Sunday, April 8, 2007

Gameday 4/8: Pirates @ Reds (L 6-3)

That sick feeling you've got in your stomach.

Sometimes you just have a feeling it's not your day.

Today, it was Eric Milton.

Being out of town in Pittsburgh to visit family this weekend, I wasn't up to date on the pitching probables of the series. Imagine how I felt when I heard who was scheduled to get his first start after coming off the disabled list.

With every pitch that Milton threw, I felt the rising urge to rush to the bathroom and vomit until the Reds came up to bat. Just so I wouldn't have to watch another curveball dip into the middle of the strike zone.

Believe me, I knew the Reds were going to lose this game even before the first pitch was thrown. You only have to watch so many home runs and gap shots against a pitcher before you become a certified clairvoyant. Bottom line: Milton is garbage. I wish we had someone we could bring up from the minors to replace him (and again, Bailey doesn't count). Anyone who could just eat up some innings, and a sinker would be a plus. Just someone who knows how to throw the ball in the lower half of the zone. Milton never learned how to do that. Chest to waist is his strike zone. Even his curveballs dip into the zone rather than out of it. His fastball has no movement on it.

Until the fifth inning, he is semi-servicable. He can get you outs and usually avoid getting the team blown out of the water. But by the start of the sixth, that bullpen phone had better be ringing.

Case in point:

5.2 IP, 10 H, 4 R (all earned), 1 BB, 6 K

He held the hapless Bucs scoreless for three innings, but then one in the fourth, two in the fifth, and one in the sixth before Narron decided that 10 hits and four runs was enough. The Pirates managed only two more hits for the rest of the game: two fluke opposite-field home runs that seemed to carry 30 feet farther than they would have on a normal day.

Still, the Reds didn't give Milton much support. Remaining a model of inconsistency, the Reds had three hits until they came out of their shells in the seventh inning. Phillips has been a particular disappointment. I thought this was going to be his breakout year, and it may still be. But with a .136 average going into the first road trip of the season, he hasn't convinced anyone yet.

The "stopgaps", Conine and Gonzalez, have been pleasant surprises, however. They're not lighting up the scoreboard, but they're producing a lot better than I thought they would. Conine, at .357, leads all Reds who have started games and is tied for second on the team in RBI (4), and Gonzalez, at .350, is hitting over 100 points more than his career average (not to mention the obvious defensive upgrade from Felipe Lopez). But hitting sixth and seventh, respectively, means that if they get on base, no one's going to be knocking them in.

The Reds head west to play the D-Backs tomorrow at 9:40. Thankfully, they'll miss Brandon Webb, and Arroyo is scheduled to get the start in the first game. If he's throwing his curveball like he was on Wednesday, you can pencil in the win.

Sometimes you just have a feeling, you know?

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