of the more consistent performers on this year's roster, currently rounding out at .272/.319/.362 with 48 strikeouts and 15 walks in 268 AB (by comparison, Bill Rhinehart is .241/.321/.383 with 57 strikeouts and 30 walks in 261 AB).

That being said, my kids and I know when he's up when we hear "Chacarron Mocaron" which is too hilarious not to share.  He's an international man of mystery, for sure...but without a drastic improvement in his offensive numbers, he remains blocked by others at the Major League level and can only hope for inclusion in a trade deal during the offseason to carry his career to the big leagues.

In the Mystery Rookie Card game, Chihiro made a stunning pick...this 1993 Upper Deck Johnny Damon RC, a card with questionable value but still very kool just the same.

My pick was not so exciting, a 2006 Topps 52 Dustin Nippert RC.  Dustin was a 15th round pick in the 2002 amateur draft and was a mainstay in the Diamondbacks organization for 6 seasons from 2002-2007, appearing in 41 games for the club from 2005-2007 with a combined 2-3 record and 6.43 ERA.  Dustin was traded to the Texas Rangers in the spring of 2008 for Jose Marte, and performed somewhat better for the MLB club, with a 12-13 record and 4.91 ERA in 78 games from 2008-2010.  Interesting Dustin Nippert fact is despite his lackluster career performance, he managed to make postseason appearances for both clubs; the Diamondbacks NLCS in 2007 (2 games), and the Rangers ALDS in 2010 (1 game)...with a career postseason ERA of 5.40.  Also interesting, Dustin was sidelined in a scary incident on July 19, 2010 when an Austin Jackson line drive hit him on the side of the head so hard, it ricocheted past 3rd base into left field.  He walked off the field on his own accord (and did so smiling).  Tough kid, granted free agency by the Rangers in December of 2010 and signed a contract with the KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) Doosan Bears in March of 2011, and is still on their roster as a starting pitcher.

I attempted, with no success, to trade this card with Chihiro for the Damon RC.  

Official Program #3, featuring Kristopher Negron

Official Scorecard #3, featuring Corky Miller...and autographed by Corky Miller!!

Bat Chat

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