Pretty impressive couple of days at Great American Ball Park for the Reds, beating Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte. After the impressive road trip, the next question was: How would this team do against the two teams that have given them the most trouble the past several years? So far, so good.
I’ve been impressed for the past couple of weeks by how patient the Reds hitters have become. They drove up Oswalt’s pitch count Friday. Same story on Saturday (eventually) with Pettitte. Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns drew walks, Edwin Encarnacion had a good at-bat, fouling off pitches before his big double, and the offense began to flow. The Reds hitters seem to be going to the plate with a plan, and they’ve been able to execute that plan. John Fay told us in the second inning Saturday he’ll have a story about Chris Chambliss, the Reds hitting coach, in the Enquirer Sunday. Chris deserves a lot of credit for all his hard work with the Reds? (mostly young) hitters.
The other thing that jumps out at me, watching this team every day, is the speed factor. Adding Brandon Phillips to a lineup that already includes Ryan Freel and Felipe Lopez, and suddenly the Reds can score in ways that they couldn’t do as easily in the past. It’s not just having speed, but having more than one or two guys with that speed that can create havoc on the base paths, as we’ve seen with Brandon the past couple of days.
Also, the starting pitching is so critical. The first couple of weeks of the season it was very good, then things got shaky for several days. Of late it’s been strong. For the Reds to truly contend, it’ll have to continue to get better. The team era is still around 5; if they can get it down in the mid-4s or so, then with this offense, they’ll have a chance against the top teams.
It’s still so early, but with each win, especially over very good pitching, the confidence continues to build. Sunday it’s Elizardo Ramirez’s turn again. He was outstanding last Monday night in his 2006 Major League debut. Can he do it again? Or at least keep his team in the game and give them a chance? If he changes speeds they way he did in Washington, he’ll be fun to watch. Houston puts young Taylor Buchholz on the hill, and he’s enjoyed success this year too.
Regarding some of the questions and comments some of you have left (and I appreciate them), I found out there’s more than one way I can answer them. I can post under one of your questions, or I can just answer you in a blog entry like this one. So I’ll answer a few of them now, and more in the next few days.
Someone suggested the team call up outfielder Chris Denorfia. If the Reds had a place for him to play every day, I’d second that motion. But right now, with things going well here, there really isn’t a place. But the good news is: He’s playing everyday (and playing very well) at Louisville. We’ll see him at some point this year, and the way he plays the game, I would think he could be a starter at some point in the future. But right now he’s playing — and still developing where he is.
Someone asked about Cody Ross, the player the Reds acquired from the Dodgers this past week. He was hit in the hand Friday night, which might have cost him a start on Saturday. He’s seen as especially good against left-handed pitching, so with Pettitte starting, the thought was he might be in there. The good news is X-rays were negative.
To the person that asked about Joe Nuxhall and having him around: I’m glad he’s around. No one’s treated me any better than he has. I’m glad he’s still on the air with us. On occasion I have the chance to broadcast games with him, which I really enjoy. And I know folks still like to hear Marty and him together, and on those days, I enjoy listening just like you. And, no, I haven’t tried your aunt’s hangover cure…. (yet).
The man who facilitated this whole blog "thing" for me, Dann Stupp, tells me I’ve had some "traffic" and received some questions from some of you. I’m a neophyte at all this stuff, and not exactly technically savvy, so Dann is going to show me on Friday how to answer those of you who’ve had questions.
Dann, by the way, is the co-author of Tom Browning’s new book, "Tales from the Reds Dugout." Mr. Perfect himself will be signing copies at Sunday’s game with Houston in the Reds Community Fund booth, with a portion of each sale benefiting the charity.
Well, are you excited about this homestand? I had two different radio stations (in other cities) interview me today about the Reds’ outstanding start. I’d hate to think how many calls Marty’s gotten; usually you multiply my requests by at least five and you get his total. Anyway, it’s fun broadcasting a team enjoying some early success.
