By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Old Riverfront Stadium, reduced to rubble years ago, had a visual on the scoreboard that appeared when pitchers walked a batter. Ghosts danced across the board and huge letters read, ‘Walk haunt.’
They didn’t bring it to the state-of-the-art scoreboard at Great American Ball Park and rightfully so. It apparently doesn’t apply here, especially to Cincinnati Reds pitcher Dan Straily.
Walking seven batters in 5 2/3 innings is commonly a recipie for a major league pitcher to be reduced to rubble and certain defeat.
Not for Dan Straily on a balmy Saturday afternoon in Great American Ball Park. He walked seven St. Louis Cardinals in 5 2/3 innings and proudly accepted his 11th victory of 2016, a 9-1 decision for him and his Cincinnati Reds.
Not one of those free seven passes Straily distributed freely to the Cardinals managed to find home plate. Some superlative defensive plays by (who else?) Billy Hamilton and Zack Cozart, plus a couple of double plays, kept Straily’s blood pumping and kept him off life support.
DON’T LET THE 9-1 SCORE sway you. It was only 2-1 when Straily left, having walked seven.
Not even when he walked the bases loaded in the sixth inning were the Cardinals able to extract any roughage from the Reds right hander.
The Reds led by only 2-1 at the time and Straily walked Brandon Moss, retired two, then walkeld Jhonny Peralta and Greg Garcia to fill the bases and end his day.
Blake Wood replaced Straily and threw one pitch, inducing a ground ball to second baseman Jose Peralta to end the inning. From there, the Reds piled on.
Straily also gave up only three hits to further stifle the Cardinals and when asked what he takes away from a game in which he walks seven and gives up only three hits, he said, “I take away that I won the ballgame. We won the game and there is nothing else to read into it. To walk seven guys and go 5 2/3 innings and only use 90 pitches, it is what it is. It’s just baseball and one of those bizarre lines you are going to see as one game like that for the year.”
ASKED IF HE EVER WALKED seven and received a win, Straily said, “That was the most I ever walked — never walked that many in a game. The fact that none scored shows you that it isn’t the end of the world. It is what you do after the walks that matter. I did make some good pitches and they didn’t bite at them and they got to go to first.” And mostly that’s where they stayed.
The Cardinals scored their one run in the first inning. Matt Carpenter led the game with a drive to right center, a sure double most of the time. Not when Hamilton roams center field and he chased it down.
But Straily’s next pitch sailed out of the ball park, a home run to left field by Jedd Gyrko for a 1-0 St. Louis lead.
“Home runs are the same as walks,” said Straily. “Giving up home runs is not the end of the world as long as you don’t walk the guy in front of him.”
THE REDS TIED IT, 1-1, IN THE third when right fielder Tyler Holt (a day off for Scott Schebler) doubled and scored on Zack Cozart’s two-out double down the left field line.
Hamilton’s other death-defying catch came in the fourth with the score 1-1 and two Cardinals aboard with two outs. Rosario slashed a screecher up the right-center gap, another cinch double — except when Hamilton is on shore patrol on the banks of the Ohio River. He chased that one down, too, as he ran into ther wall. To add a special stwist, Hamilton quickly threw the ball to second baseman Jose Peraltz and he relayed a throw to first baseman Joey Votto for a double play, obstensibly saving two runs. And it is something Hamilton seems to do every time Straily pitches.
“I’m certainly Billy’s No. 1 fan in his fan club,” said Straily. “Every time the ball is hit in his direction you assume it will be caught. He makes a lot of difficult plays look easy. Even the play in the first inning on Carpenter that was near the wall. Nobody will even talk about it because it was a normal play for Billy.”
HECK, NOT EVEN HAMILTON remembered his play on Carpenter in the first inning. When he was asked if his modus operandi these days to make two defensive spectaculars, he furled his brow and said, “Two in this game? I only made one. What do you mean?”
The Carpenter Catch was mentioned and he jolted to attention and said, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I forgot about that one. That’s my job to catch the ball. I don’t look to make plays like those, if they happen, they happen. I don’t go into the game thinking, ‘I have to make a spectacular catch.’”
But he does it. So, no, Hamilton shouldn’t win a Gold Glove this year. He should win two.
THE REDS BARGED AHEAD in the fifth when Hamilton singled, took third on Cozart’s double and scored on a passed ball charged to catcher Alberto Rosario.
Cozart’s big play came in the sixth after a leadoff walk. He dove to spear a line drive hit by Stephen Piscotty, a big out because that’s the inning when Straily walked three batters.
The Reds finally broke free from the lethargic Cardinals in the seventh and Hamilton was the catalyst. He singled and stole second. Votto blooped a double to center on which Hamilton had to hold to make certain the ball wasn’t caught, so he only made third..
The Cardinals walked Adam Duvall intentionally to load the bases and pinch-hitter Ramon Cabrera drove a two-run single into right field for a 4-1 Reds lead.
It didn’t work out as well issuing walks for the Cardinals. Relief pitcher Jerome Williams took over in the eighth and gave up a double to Ivan DeJesus, Jr., then walked three straight, thoe third one to Joey Votto with the bases loaded the forced in a run.
THAT IGNITED WHAT TURNED out to be a five-run inning that sealed the deal. Adam Duvall lofted a sacrifice fly to left, enabling Billy Hamilton to scored his third run of the game and push the Reds to a 6-1 lead, Jose Peraza singled home a run and Tucker Barnhart doubled home two more for the 9-1 cushion.