Blaze Lose Shutout and Game in 9th

The Bakersfield Blaze has a couple of pitchers in their rotation this season who were used out of the bullpen previously. One of them, Michael Dennhardt has only made a couple of starts, but did not allow an earned run in either of them. He tossed five shutout innings Saturday in a 3-1 Bakersfield loss.

Bakersfield allowed three runs in the ninth that broke a scoreless tie in their 3-0 home loss to Stockton. Blaze starter Michael Dennhardt got no decision, but he deserved a win after throwing five shutout innings, allowing six hits and only one walk. Carlos Gonzalez entered in the sixth and kept the Ports scoreless over the next three frames before Kyle McMyne allowed a three-run homer in the ninth that hung the loss on him. Blaze bats were very quiet in the game, combining for only three hits. Ryan Wright drew a couple of walks and was the only hitter on his team to reach base safely twice.

The last couple of times through the Bakersfield rotation Dennhardt did something that he'd never done as a professional before, throw the first pitch of a game. There's also something that he hasn't done since moving to the rotation and that's allow an earned run. The Reds haven't allowed him to go more than five innings yet and in two starts he's allowed only one unearned run off ten hits and only one walk in ten innings. Overall this season he's lowered his ERA down to 2.81 over 32 innings.

Dennhardt is in his second professional season since Cincinnati drafted him out of Boston College with a 32nd round selection in 2011. He was previously chosen much higher when he came out of high school in 2008, but his stock was adversely affected when he underwent Tommy John surgery a couple of months before the Reds picked him. That postponed his professional debut until last season.

When he finally got started the Reds skipped him over the rookie leagues and he pitched out of the Dayton bullpen last year where he kept a 2.27 ERA and sub-one WHIP in twenty-nine appearances. That earned him a trip to high-A for five appearances at the end of the season before starting out back at Bakersfield in 2013.

On the mound Dennhardt is finesse pitcher with a fastball that spends most of its time in the low-90's and he mixes in with a curve and changeup that travels around 76 m.p.h. He was very stingy with walks last year, allowing only six in almost 48 Midwest League innings. That rate has not remained as low since his promotion to high A thus far, but he has issued only two free passes in his last eighteen innings.

The Reds seem to have an eye for converting minor league relievers into the rotation. Dennhardt's teammate Carlos Contreras made the move after an effective season closing against single A competition last year. Ryan Dennick brought his ERA below three with a solid start Friday after he'd had lackluster results as a reliever before the Reds picked him up in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Of course one of the top prospects in the Cincinnati system right now is Tony Cingrani. The southpaw is banging on the door for a return to the Reds rotation after rocketing up their system following a collegiate career as a closer for Rice University.

Of course there are some strong-armed prospects like Josh Ravin, Curtis Partch, and Kyle Lotzkar whom the Reds have been reluctant to give up on and they've gone the other way, from starting to the bullpen. Two of the biggest reasons to move from one role to another are command and pitch variety. Generally speaking, relievers can still have a chance to be successful if they have a high walk rate or are unable to master a third pitch. Dennhardt has walked 3.5 per nine innings at the high-A level, which is triple the frequency he had at Dayton. Time will tell how serious they are about keeping him a starter and each strong outing he delivers will give more reason to keep him in the Blaze rotation.

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The Reds fell behind early after allowing two runs in the second inning to the Cubs before they stormed back to take the lead for good with a four-run rally in the sixth for a 5-2 win at Great American Ball Park. Todd Frazier plated his team's first run with a sac fly in the fourth. He came back to tie the game in the sixth with an RBI single before Derrick Robinson pushed the go-ahead run across with a squeeze play. Jay Bruce and Cesar Izturis added on with run-scoring base hits later in the frame. Ryan Hanigan had a couple of hits for the Reds while Brandon Phillips and Robinson both reached via a hit and a walk. Homer Bailey got the win by allowing two runs on five hits in six innings. He ran his pitch count up with three walks and eight strikeouts. Sam LeCure, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman each tossed one scoreless inning of relief with Chapman getting two strikeouts and the save.

Louisville failed in their attempt to go over .500 in a 6-5 home loss to Pawtucket. The Bats fell behind by four in the top of the second, but got most of them back in the bottom of the inning on a solo home run by Mike Hessman and RBI-hits by Josh Fellhauer and Billy Hamilton. They took a brief lead with two more in the sixth on a another RBI-single by Hamilton and a run-scoring groundout, but the Red Sox came back with two more of their own in the next inning to put them ahead with what turned out to be the final score. Hamilton had three hits in the game, Hessman added two more, and Nevin Ashley reached with a hit and a walk. Greg Reynolds got no decision in his worst outing of the season, allowing five runs (four earned) in six-plus innings. Kevin Whelan relieved him in the seventh and was charged with a run that gave him the loss. Nick Christiani and Yohan Pino finished with a scoreless frame of relief each.

Pensacola allowed two in the eighth inning in a 3-1 loss at Chattanooga. The Wahoos took a sixth inning lead when Theo Bowe broke the ice on a scoreless tie with a solo homer, but were unable to cross the plate again as the Lookouts held them to four hits in the contest. Ryan LaMarre drew a couple of walks and was the only fish to reach safely twice. Daniel Renken got no decision in a nice outing, allowing only one run on three hits and three walks in six innings while striking out five. Shaun Ellis relieved him with a scoreless seventh inning before Wilken De La Rosa was charged with both eighth inning runs and the loss.

Dayton took the lead with two in the second inning and added three more in the eighth in a 5-1 win at Great Lakes. Jesse Winker led off the second with a triple and scored on a single by Junior Arias who crossed himself on a Robert Ramirez single later in the inning. Arias and Ramirez struck again in the eighth inning when they added another run-scoring hit apiece. Arias finished with three hits to raise his average to .257 and a couple of stolen bases to bring his season total to 23 in 40 games. Winker was 2-2 with two walks and a couple of runs scored. Robert Ramirez added two hits while Joe Terry and Brent Peterson both reached safely twice with a hit and walk. Robert Stephenson had another solid outing for the win, allowing only one run on six hits and a walk across six innings with eight strikeouts. Tony Amezcua and Wandy Peralta combined for three scoreless innings of relief.

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