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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hamilton carries the Reds - I was there!

It felt sooo good to see the Reds again in person. It'd been far too long.

My comments:

My favorite quote of the night was from someone sitting in the row in front of me, right after Josh Hamilton hit his second career home run: "That's a double and two home runs in 9 at-bats. Who is this guy?" I'm in awe of the kid right now. I thought he looked a little bit lost in his first two at-bats, and I remember thinking that he looked like someone with only a handful of AB's above A-ball. But he apparently made some adjustments after those first two appearances, because his double was blistered into the corner (after the odd bounce off the wall, I thought he might try for three, but I think he hit it too hard for that)...and what else can I say about the opposite-field home run? The fan who caught it wisely didn't throw it back...who knows, it might be worth something some day (heh, I love being on the bandwagon!).

Given how much the Reds' offense is struggling right now, I'm not sure that we can afford to sit him for the time being, at least not against right-handers. I don't know where we can find room for him though...maybe Freel could sub in for Phillips & Encarnacion once a week? Along with the weekly rest of Freel and Griffey, that's 4 starting opportunities per week for Hamilton. Just a thought.

Belisle looked pretty good. His pitching line looks great, but there were an uncomfortably large number of well-hit balls to the outfield and relatively few ground balls. Fortunately, our outfielders had a nice day out there, including rangy catches by Ryan Freel (especially off of Tracy in the 1st!) and Hamilton. Dunn also made a nice running grab. So I think he may have been a tad hit-lucky tonight. Nevertheless, he did a great job of challenging hitters and avoiding the BB issues that haunted him last season (4.28 bb/9 vs. only 5.85 k/9). After his walk of Drew to start the game, he went to a three-ball count on only one batter. I'll gladly take that sort of effort from him. Overall, 6 innings, three hits, 3 strikeouts, and a walk results in an FIP for today's performance of 2.70.

Anyone hear what happened with Encarnacion? He smacked pretty hard into the umpire Mark Wegner (I could hear the collision) on a foul off of Chad Tracy's bat, so I was worried he might have hurt his shoulder or something. Apparently Rob Butcher had no explanation for it, except to say that he was not hurt. Fay speculated that it was due to him not running out his pop-up in the top of the 1st, but he played defense in the bottom of the first, so that doesn't make much sense. If he actually is hurt somehow, despite the current reports, the easy move to get Hamilton into the lineup would be to move Freel to third for the time being.

David Ross is seriously struggling, and Narron made the right move (obviously...but even if the result had been different, it was the right move) pinch hitting Valentin in the 7th. I would not be surprised to see Valentin and Ross platoon until Ross finds his groove again. I do expect Ross to decline this season after his brilliant '06, but I'd be shocked if he completely collapsed. His batted-ball stats were right in line with his outstanding performance last season--it was not just luck--so I think he does have the ability to be at least a decent hitter this season...he's just in a miserable slump. Meanwhile, Valentin's hitting pretty well, and the Reds need to ride some hot bats for the next few games to keep the Cubbies down.

I (and everyone else in my section) thought Griffey's pinch hit was gone when it left the bat. It's amazing how much he's hitting to the opposite field this season. His bat speed must just not quite be back after the hand injury.

I was a bit surprised to see Moeller pinch hit in the 8th instead of Conine, given that they seem so concerned about keeping a catcher on the bench in case of emergencies.

Gonzalez has some serious style out there. He didn't get a lot of chances tonight, but his attempted double play 9th (not in picture--that's from one that he did turn in the 7th) was one of the cooler ways to start a double play that I've ever seen. Too bad he didn't actually turn it, or it'd be on highlight reels around the league. But I think he did well to get to the ball and get Hudson at 2B. I really like having good defenders up the middle... Speaking of which, THT currently rates the Reds as +1 runs saved overall on defense: +4 on ground balls, -3 on fly balls. Woot.

Finally, Weathers... Here's my issue. The guy essentially pitched two innings last night in the extra inning loss. I'm fine with throwing him out there to close tonight's game after that, as the guy has shown pretty good durability in the past. But why is it that there was no one even warming in the bullpen after that double by Chad Tracy? I guess I'm just not a believer in the closer-is-my-guy-no-matter-what mentality. Seems like hanging with your guy is a good way to lose some ballgames.

But at least we still won. :) I love winning, man...you know, like, it's better than losing.

Courtesy of FanGraphs, here is tonight's WPA graph:
Way to be Javy! :)

Update: Looks like Fay was right about Encarnacion. So I wonder if Eddie was pulled in the bottom of the 1st and I just didn't notice it? That would mean that Castro was the one who ran into the umpire. Castro wasn't announced in the ballpark until the bottom of the 2nd inning.

One thing I do want to say is that it was very good to see this as part of Narron's comments about Encarnacion:
“I love him. I think he’s going to a great player. He messed up. But doggone it, you can't be messing up in this game. If you don’t know where the ball is, you run until you know where it is....The one thing he’s never done here is dog it. It was probably an honest mistake. But it was a mistake."
This seems very reasonable to me, and I think it was handled well. He also said that Hamilton will be playing on Friday. That means someone isn't playing in the outfield. My guess is that Freel is likely to either sub for Phillips (since EdE got his "rest" in today), or sit. I guess Dunn could play first, but I doubt that'll happen very often this season. Besides, I like having Hatteberg's bat in the lineup too much to do that.

Photos by Rick Scuteri of the AP.