Phillips Leads Reds to 10.5G Lead

The Cincinnati Reds took another game from the Pirates last night in a 5-3 win at Great American Ball Park. Brandon Phillips led the way with a home run and two RBI while continuing his stellar play in the field. Trade deadline pickup Jonathan Broxton recorded the save instead of normal closer Aroldis Chapman who will miss some games to address fatigue issues in his pitching arm.

Cincinnati took the lead with three runs in the second inning en route to a 5-3 win over Pittsburgh at Great American Ball Park Tuesday. San Diego also beat St. Louis to increase the Reds lead to 10.5 games in the N.L. Central. Their magic number for clinching the division is now down to ten games with twenty-one left to play. The Reds have the biggest cushion of any division leader.

The Bucs enjoyed a brief lead on a solo home run by Alex Presley in the first. Brandon Phillips quickly answered with his seventeenth homer on the first pitch in the bottom of the inning. He struck again to give his team the lead the next inning with an RBI double and crossed the plate later when two runs scored on an errant toss by the catcher after a wild pitch. Pittsburgh cut into the lead with a two run homer by pinch hitter Gabby Sanchez in the sixth before the Reds played add-on with Scott Rolen's seventh homer in the eighth.

Phillips did some damage from the leadoff spot by going 2-4 with two RBI and scoring twice. He also teamed with fellow gold-glover Joey Votto on a slick play in the field when he slipped behind runner Brock Holt after a single and took a toss from the first baseman to catch him off the bag and short-circuit a potential Pirate rally in the fifth. Pitcher Mike Leake helped his cause with a couple of hits and a run scored to raise his average to .286. Ryan Ludwick and Wilson Valdez also added two hits each.

On the mound Leake got his eighth win from a quality start. The right-hander gave up a couple of homers but still held the opponent to three runs on nine hits/one walk in seven innings. Jonathan Broxton had a strikeout and threw a double play ball to end the game with the save. The Reds will go for the home sweep against the Pirates Wednesday.

Last night was the first game in a long time that Aroldis Chapman did not get the call for the save opportunity. He was ineffective his last couple of outings and the Reds announced that he given a five to seven day rest to address fatigue issues in his pitching arm. The move is precautionary as the southpaw assured that there was no pain in the arm. "No, no, no. No pain at all. It's just fatigued," Chapman said. "It's happened before, but I think it's happened to every pitcher. A majority of other pitchers have had this problem before."

During the past two outings Chapman has failed to reach his expected triple digit velocity. "I was worried more about his command than I was his velocity," manager Dusty Baker said. "I talked to Dr. [Timothy] Kremchek [team doctor], talked to our medical staff and trainers, and they just said he was a bit fatigued. The guy throws 100 m.p.h. He's going to fatigue something sooner or later."

The 24 year-old Cuban has been simply outstanding coming out of the Reds pen this season and took over closing in May. Previously there had been some questions regarding who would handle that role after free agent signee Ryan Madson was declared out for season during spring training when it was discovered that he would need Tommy John surgery. Before his most recent two outings Chapman had allowed only a single earned run this season outside of a brief two and a half week struggle in June. He's kept a 1.60 ERA and leads the league with 35 saves. The all-star's has a WHIP under 0.800 in 67+ innings and is averaging almost sixteen strikeouts per nine IP.

The Reds bullpen has certainly had its share of injury this season, and more. In addition to Madson they've lost the services of set-up man Nick Masset for the entire year and lefty specialist Bill Bray has only made fourteen appearances for the parent team. In spite of that they've pulled together to put up the lowest overall team reliever ERA in MLB. At the trading deadline depth was added by acquiring veteran closer Jonathan Broxton who will handle those duties while Chapman takes a break.

Chapman's future with the Reds after this season is still uncertain as there has been much speculation that the team might try and utilize his skills over more innings by moving him into the rotation. That experiment might have taken place this year had not injuries created a need to keep him in the pen. One thing for sure is that when a team is trailing the Reds, the Cuban Missile is one person they don't want to see take the mound. The Reds are aspiring for a deep October run and are taking action to inflict that handicap on opponents come post season.

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Bakersfield took a two-run lead in their playoff game at Modesto before allowing the game-winner in the eighth in a 3-2 loss. Dominic D'Anna had two hits and drove in both Blaze runs with a two-run single. Theo Bowe and Chris Berset added two singles apiece. Daniel Renken got no decision from allowing one run on five hits/one walk over five innings with five strikeouts. Michael Dennhardt allowed two runs in two plus innings for a blown save and the loss.

After winning the first two games of the series the Blaze are now in a two-two tie. They will remain at Modesto for game five on Wednesday.

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