CINCINNATI — So who needs Johnny Cueto? Not the Cincinnati Reds. Not at this moment, anyway. The starting pitching is above reproach, even with Cueto residing on the disabled list.
What the starting staff of Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani need is a little help from their friends carrying baseball bats to home plate.
After Arroyo gave them their sixth straight above-and-beyond start, the Reds had to put in four innings of overtime Saturday afternoon to beat the Miami Marlins, 3-2.
After a five-day streak of sensational pitching from all five starters, the Reds began another trip through the rotation Saturday with another strong start.
The man who started it, Arroyo, held the Marlins to two runs and six hits, leaving after eight innings of a 2-2 tie.
Arroyo gave up four of his six hits during a five-batter span in the fifth inning, when he was nicked for the two runs. After giving up a run-scoring two-out double in the fifth to Placido Polanco, Arroyo retired the last 10 batters he faced.
And when he struck out Justin Ruggiano in the second inning, it was Arroyo’s 1,000th strikeout while pitching for the Reds.
But just as was the case with Latos on Friday, the Reds’ offense was taking another nap. They gave Latos only one run while he held the Marlins to one run in eight innings and the Reds lost 2-1, when Aroldis Chapman gave up a home run in the ninth.
But what is happening with the rotation is similar to what happened last year when first baseman Joey Votto went down for 50 games. The rest of the team became a Band of Brothers and played their best baseball to pull away in the National League Central.
Now they’ve lost their ace, their No. 1, in Cueto, and the starters have circled the mound.
The Reds went through their previous turn of the five-man rotation with the starters compiling a 3-0 record with a 1.03 ERA. They pitched 35 of a possible 45 innings, gave up four runs, 21 hits and four walks with 38 strikeouts.
“That’s how you get into streaks and that’s how we got into long winning streaks last year,” said manager Dusty Baker. “I think we went through the rotation twice like this during a streak last year. But that’s also how you get into losing streaks when you don’t get this from the rotation.
“I hope this is the start of good things happening for a long time with our starting pitchers,” Baker added.
The Saturday game ended appropriately enough on Brandon Phillips Bobblehead Day. His sacrifice fly in the 13th inning ended it.
But did it have to go 13 innings? Did it have to last 4 hours and 9 minutes? Did it have to end with a whimper instead of a bang, a Phillips sacrifice fly?
And did the Reds have to strand 17 runners before Phillips found a way to finally drive home leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo? Choo was on base five times without reaching third before he doubled to open the 13th, his sixth time on base (three hits, three walks).
After Choo’s double, shortstop Zack Cozart tried to bunt but had two fingers on his right hand pinched against the bat and had to leave. Cesar Izturis replaced him and drove a deep fly to right that enabled Choo to take third.
Of course the Marlins walked Votto intentionally after Votto previously banged four hits and drove in the first two runs with a home run and a single.
And Phillips delivered.
“It took long enough and, man, I’m tired as hell right now,” Phillips said. “We stranded 17 runners and that’s embarrassing. The game shouldn’t have taken that long.”
As for walking Votto to face him, Phillips said, “That’s baseball. Joey is one of the best hitters in the game and they are doing what they are supposed to do. I just have to do my job. I mean they had a right-handed pitcher so they are going to walk (left-handed) Votto and first base was open.”
And it’s Bailey’s turn Sunday to keep the streak of nearly perfect pitching from the starting staff when he goes against Alex Sanabia.