Series preview: Reds vs. Chicago Cubs
Manager Dusty Baker spent the first five weeks of the season just trying to keep his team's collective head above water while awaiting the return from injury of some key players.
Those players started trickling back to active duty on May 5, the day after the Reds started a stretch during which they won nine of 11 games, including Sunday's 9-7 win over St. Louis. That completed Cincinnati's first sweep of a three-game series with the Cardinals since Sept. 11-13, 2007.
Cincinnati's 7-4 win Saturday marked the first time Baker was able to use the same lineup he deployed on Opening Day.
"It's been rough," Baker said of working around injuries to Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto and third baseman Scott Rolen. "I've been doing a lot of thinking in the middle of the night when I wanted to be sleeping."
Baker no doubt slept well after the Reds completed their sweep by beating Chris Carpenter for the first time in 12 starts dating back almost five years. Cincinnati had to overcome a ninth-inning meltdown in which St. Louis scored five runs.
If nothing else, that aborted Cardinals comeback might help the Reds maintain their edge with below-.500 Chicago and Pittsburgh coming into town."
"I'm not worried about that," Baker said about overlooking the Cubs and Pirates. "These are a couple of tough teams. The Cubs always play us tough, and now they have (Carlos) Zambrano and (Matt Garza going. The Pirates took three out of four earlier this year. We've just got to go home and eat a good meal and get some rest."
--RHP Francisco Cordero's save Sunday was the 297th of his career, leaving him three short of joining Jose Mesa as the only Dominicans to reach 300. He didn't get it without some controversy, engaging in a post-game shouting match with Cardinals' C Gerald Laird, who was upset that 1B Albert Pujols was hit by an 0-2 pitch during St. Louis's ninth-inning comeback.
--RHP Jose Arredondo pitched a perfect eighth inning in his first appearance since Oct. 1, 2009, when he was playing for the Angels. Arredondo completed his comeback from Tommy John surgery on Feb. 2, 2010.
--RHP Mike Leake's first start for Class AAA Louisville also will be the first minor-league appearance of his life. Leake, the Reds' No. 1 pick and the eighth overall selection in the 2009 draft, didn't pitch in the minors before making his professional debut with Cincinnati in April 2010. He was optioned Saturday to make room on the roster for RHP Jose Arredondo, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list after completing his rehab duty with the Bats.
--C Ryan Hanigan was expected to start Sunday's series finale against St. Louis, but his right hand still was too sore after he was hit by a pitch Friday. Hanigan's replacement, Ramon Hernandez, homered in his first at-bat, giving him three home runs in four at-bats over two games.
--RHP Homer Bailey faces his most difficult challenge Monday against the Cubs since returning on May 5 from the 15-day disabled list. Bailey, who is a combined 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in two starts against Houston, is 1-2 with a 7.65 ERA in four career starts against Chicago, including 0-1 and 10.00 in two starts last season.
BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- Batters walked by LHP Aroldis Chapman out of 19 batters faced over his last four appearances. He allowed 10 runs, all earned, in that span.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was just a little fun. I think they were upset because I hit Pujols with an 0-2 pitch. Gerald Laird was yelling at me. I just told him, 'Say it again.' He's a great hitter and a great player, and I thought it was funny that a guy who wasn't playing was yelling at me. I wasn't trying to hit him. I've got nothing against the Cardinals. I've never disrespected anybody. I looked in the dugout and Pujols was just sitting there quietly. He knew I wasn't trying to hit him." -- RHP Francisco Cordero on St. Louis catcher Gerald Laird yelling from the dugout after Albert Pujols was hit by a pitch, which put the tying run on base with one out in the ninth inning.
--C Ryan Hanigan (sore right hand) left the May 13 game. He didn't play May 14 and was supposed to start May 15, but his hand was still too sore.
--INF Juan Francisco (strained left calf) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 17. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Louisville on May 9.
--RHP Jared Burton (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 29. He suffered a setback in early April, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 18. He underwent arthroscopic surgery April 22, and the timetable for his return was unknown.
The Cubs look to have caught a break Sunday when their game against the Giants in Chicago was rained out. That meant the Cubs did not have to face Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum.
Manager Mike Quade was asked several times before and during the just concluded homestand about the importance of the current stretch of games. The Cubs went 3-5 at home, losing two of three to the Reds and Cardinals each and splitting two games with the Giants.
"We're leaving here having played three clubs that look like they're going to contend in the postseason that we're trying to catch up to," Quade said. "We're going to (Cincinnati), Florida and Boston. It doesn't get any easier."
The Cubs had talked of using this current rough stretch as a measuring stick to see how they stacked up against good teams. So far, they've been found lacking, with a record of 17-21.
"We're a game short of two teams in our division; we lose two out of three," Quade said of the Reds and Cardinals series. "You always talk about the fine line in this game. The truth of the matter is you take two out of three from those clubs, it's a huge difference. But you've got to take them.
"You've got to do the things that allow you to take them. We're not there yet. That's a fact."
--RHPs Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza will start the two games at Cincinnati, Monday and Tuesday. Zambrano was supposed to start Sunday against the Giants in Chicago, but the game was rained out.
--LHP Doug Davis started Saturday after being brought up from Class AAA (Des Moines) Iowa. It was Davis' first major league start since July 9, 2010, while Davis was with Milwaukee. Davis took the lost Saturday, but he worked five creditable innings, giving up four hits and three runs, one earned. "I just feel lucky that I have the opportunity to go out there and prove my worth," the 35-year-old Davis said. Manager Mike Quade also was happy. "I'll take that from him every time," Quade said.
--OF Tyler Colvin is finding it hard to get playing time. Blake DeWitt was scheduled to make his first career outfield start Sunday before the game was rained out. Now, speculation is that the Cubs will send Colvin to Class AAA (Des Moines) to get some at-bats. Colvin is batting .113. Quade said he is "very concerned" about Colvin's lack of playing time and that he'd think about the situation over the next day or two. If the Cubs send OF Tyler Colvin down, they could purchase the contract of hot-hitting OF Lou Montanez from Iowa.
--RHP Justin Berg was optioned to Iowa to make room for LHP Doug Davis on the roster. The Cubs also removed minor league RHP Thomas Diamond from the 40-man roster, outrighting him to Iowa. The 40-man stands at 39.
--CF Marlon Byrd extended his hitting streak to 15 games Saturday night. That matches his career best, set in 2003 when he was with the Phillies. Byrd brings a .312 average into Monday's series opener at Cincinnati.
BY THE NUMBERS: 102 -- Starlin Castro (54 hits) and Marlon Byrd (48) entered the week having combined for 102 hits. That was second-best in baseball behind the Dodgers' Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, who had teamed for 104.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I really missed the competition, and I really missed the camaraderie of being on a team. … Being a lefty, they say you have nine lives; I feel like I've been through five or six right now." -- Doug Davis on returning to the big leagues
--C Geovany Soto (left groin strain) went on the 15-day disabled list May 11.
--RHP Andrew Cashner (mild right rotator cuff strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 6. He began a throwing program April 22, and he threw off a mound for the first time May 2. He threw batting practice May 10, and he was rehabbing in Arizona in mid-May. There is no timetable for his return.
--RHP Randy Wells (slight right forearm strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 5. He began a throwing program April 22, and he threw off a mound for the first time May 2. He threw batting practice May 10, and he will make his first rehab start May 17 for Class A Peoria. There is a chance he could start for the Cubs on May 22.
--RHP Brian Schlitter (strained right forearm) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. The timetable for his return was unknown.