Reds 3-game sweep of Pirates all about the little things
CINCINNATI — Three games (and three rain delays) of a 162-game schedule will hardly dictate the final results of the Reds’ season but it’s hard for them not to be feeling good after finishing off a sweep of Pittsburgh Thursday afternoon at Great American Ball Park with a 3-2 win on a ninth inning error by Pirates’ right fielder Gregory Polanco.
All three games were decided in the eighth inning or later. That wasn’t a good sign for the Reds last season when they were 22-38 in games decided by one run, the most one-run losses in the major leagues. They have now won two such games in a row, in the span of less than 14 hours no less. It took the Reds 15 games last season to win back-to-back times. They never won consecutive games by one run last season.
Three games does not make a season, but as manager Bryan Price said after Thursday’s game, being 3-0 after three games is better than anything else.
Price and the players talked throughout spring training in Arizona about being better at doing the little things to win games, the need to play as a team and not for individual stats. They were able to do just that in these first three games.
Starter Anthony DeSclafani came back after a one hour, 14-minute rain delay and pitched two more innings, getting through the sixth inning and saving Price from having to go to a bullpen that already pitched deep into the wee hours of Thursday morning in a 5-4, 11-inning win.
Todd Frazier led off the ninth inning Thursday with a double off Pirates reliever Rob Scahill. Devin Mesoraco followed with a slow roller that just got past Scahill on the mound. Pittsburgh shortstop Jordy Mercer threw out Mesoraco at first base but Frazier advanced to third. The Pirates intentionally walked Jay Bruce to set up a potential double play with Marlon Byrd.
Byrd, who had just two hits in his first 13 at-bats, hit a sinking liner to right field. Polanco was playing shallow and charged the ball. He looked to be in position to make the catch but instead misjudged the ball. It went off his glove for an error, getting past him and allowing Frazier to score without a throw.
Price pointed to Mesoraco’s at-bat as an example of how he wants the Reds to play this season. Mesoraco is just 1-for-12 in the first three games, getting his hit in his first at-bat Thursday.
"It’s just a selfless style of baseball. He could have just as easily tried to hit a home run in that situation as opposed to moving the runner but that’s what we do now," said Price. "I think we’re a much better team as far as playing good situational baseball. If we win the one-run games we’ll be in this thing all the way until the end."
The end is a long ways off but for the first three games the Reds couldn’t have asked of a much better start from themselves.
"We’ve got to play really tough baseball and we have to do the small things, and when we have the opportunity to win we have to take full advantage of it," said first baseman Joey Votto after Wednesday’s game. "Collectively we did it. I thought we played good defense tonight. Hopefully that’s something we plan on doing going forward."
Votto hit his first home run of the season, with Billy Hamilton on board, in the sixth inning to tie Thursday’s game, 2-2. Hamilton has been on base eight times in the first three games. He’s scored four of those times. He’s a perfect 6-for-6 on stolen base attempts. Votto drove in four runs in the last two games. They either tied the score or gave the Reds the lead.
"Joey communicates very well. He’s one of those guys that he doesn’t have to hit the first strike and I’ve learned over the past year that I don’t have to run on the first pitch or the second pitch," said Hamilton. "He’s going to battle, he’s going to have great at-bats and I can score from first on any given pitch, you never know. He’s giving me more confidence over there at first base to not feel like I have to get to second base. It’s been going good for me. I’ve been feeling great on the bases. I haven’t been going first pitch every time. I’ve been working the count and everything. It’s been working really well."
For the first three games, everything has worked pretty well for the Reds.