Dear Raisel: ‘Be big, be strong, be better’

By Hal McCoy

CINCINNATI — Ann Landers, the purveyor of advice, once told somebody: “Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life, and when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say, ‘I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.’”

There is no record of Cincinnati Reds pitchers Raisel Iglesias and/or Blake Wood ever sending a letter to Ann Landers, but that piece of advice she gave somebody fits snugly into what Iglesias and Wood did Saturday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Iglesias was in more trouble than an aquarium of lobster in a seafood restaurant most of the day, but he held his head high, looked adversity straight in the eye showed the Pirates that, on this frigid afternoon, he was better than they are.

And he was better for 5 2/3 innings Saturday afternoon, escaping several potential mishaps before he finally need somebody else’s help in the sixth inning to preserve his 5-1 victory over the Pirates.

The 26-year-old Cuban defector, who faced at least one base runner in every inning, retired the first two Pirates in the sixth, trying to protect his 3-0 lead, but gave up a walk and a couple of hits for a run before Blake Wood arrived to retire Jordy Mercer on a foul pop.

Iglesias gave up one run, eight hits, walked two and struck out five over his 5 2/3 innings and stopped Pittsburgh’s four-game winning streak.

The first two Pirates in the second reached base but Iglesias wiggled loose when Mercer lined into an inning-ending double play.

The Pirates had the bases loaded with one out in the fourth inning and this time Mercer grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Then it was Wood’s turn to duck disaster. He walked pinch-hitter Matt Joyce to open the seventh and John Jaso doubled, giving the Pirates runners on second and third with no outs. trailing by just two runs..

Andrew McCutcheon grounded to the first base bag and Joey Votto grabbed it and tapped first. Then he whipped a throw to second that caught Jaso off the base and, after a three-minute umpiring review, Jaso was called out. Wood completed the squirm-free inning by striking out David Freese.

Iglesias struck out Freese three straight times before Wood got him, and on Freese’s first at-bat he went down looking at three straight sliders.

Of the constant turmoil on the base paths behind him, Iglesias said, “Oh, si. I just kept trying to keep my pitches down and go as far as I could to keep the relievers out of the game, tried to help the bullpen.”

The defense? Oh, the defense that protected him better than Pinkerton, especially with the two double plays and Votto’s cerebral play.

“The defense was amazing today and helped me out more than a lot,” he said. “That was a huge thing that helped me get my victory today.”

The Reds scored two in the first inning when the first three batters reached base against Gerrit Cole. Billy Hamilton, batting leadoff for the first time this season, poked a double to left and quickly scored on Eugenio Suarez’s single to right.

Joey Votto singled and with one out Jay Bruce singled home Suarez to make it 2-0. The Reds pushed it to 3-0 in the fifth on a walk to Suarez and singles by Votto and Brandon Phillips.

Suarez put the exclamation point to the afternoon by slashing his third home run of the season off left hander Kyle Lobstein, a two-run 425-footer than crash-landed on the grass beyond the center field wall.

Former Reds manager and special advisor Lou Piniella witnessed the first five games during which Suarez hit three home runs and said, “I love that kid. The ball jumps off his bat.”

Suarez came to the Reds last year when Alfredo Simon was traded to Detroit and now that Simon is back with the Reds it was a clean steal for general manager Walt Jocketty. When told how Jocketty got Suarez and then got back Simon, Piniella smiled and said, “Well, they’re both keepers.”

The home runs are nifty, but Price loves the defense that Suarez is showing at third base after moving there this season from shortstop. And he admires some of the plate discipline and base hits that are not home runs.

“Suarez hits good pitching,” said Price. “He doesn’t just clean up on the soft tossers. He hits the guys with legitimate stuff.

“He has grinded out some really important walks these first five games,” said Price. “He is driving the ball hard to right center. It is not just a bunch of pull homers, but at times he is staying in the middle of he diamond. He is a guy I can hit-and-run with if need be. He does all the little things that’s need to be done.”
Everybody feels sorry for the poor pitchers on cold, windy days. But Price believes even on the bitterest of days the pitcher is the warmest guy on the field.

“There are a lot of things a pitcher can do and No. 1 is keeping your hand warm and your body warm between innings,” said Price. “The advantage of being a starting pitcher is that you should be the warmest guy on the field. You warm up before you take the field, you go on the field and run, you long toss, you get on the bullpen mound and throw a 30 to 40-pitch pre-game warm-up.

“The key is not to let yourself cool down and that means to put a jacket on between innings, go back in the clubhouse, get on a stationary bike, go into the batting cage and throw to keep your arm loose and warm,” said Price. “Once your hands get cold the tendency is to lose feel for the ball on your fingertips.”

Iglesias acknowledged that it never gets this cold in Cuba and they don’t play baseball in 38-degree weather. So how did he handle it?

“It was really hard because this weather is something new for me,” he said. “Every time I was in the dugout I was walking around and jumping up and down in order to keep my body warm.”

The best thing he did, though, was cool off the Pirates every time it seemed as if they might get hot.

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