CINCINNATI – The joke going around the Great American Ball Park press box was that Shin-Soo Choo went over to the Cleveland Indians’ dugout before Tuesday’s game not just to say “Hi” to old friends but to remind them not to hit him.
Following Monday’s ninth inning in which Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman airmailed two fastballs in the vicinity of Nick Swisher’s head, there was considerable talk in the media and on the Internet about possible retaliation, having a teammate’s back and repercussions as this four-game interleague and intrastate series continues.
Brandon Phillips took the hit – literally – from Indians’ starter Zach McAllister in the fifth inning. Honestly, given his history with the Tribe he probably was a logical choice to get it, whether McAllister did it on purpose or not.
“I was trying to go in there and it just went a little too far,” said McAllister.
Phillips took a short stroll up the third base line, flipped his bat in the air, caught it, and then went on his way to first base. No words, no stares, no fireworks. The only drama left in this storyline is just how “warmly” fans at Progressive Field will welcome Chapman should he come into either of the remaining two games of the series on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Indians have much bigger concerns as their bullpen continued its collective swoon in an 8-2 Cincinnati victory.
Bryan Shaw took his turn Tuesday, allowing four runs on four hits in one-third of an inning as the Reds broke open a tight game in the seventh inning by going 4-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Former Indian Jack Hannahan, pinch-hitter Derrick Robinson and the suddenly surging Zack Cozart all delivered RBI hits in the inning.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona isn’t pushing any panic buttons but it really hasn’t mattered what buttons he’s pushed with his bullpen for the past 10 days.
“We go game to game,” said Francona. “Every game is different. We’ve had some outings where it’s getting away from us and it hurts your chances to win. But I think we have a good bullpen and we’ll regroup tomorrow.”
Chris Perez has gone on the disabled list. An examination on Monday showed no muscle tears but an impingement that will shelve him for five days before he can possibly begin any throwing program. Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith haven’t been used the last two days because situations haven’t warranted them coming into the game.
The Reds, on the other hand, got a bullpen boost from veteran left-hander Manny Parra, who came on in the top of the seventh inning to relieve starter Mat Latos with one out and runners on first and second base. Parra had an ERA of 8.10 in his first six appearances of the season before going on the DL for a month.
He came off the DL last week and made a shaky first appearance on Sunday against the Cubs, getting a final out in the eighth inning after allowing two runners to reach.
There was nothing shaky about the three pitches he threw to Jason Kipnis on Tuesday. All three breaking balls, the first two swinging strikes and the third one sent Kipnis back to the dugout bat in hand looking. With Sean Marshall currently disabled, the role of lefty set-up man is Parra’s for the taking.
“I was just happy to get the opportunity to come in that situation. It’s a lot of fun when you get to come in and help the team win as opposed to coming into games where you’re trying to fill in the time,” said Parra. “I’ve got to gain some respect for the fact that I can throw my off-speed pitch for a strike, get ahead with that and then I can go back to using the fastball a little more and get more outs with that.”
Sam LeCure struck out Asdrubal Cabrera to end the Indians’ scoring threat and then Alfredo Simon pitched the final two innings.
“You’ve got to put (Parra) in there and give him the opportunity,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker. “It was a big out against a big hitter. That set up my bullpen because the guys they had coming up were switch-hitters, three of them in a row, and they’re all better right-hand hitters than they are left-hand hitters. You play the numbers and the odds. It doesn’t always work but you’ve got to play something.”