CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds obliterated and obfuscated the Washington Nationals Friday night, 15-0.
And to second baseman Brandon Phillips, the ‘0’ was more important than the ‘15’ in that score.
After the Reds raked the Nationals pitching staff for 19 hits that were punctuated with six home runs, Phillips said, “We’re not an offensive team.”
“We’re all about defense and pitching,” he said. “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins games.”
During the 15-0 victory, Phillips made two above-and-beyond defensive plays, one a high, wide and handsome leap to spear a line drive headed for center fielder Shin-Soo Choo.
Choo watched Phillips snag the hit-bound line drive and when he reached the dugout, he said to manager Dusty Baker, “Wow.”
Said Baker, “What do you mean, ‘Wow?’ Get used to it, son. I’ve seen that a hundred times and you are going to see it over and over.”
In their first four games, three of them victories, the Reds have made only two errors to eight by the opposition.
As Phillips knows, the defense never rests.
“People don’t pay attention to defense because it is all about offensive excitement,” said Phillips. “But pitching and defense can take you farther, take you to the next step, the next level.
“You have to score runs, too, but there are many ways to score runs and only a couple of ways to stop them — defense and pitching,” he added.
Of his team not being offensive-minded, Phillips added, “We have guys who can hit the ball, make contact, put the ball in play. We have guys with some power and some guys who can hit. But we don’t have any real boppers, the Barry Bonds guy who just straight hits home runs. We have just barely an above-average team, guys who can do different things. But when it’s all said and it’s all over, you have to catch the ball.”
Like Choo, pitcher Manny Parra is new to the club this year and when he made his Reds debut Friday night Baker told him, “Just throw strikes. With the team we have, all you have to do is trust your defense. If you throw strikes you have a chance to have your defense do something for you. If you walk people, the defense has no chance to do anything to help you.”
Parra took the message to heart and pitched two scoreless innings. He gave up two hits but only one walk.
“Defense is what we expected from our people,” Baker said. “We work hard on defense. I’ve said it since I’ve been here — offense is fun, but defense is work. You don’t win games necessarily on defense, but you can lose games by giving up extra outs. This game is not designed to give up 30 outs as opposed to 27,
“All kinds of bad things can happen when you make errors,” Baker added. “The lineups turn over and you have to face the middle of the order late in the game when you wouldn’t have had to had you not made errors. There are going to be errors, but you try to minimize them. You think about making plays and don’t think about making errors. If you think about making errors that’s what you are going to do.”
Obviously, especially Friday night, the Reds were thinking offense and making the plays. Errors? Those are for other people.