The Arizona juggernaut ground to a halt this afternoon: while the offense continued to have their hitting shoes on, matching the Reds' fourteen hits, the pitching left a bit to be desired. And on the scale of understatement, that falls at about the same level as describing me as "unlikely to appear at Carnegie Hall this week." Thus far the front of our rotation, had been almost impeccable, allowing one earned run in 18.2 innings of work between Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy. Jackson, however, was intent on making up for lost time...
Gory details after the jump, see also Justin's eye-witness account of this afternoon's proceedings.
At least there was no long, drawn out end to the winning streak. By the middle of the third inning, with the Reds 7-0 up, it was fairly obvious that this was not going to be Arizona's day, and in particular, not Edwin's. He lasted only 2.1 innings, facing 15 Cincinnati hitters in that time and allowing six hits, two walks and ending up being charged with seven runs, all earned. He just wasn't fooling anyone, with five of those hits going for extra bases: three doubles, a triple and a solo hoime-run by Jay Bruce in the third inning. "I was probably rushing a little bit, I didn't really have a feel for any pitch and that's never a good thing," said Jackson after his outing.
Blaine Boyer came on to relief Jackson, and though he allowed the inherited runner to score, avoid any further damage in the rest of the third and the fourth frames. However, that was the exception rather than the rule this afternoon - the next time we'd see anyone escape with allowing an earned run was whe Billy Spottiswood got the final two outs of the ninth, after Bryan Augenstein ran into problems in his third inning of work. You are probably wondering, "Who the hell is Billy Spottiswood?" I'm here to enlighten you: 25th-round draft pick in 2007, spent last year in the Visalia and Reno bullpens. with a 4.43 ERA between the two stops. So now you know.
In between Blaine and Billy... Not so good. Chad Qualls gave up his first hits and run of spring training in the fifth, while Bob Howry's ERA went the wrong way too, thanks to a two-run shot he allowed with one out in the sixth. And Augenstein did post zeroes in the seventh and eighth, but got nowhere in the ninth. Admittedly, he was not helped by a Ryan Roberts error, one of two by the Diamondbacks on the afternoon. Matters perhaps weren't help by the stiff breeze - 19 mph, according to the box-score - but if that explains the six walks issues by Arizona pitchers, it doesn't explain why Cincinnati's arms allowed only one.
The offense did at least bring some respectability to the scoreline, though never got back closer than three runs behind. Sean Coughlin had a pair of knocks and a couple of RBI, and was joined in the two-hit club by Kelly Johnson and Gerardo Parra, the latter finally getting his average for spring above the Uecker line. Brandon Allen had a hit and also drew the Diamondbacks' only free pass of the day, while Jeff Bailey reached safely twice, on a hit and a hit-by-pitch. There were four plunkings in total today, three by the Reds and one by Augenstein, but unlike yesterday, no-one seemed to mind too much.
Another late-inning replacement for Arizona was TIm Sherlock, son of the Diamondbacks bullpen coach, Glenn. Tim was a 40th-round pick by us last year, so this has been his first taste of major-league camp - though having hit just .238 for Yakima last year, the signs are not too optimistic for it being the first of many. However, he did leg out an infield hit this afternoon, which keeps his batting average in the Cactus League at a pristine 1.000.
Not much in the way of exciting news today. Nick Piecoro says AJ Hinch reckoned Zack Kroenke looked better his last time out, despite the home-run, while Hinch thinks Brandon Allen has been helped by having less pressure to perform, thanks to the arrival of Adam LaRoche. "I think he’s got a good mentor in front of him and he doesn’t have the weight of the first base job on his shoulders yet. It’s good for him... It’s not going to shock me if they’re both on the same roster at the same time. You never know, with interleague and just different ways that we can construct a roster. B.A.’s part of our conversations every day. Regardless of what happens to start the season, we feel he’s going to be a contributor in the big leagues."
FoxSportsArizona talks about Juan Gutierrez, who has certainly been the best of the set-up candidates thus far in spring, with his no hits or runs allowed in four innings being a lot better the Bob Howry [ten hits, five runs in 5.1 IP] Aaron Heilman [six hits, four runs, 4 IP] and Clay Zavada [five hits, two runs, 3.2 IP]. However, Hinch is keeping his options open: "I don’t have to decide that yet. He is doing very well, but we have a lot of options, and I’m very comfortable with him in that role if that’s where it falls. With Howry and Heilman and Zavada, guys who pitched in those roles last year, we’ve got a lot of options. He’ll pitch in important innings, though. That’s how I would title it"
Finally, don't forget, looks like tomorrow's game is now being televised on the MLB Network, so I'll try to get a Gameday Thread up in time for the first pitch just after 1pm. Ian Kennedy will start, with TJ Beam, Josh Ellis, Leo Rosales, Aaron Heilman and Jordan Norberto also scheduled to pitch. See you there!