Swept by the Pirates over the weekend, the Reds went down without a fight. The hope that they could simply flip the switch — and maybe find their swag — Tuesday died a quick death in front of a raucous PNC Park crowd.
The incredible thing is that the Reds had actually beaten Francisco Liriano three times this year. They roughed him up only one of the four times he faced them, but he was 0-3 with a 3.70 ERA against Cincinnati.
Perhaps that success was part of their undoing tonight. The Reds seemed to treat this one like just another regular-season game. Lefties hit a ridiculous .131/.175/.146 against Liriano this season, and the Reds’ three best hitters are all lefties. All 10 runs the Reds had scored against Liriano was driven in by right-handed hitters.
Of course, all three of those left-handed hitters had to start tonight. There was no sitting Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Votto or Jay Bruce. But batting them first, third and fifth hurt the chances of a rally. Todd Frazier hit two homers off Liriano this year, but there he was hitting sixth anyway. If there was ever a time to try to stack some right-handers, this was it.
Alas, it’s probably moot. Dusty Baker could have employed a quicker hook with Johnny Cueto after the right-hander gave up two homers in the second. He could have tried to use Aroldis Chapman to stop the bleeding at some point instead of holding him in reserve for a situation that was never likely to arise. Doing so might have led to a tighter game. It’s highly unlikely it would have led to a win.
Bud Selig’s wish was for it all to come down to one game after 162. In five or seven, the Reds match up pretty well against the Pirates. But not in one, not with the way Liriano was dealing tonight.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.