Unexpected contributors keep Reds rolling headed to All-Star break
JUL 13, 2014 7:52p ET
CINCINNATI -- What Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman do from the pitcher's mound can be taken for granted sometimes. That's the standard they've set for themselves. Todd Frazier is turning into that kind of player at third base for the Reds.
What they got from Kristopher Negron, who had played in just five major league games prior to getting his first start on Sunday against Pittsburgh, and what reliever Jumbo Diaz has given them since being called up from Triple-A Louisville three weeks ago goes into the category of unexpected surprises.
Negron may only be with the Reds short-term while others get healthy but his three-run homer in the second inning off of Pirates' starter Francisco Liriano got the Reds off to a fast start, while Diaz pitched a perfect seventh inning in a 6-3 win that sends the Reds to the All-Star break seven games over .500 and just 1½ games out of first place in the National League Central. Neither player was on the 40-man roster coming out of spring training.
"Just like all of the other guys that have gotten the opportunity lately, (Negron) stepped up," said Reds manager Bryan Price. "That's a three-run homer off an outstanding pitcher giving us the opportunity to take an early lead."
Negron earned his first shaving cream pie after the game. The shaving cream itself didn't taste good, he said, but what it represented did. Negron just missed hitting a home run in the 11th inning Saturday night that would have tied the game.
"(Hitting coach) Donnie Long told me to look for a pitch up, over the plate and I got it. I was just trying to put a nice swing on it, not try to do too much and was able to give it a ride towards right," said Negron. "It went a little further than the one last night."
It was just the sixth at-bat in the majors for Negron. His first four came in 2012.
Diaz, 30, has now appeared in nine games, covering 8 1/3 innings. His ERA of 4.32 is deceiving. He allowed three runs in his major league debut on June 20 against Toronto. Since then he's given up just one run on three hits, including six straight scoreless appearances.
"The most important thing is that he is throwing the ball over (the plate)," said Price. "It doesn't matter if you're 30 or you're 18, when you get to the big leagues sometimes guys will try to miss the bat. They try to pitch away from contact and you'll find a lot of deep counts and a lot of pitches just missing off of the corner. That creates the problem of a lot of pitches thrown and a lot of pitches seen by the hitters. He's come right after hitters, not only with the good 95-to-100 mile an hour fastball but with a real good slider-split combination that's worked real well."
Cueto went six innings, including 1 2/3 innings after a 56-minute rain delay, and allowed three runs on five hits. His season ERA actually increased to 2.13.
Chapman, following up Jonathan Broxton's perfect eighth inning, struck out the side in the ninth for his 21st save of the season. He needed just 12 pitches to get the job done after needing just 14 pitches to do the same thing to the Pirates on Friday night.
Frazier's two-run homer in the sixth inning, just inside the fair pole down the right field line, provided the Reds some cushion after the Pirates had pulled to within 4-3 on a Neil Walker home run in the top of the inning. It was Frazier's 19th homer of the season and pushed his RBI total to 53.
Those are the expected.
What the Reds have gotten from players like Negron, Diaz and Brayan Pena, players who are proving their worth, have enabled them to more than survive the onslaught of injuries they've faced this season.