The comeback took starter Mike Leake off the hook after he allowed six runs in 5+ innings pitched. Alfredo Simon relieved him in the sixth and threw 1 2/3 scoreless to pick up his second win. He now has a 1.46 ERA since the Reds picked him up before opening day after he was released by the Orioles. Aroldis Chapman continued his recent dominance and struck out two while retiring the side in order for his fifteenth save. The Cuban southpaw has now struck out 82 of the 166 batters faced in 2012.
The Reds are now 2-2 since Joey Votto left the lineup with a knee injury. The win on Thursday put them in first place by a half game over the Pirates who were idle. Everyone in Reds Country would be counting down the days until Votto returns, but of course no one knows exactly when that will be. Earlier it was estimated that he would need 3-4 weeks to recover. Three weeks from his Tuesday surgery is August 7 and if he's ready to return then he'll miss 21 games. That number goes up to 27 if four weeks are needed. Looking back, everyone involved in the decision probably wish that he'd been taken down immediately after the injury and started his rehab before the All-Star break. However, hindsight is 20/20 and it's understandable why Votto would try and play through the injury if possible.
That leaves the Reds the challenge of remaining in the race while he is not available. The two main challengers are the Cardinals and Pirates. They currently have a five game cushion over the Cards who have been the most successful franchise in the division in recent history. Milwaukee made it to the NLDS last season and may have something to say about the race yet, but right now they're three games below .500.
Pittsburgh on the other hand hasn't had a winning season since 1992. They were a "feel-good" story when they reached a high-water mark of seven games over .500 one year ago at 51-44. After that they slumped and eventually lost 90 games by the end of the season. Their makeup this season is similar to the Reds. They both rely on strong pitching and mediocre offense. The Reds have the third lowest ERA in the NL while the Pirates are fifth. Meanwhile the Reds bats were pushing runs across the plate around the NL average. The resurgent Buc offense has now matched them at 4.15 runs/game. They've also had the Reds' number in head-to-head competition going 15-9 since last season. The teams will play a three-game series in Cincinnati starting August 3.
Much has been said about Votto's importance to the Reds lineup. A quick look at the stats of the other hitters will quickly confirm that. A formula for predicting the number of runs a team will score is: Runs = #AB x On-Base% x Slug % x 0.975. This is accurate to within 5% for all sixteen NL teams right now. Votto's individual stats yields 84 runs contributed which is about 22.7% of the Reds offense. That's not bad for someone who gets only around one ninth of his team's plate appearances.
The Pirates are also benefitting from an unbelievable season from their star, Andrew McCutchen. Based on the above formula he is providing 24.6% of his team's offense. He and Votto are the top two in the NL for highest percentage of team runs with David Wright (20.0%) third. Of course the big advantage right now is that McCutchen is available. Still it's not unreasonable to expect a lofty .369 batting average to drop for a lifetime .292 hitter. As he goes, so goes the Bucs attack. He's hit almost .400 since May 24 and his team is 31-16 over that time. He's also raised his slugging percentage .050' since the beginning of July.
The Reds will be leaning on their entire roster during Votto's absence. It is a bit concerning that their rotation gave them three poor starts in the Arizona series because they have been so reliable. There is room for improvement from others in the lineup having disappointing seasons. Ryan Ludwick is batting over .300 with six homers in his last 23 games and Drew Stubbs had six hits in the Arizona series. It would be encouraging to see a winning "Votto-less" record before they go on the road after their three-game set against Milwaukee. They also have seven games coming up with Houston and San Diego, the two worst records in the league. Meanwhile, the count is four games down and 17 to go, or maybe 23, or somewhere in between-hopefully.
News from the Farm:
Louisville scored four in the ninth inning but came up short in a 13-12 slugfest at Columbus. Henry Rodriguez led the Bat offense with four hits and a home run. Neftali Soto had two hits, a home run, and drove in five. Mike Costanzo added two hits, a homer and three RBI. Willie Harris had two hits and Cody Puckett hit a solo homer. Chad Reineke allowed six runs (four earned) in 4+ innings for the loss.
Pensacola won at Mobile 8-6. Josh Fellhauer had three hits including a three-run home run. Brodie Green also had three hits and Billy Hamilton added two. Kyle Lotzkar allowed four in 4+ innings. Josh Ravin had a scoreless outing in his first appearance with the Wahoos and picked up the win.>br>
Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:
Hamilton walked in the third inning and was caught attempting to steal second. He led off the seventh with a single and advanced to second on a balk. He singled again in the eighth inning and took second, but the scorekeeper judged it defensive indifference. He's at 110 stolen bases out of 133 attempts over 90 games.
Bakersfield allowed two runs in the first and lost 5-2 at High Desert. The Blaze was held to four hits, one of them a home run by Devin Lohman. Josh Smith was charged with four runs on eight hits and was lifted in the fifth. The loss brings his record to 7-6 on the season. Dayton lost their fourth in a row in a 10-6 game against visiting Clinton. Sean Buckley had three hits and Juan Perez added two. Jacob Johnson was charged with six earned runs in five innings for the loss.
Billings tied their game at Orem with two runs in the ninth before losing 9-8 in eleven innings. Jesse Winker, Seth Mejias-Brean, and Taylor Wrenn each had two hits. Andrew Cisco was charged with six runs (four earned) in three innings pitched. Erik Miller allowed the game winner for the loss.
The AZL Reds allowed two in the ninth inning and lost 5-4 to the visiting AZL Dodgers. Daniel Paula had three hits and Jonathan Reynoso added two solo home runs. Abel De Los Santos blew the save and was charged with the loss.
The DSL Reds tied their game at the DSL Dodgers with two runs in the ninth inning and won with two more in the tenth for a final score of 5-3. Jose Fernandez and Rusbel Farinez had two hits each. Josue Castellano pitched the final two innings without allowing a run to raise his record to 3-0.