Too soon? Probably. Reds fans had an opportunity in the first inning to be paralyzed in horror when Johnny Cueto came off the mound, bending over and clearly in pain. The situation did not seem improved when Cueto came out of the game a few moments later, reporting back spasms. Currently, TBS is reporting that Johnny Cueto is in line to pitch in game 3. That’s really optimal. Since we’ve left Mike Leake off the NLDS roster, if we replace Cueto with Leake, we’d have to leave Cueto off the NLCS roster (counting chickens…) as well.
Thankfully, we had a pair of especially heroic pitching performances from Sam LeCure and Mat Latos. LeCure came in immediately to pitch 1 2/3 scoreless innings, earlier than he could have guessed he would be needed. Latos was immediately seen in the dugout, volunteering to warm up. He came in to start the third inning, and pitched four more scoreless innings. They weren’t without their worries, but Latos did a good job coming up on short rest, in a familiar, but extremely hostile environment.
Then we had some… slightly less heroic performances from pitchers. From kind of pathetic, like Homer Bailey’s second inning pinch-hitting adventure in failing to get a bunt down, to some very solid relief performances from Marshall and Broxton, to an extremely wild and nerve-wracking (close to more horror-paralysis) 9th inning outing by Aroldis Chapman.
The consensus player of the game, and all-around star was Brandon Phillips. Phillips was brilliant at the plate, going 3-5, with a home run that drove in two home runs and gave the Reds a lead they’d maintain the rest of the game. He also made a beautiful defensive play, stopping an errant throw from Scott Rolen, that got past Joey Votto at third. Bruce was great too, with a double and a home run. And Ludwick made TWO nice plays in left field – which is never expected from Ludwick. The defense was really solid, all around.
Even though this was a great team effort, LeCure, Latos and Phillips rising to the occasion really stands out. But I think it would be remiss not to applaud Dusty here. It’s hard to come up with the right answer when your starter comes up injured after a single out in game 1 of the playoffs. Whether optimal or not, Dusty’s decisions got us through the mess, without severe damage to either the bullpen or the rotation. It’s not clear where Cueto’s injury will leave us going forward, but Dusty got us through today with a win, which is the best anyone can do.