The D-Train pulled in to Miller Park right on time Sunday, albeit loaded with butterflies as he started his journey with a full load.
Missing most was Dontrelle Willis’ unique windup that had become his signature. Also missing was the apparent internal problems he was having in respect to his mental game.
I am not saying that he pitched a gem. I am telling you that the man came back after a year’s absence and was rock solid after the second inning, giving manager Dusty Baker a quality start.
Willis was a little wild at the onset, as he walked three of the first 10 Brewers he faced. All-Star second baseman Rickie Weeks welcomed him back to the big leagues with a double to right and scored the game’s first run (so, what else is new?)
He was in a real jam in the inning but managed to go to the dugout giving up a lone run and two hits. Once the former Rookie of the Year settled down, he did not look very far removed from the pitcher who won 22 games, including five shutouts in 2005.
Oh yeah, Dontrelle can hit too. He launched a two-out double to right field in the sixth inning but was stranded at third by the S.O.S. Stubbs.
When he left the game after six complete innings, he was up 3-2 over Milwaukee, and he had given up 2 ER, 4 H, 4 BB and 4 SO. At one point he had retired nine in a row.
Aroldis Chapman, who has recently developed control issues of his own, was given the keys to the car in the seventh inning. The Cuban fireballer pitched two perfect innings with four strikeouts and several 100+ mph fastballs.
So, the Reds were set to move up a game on the front-running Brewers in the home half of the ninth as former Brewer and 12 Million Dollar Man Coco Cordero came in to notch a save and send the Reds on a two game win streak at the All-Star break.
Speedster Nyjer Morgan batted for Josh Wilson with one out in the inning. He laced a single that perfectly found the hole through the right side of the infield. Of course, after several pickoff attempts by Cordero, he stole second base as the tying run.
George Kotteras was promptly walked and things really began looking bleak for the boys from the Queen City. Do you remember that Coco blew up the game Friday night?
Mark Kotsay, who is becoming a Reds killer in his own right, pinch hit for the pitcher with two on and one out. Is it just me, or did everyone know Morgan was going to score the tying run?
Just as if scripted, Kotsay lined one into center field. This did a few things. First, it tied the score at three; second it knocked Willis out of a chance for a win in his debut with the Reds; and third it was Cordero's second blown save of the series.
With Kotsay at first and Kotteras as the potential game winner at second, up steps the hottest hitter in the world against Cincinnati, Weeks.
Without hesitation, Cordero throws one right where Weeks lives, hits him in what looked to be in the shoulder or neck, felling him like a wounded moose. Weeks quickly jumps up and apparently asked Coco if he did it deliberately at which Cordero shook his head as if to say, “negatory good buddy”.
A real mess is what Cordero is in now, and nothing anyone can do will save him. The bases are full of Brewers and journeyman infielder Craig Counsell, once of the weirdest stance in history, is at the dish with still one out.
The outfield is playing in, because almost anything hit will score Kotteras from third. Counsell flies out to left field where Chris Heisey caught the ball and threw towards the plate like a little leaguer.
This brings me to the intersection of Here We Go Again Street and What the Hell Boulevard.
Here we go again with Cordero, who, to his credit, has pitched pretty well this season, being unreliable in the clutch.
What the hell was wrong with leaving Chapman in and saving Cordero (cough, cough) in case trouble began brewing (that pun was intended if you are keeping score at home)? He had retired six straight and was nothing short of unhittable.
Here is a shameless plug for an earlier article I wrote about my take on closers in general.
The day had the makings of a great one for Reds fans throughout the fruited plane, but along comes Cordero. As Shakespeare may have aptly put it: ‘to close: perchance to win: ay, there's the rub.’