CINCINNATI — Todd Frazier’s head crashed to the pillow at 4 a.m. and two hours later he was awakened by the pounding of drums and the clanging of cymbals outside his downtown condominium.
The Cincinnati Reds played an 11-inning night game in Philadelphia Thursday, so they were early-morning arrivals to their home city.
Those weren’t the St. Louis Cardinals pounding and clanging and singing outside Frazier’s windows, even though the Reds and Cardinals were to given a three-game series Friday night in Great American Ball Park.
But the Cardinals were banging and clanging their bats Friday night in Great American Ball Park, pounding 14 hits in an 8-5 victory.
“They’re protestors,” said Frazier of his sleep interrupters, not the Cardinals. “They’re actually street people that have been hired to protest construction work. They’ve been around all year, start up early every morning, and they have about 20 chants and songs. I know the words to all of them.”
Frazier, though, figures he and his teammates could rouse themselves enough to put on a sharp show against the second-place Cardinals, who began Friday seven games behind the Reds in the National League Central.
But now it’s a six-game lead because after the Reds constructed a 5-2 lead after five innings, the Cardinals scored six runs in the sixth inning off Mat Latos to turn it around.
Frazier is a Rookie of the Year candidate, but is soon to be a man without a position. Joey Votto has missed 39 games after knee surgery and Frazier has been Votto’s fill-in at first base.
And when third baseman Scott Rolen missed games with an aching back Frazier filled in there, too.
Filled in? He has been more than filler. More like grout and mortar — .296, 18 homers, 59 RBIs in 325 at-bats.
On Friday he had a walk and three singles, driving in a run to help build the early lead. His two-out single in the ninth put two runners on and brought up Scott Rolen, the tying run, but he struck out.
There is no question, it isn’t even a question, as to what happens when Votto returns. He plays first base. And third base? The veteran Rolen is hitting .341 with three homers and 14 RBIs since the All-Star break.
When asked about Frazier’s positioning when Votto comes back and whether Frazier might move to third, Baker said, “You want me to take out a player of Rolen’s caliber, an All-Star, a Gold Glover, a team leader? Hey, we’ll figure it out when it needs to be figured out.”
And Frazier is playing it exactly that way.
“I haven’t heard anything,” said Frazier. “As far as I know I’m a starter right now and I’m going to play my heart out no matter what position it is — first base, third base, back-and-forth. When Votto comes back, it’s up to them. Until then, I’ll keep doing what I have to do to help the team.”
Votto, of course, is not back for The Showdown Series this weekend. Most of the Reds, Frazier included, figured it would be the Cardinals making a run at them, even though the Pittsburgh Pirates chased the Reds for most of the year from second place, but have faded like new jeans in hot water.
Frazier wasn’t with the Reds last year but remembers the Cardinals coming from eight games behind last year to grab a wild card and win the World Series.
“I thought they’d be right there,” said Frazier. “They have the veteran guys who have done and some good young players. We have a six-game lead, a lot of games, but we have a lot of games left.”
And there is that recent history of the Cardinals coming back.
“I remember sitting at home watching that whole saga, right down to the last day of the season with all the scenarios in both leagues,” said Frazier. “That was one of the best nights in baseball ever. It was crazy. We’re going to try to put a halt to what the Cardinals did last year. They’re a good team, but we have to get on ‘em early and often and keep that lead.
“Taking two out of three here would be really good,” he said. “Gaining one game would be great. Do we want to sweep? Of course.”
A sweep was swept aside by the Cardinals Friday and now the Reds need to take the next two to prevent the Cardinals from gaining more ground.