Maloney praised for saving Reds' bullpen
CINCINNATI - It isn't often a manager of a losing team grabs a relief pitcher in a bear hug and thanks him profusely during a game in which his team is getting shipwrecked and abandoned the way the Cincinnati Reds were Friday night.
That, though, is exactly what Reds manager Dusty Baker did to left-handed relief pitcher Matt Maloney when he walked off the mound after the eighth inning in Great American Ball Park with his team behind by six runs..
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Charlie Morton did a large number on the Reds, 6-1, but Baker looks for the positives even if they are under dirty rugs.
For Maloney, it turned into a Save the Bullpen Night. Starter Bronson Arroyo kept feeding the Pirates fat pitches when he was ahead in the count and ended up vacating the premises after only four innings and a 5-0 deficit.
Enter Matt Maloney. And it was Stay in the Game Matt Maloney -- four innings, no runs, four hits, no walks, four strikeouots.
The amazing facet of the whole thing is that Maloney, a 27-year-old left-hander, hadn't pitched in seven days.
It was a long week in purgatory after he gave up seven runs, six hits and a walk in only 1 2/3 innings against the Houston Astros.
Maloney figured he was buried and forgotten about in the back row and darkness of the bullpen, a dungeon seat.
But Baker came calling Friday and Maloney was ready for duty with his four scoreless innings.
"I don't know if in football they give game balls for a losing team, but I'm giving one tonight to Maloney," said Baker. "He really saved our bullpen. We're at the start of 13 consecutives games without a day off and the thing you hate the worst is to go through your whole bullpen and get in a hole right away."
Bake grabbed Maloney after the eighth and whispered in his ear, "That was right on time."
Added Baker, "You hate to lose but at some point in time you need somebody to save your bullpen and Maloney did it.
"I'm hoping we look back on this game and can say even though we lost this is a period where Matt Maloney saved us," Baker added. "He needed it after his last outing and we needed it tonight — a gutsy team-saving performance," said Baker.
Maloney, of course, used this outing to empty his memory bank of the Nightmare on Pete Rose Way against Houston.
"He came up to me, gave me a big hug and said, 'I'm happy you saved our bullpen,'" said Maloney. "We have a lot of games in a row (13) so any game like that where I can go out there and eat up some innings and not blow out the bullpen, well, that's what I'm there for.
"This definitely clears that last one out of my head and I wanted to get back out there as soon as I could and have a good outing and put that one behind me," Maloney said.
He had to wait a week, but it was worth the wait and was worth the weight in crude oil to Baker and the Reds.
The Reds were completely fooled and baffled by Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton, who was 2-12 with a 7.75 ERA last season.
They had no runs and only four hits, two of them singles by Drew Stubbs, until the ninth. With two outs and nobody on slump-shrouded Jay Bruce homered to the grassy knoll behind the center field wall, his first homer this season.
"Morton has been throwing that way all year, according to our reports," said Baker. "He wasn't throwing that way last year. He was more of a power pitcher, but probably due to the new pitching coach they have (Ray Searage) he is sinking the ball and mixing in an occasional breaking ball."
Morton recorded 13 outs on ground balls en route to a five-hit complete game and Baker said, "You know he had late movement and late sink with the amount of ground balls we had."
But it was Maloney who really kept the Reds grounded - and that was a good thing.