I hope a lot of folks come out to see the Reds play the last two National League champions, the Astros and Cardinals, beginning Friday night. A 6-1 road trip was an impressive feat the past week, but now they get a chance to measure themselves against teams that have really given them trouble in the recent past. Is it "make-or-break" time? No way — way too early. In fact, it’s way too early to draw any conclusion other than that this team has had a good start. By the way, the starting pitching the Reds will face is about as good as it gets: beginning with Roy Oswalt, then Andy Pettitte, and then young Taylor Buchholz, whose ERA is below 2.
But having been to the ballparks in Houston and St. Louis many times, I can tell you that when the Reds go in there, the places are packed, and the fans give their team a great home-field advantage. Hopefully it’ll be a great atmosphere in the Queen City this weekend. One positive number early in this baseball season: the Reds are 10-6 within the division. It’s a key stat to watch since roughly half their games are within the NL Central.
And don’t forget that after Friday and Saturday’s games you’re invited to postgame concerts, thanks to the new Taco Bell Late Night Concert Series on the Bud True Music Stage. Friday it’ll be the Hyde Park Outrage; Saturday it’s Mike Milligan and Steam Shovel. By the way, if the "Outrage" ever meets the "Steam Shovel," well, I don’t have to tell you, it could get a little messy. The concerts are free to anyone with a ticket to that day’s game.
Also fans (yes, of all ages) are invited to run the bases after Sunday’s game. Incidentally, Mark Berry’s got a previous engagement, so you’ll have to "wave" yourself home….enjoy the weekend!!
Monday night’s 4-2 win had to give Jerry Narron and Tom Hume particular joy because of the performance of 23-year-old Elizardo Ramirez. It’s only one start, but seven strong innings from an unexpected source was great to see. Talking to him after the game (mostly through his interpretor/catcher, Javier Valentin), Elizardo was quick to thank Mario Soto, now the Louisville pitching coach, for helping him develop a better change-up. Before I turned the microphone on to talk to Elizardo, Jerry Narron reminded him, "Don’t forget to call Mario Soto!"
It’s always great to see a young pitcher succeed, get his first big league win, get the ball, and in this case, get his first hit too.
So 13-7 after 20 games, the best start in 12 years, not bad. Loooooooong way to go, but it sure beats a poor start. The win guaranteed a winning road trip. And what a great story Brandon Phillips has been. Again, it’s early, but another young guy enjoying success (National League Player of the Week), after an unbelievable week, in which he drove in 17 runs.
Off the field, it’s been a busy couple of days for me. As much as I would have loved to do some sightseeing here, I’ve visited friends in Baltimore Monday and relatives in Virginia today, both visits that were long overdue on my part. But this is a GREAT city to have as a regular stop in the National League. From where we’re staying, most of what you’d want to visit in Washington is pretty close. Now it’s off to RFK for more baseball…
In a world in which seemingly everybody has their own talk show, now everybody also has their own blog, including me. Some nice folks in the Reds front office approached me and asked if I’d like to give this a try. I said "sure."
As Marty can attest, I’m rarely at a loss for words. So, what the heck?
I figure, I’ve got the best job in the world. I work with a Hall of Fame announcer, a man who keeps me and everybody else laughing every day. On occasion I get to work with Joe, who has been great to me too. What Reds fan wouldn’t want to be in my shoes? So why not take you on this "ride" that is the Reds season?
I know there are a lot of these types of forums available. Reds’ beat writer Marc Lancaster has done a super job keeping fans updated on things. What will this blog be about? Ask me after the season, and I’ll have a better idea. It will definitely be about the Reds and baseball, but it’ll also be about things away from the field, life on the road, etc.
Someone figured the "Bad Boy Blog" was a catchy title, so that’s what we’ve got. The number one question I get from fans is, "Where’d you get your nickname?"
Maybe I’ll save that one for the next entry.
Regarding the Reds, what an unbelievable last couple of days ? Wednesday at home and Thursday in Milwaukee. We all know the pitching needs to get better, but to comeback from 5-0 and 8-4 down to win? And from 6-2 down to win? Entertaining, but I’m sure Jerry Narron would like to win a little less dramatically. This Milwaukee team is a good measuring stick for the Reds, especially with the problems the Reds have had here in the past!
You can leave comments and questions for me at the end of this post. I encourage your feedback. Please keep it civil and clean, since my mom will be reading it.
Time for another brat(wurst, that is)…