By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — The St. Louis Cardinals could neither pronounce Asher Wojciechowski’s name nor swallow his three-pitch mix.
The Cardinals can be helped on the pronunciation: Woe-jah-chow-ski. They are on their own with the hitting department and they didn’t master it Friday night in Great American Ball Park.
Wojciechowski, a late-date replacement for ineffective Tim Adleman, held the Cardinals to one run and three hits over five innings, walking one and striking out five.
“I was just trying to do what I was doing when I was in the long man relief position,” said Wojo. “I took it one pitch at a time and it turned out to be a good one today.”
IF IT WAS A ROTATION TRYOUT, Wojo passed with an A+ and earned himself another start after the Cincinnati Reds scored a 3-2 hold-your-breath victory.
Wojciechowski had an earlier cameo rotation audition and it didn’t go well and he was sent back to Class AAA Louisville. Now he’s back.
“I’m extremely thankful to be back in this position,” said the big right hander. “Since I’ve gotten here I’ve gone after hitters and attacked the strike zone. My first few starts I just made too many mistakes over the plate. I’ve learned from that.”
HE IS IMPRESSING HIS manager, Bryan Price.
“He really pounds the zone with a three-pitch mix,” said Price, explaining why Wojo is now in The Rotation Race. “That’s something that is important to inject into the rotation. It is a reward for somebody who is throwing the ball well.”
That clearly was a message to the other rookie rotation candidates: throw quality strikes, mix up your pitches and you, too, might find yourself in the rotation.
This doesn’t mean that Wojo has Yale-locked one of the five spots for 2018. He may, in fact, be considered for the bullpen. But on this night he was rotation ready.
AND HE KNOWS ALL ABOUT diplomacy, too. Asked if he prefers the rotation or the bullpen, he smiled and said, “I want to be a pitcher in the big leagues. Period. Whatever role is best for me I will do. Whenever my name is called I’ll be ready to pitch and go after guys.”
He was ready and he went after guys like an underfed shark Friday.
HE GAVE UP A RUN IN the third on a leadoff triple by Greg Garcia and an infield hit that scored a run by opposing pitcher Mike Leake.
That was it. Nothing more. Wojo was lifted after five after throwing only 78 pitches, but he has been in the bullpen and isn’t stretched out to throw 90 to 100 pitches.
“He has done a great job of forcing the opponents to swing the bat to do their damage,” said Price. “I like his stuff. He has enough fastball and good command of it and a hard breaking ball and a changeup. He has earned his way back into a look in our rotation.
“He has always thrown the ball over the plate and now it is a matter of finding what his role will be in the big leagues is our biggest challenge for him,” Price added. “We know we have some other starters we need to see the rest of the season and we also know that Wojo has looked really good out of the bullpen. He has value in both spots.”
THE REDS TOOK A 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first against former teammate Mike Leake. Jesse Winker singled and ran through third base coach Billy Hatcher’s stop sign on Joey Votto’s double to right and scored
It stayed 1-1 until the Reds batted in the fifth and put together five singles for two runs. Billy Hamilton singled home the go-ahead run and Joey Votto’s single made it 3-1.
The Reds bullpen took over where Wojo left off. Drew Storen pitched 1 1/3 innings and gave up one hit. Wandy Peralta gave up a walk and a hit in only one-third of an inning, but no runs scored.
After Peralta put two on with two outs in the seventh Michael Lorenzen arrived to strike out pinch-hitter Jeff Gyorko to end the threat.
LORENZEN, THOUGH, ENCOUNTERED eighth-inning difficulty after giving up two one-out infield singles. Stpehen Piscotty lined to left center and Adam Duvall made a running catch. And his throw to second base almost doubled up Tommy Pham to end the inning. In fact, he was called out but replay review reversed it.
That enabled Carlton Kelly, hitting below .100, to punch a run-scoring single to right and cut the lead to 3-2.
Lorenzen walked Kolten Wong on a full count to fill the bases and bring pitching coach Mack Jenkins to the mound for some remedial pitching verbiage. After slipping two quick strikes past Randal Grichuk, Lorenzen went to 3-and-2 and caught Grichuk looking at strike three to preserve th 3-2 lead.
Raisel Iglesias surfaced in the ninth and it got nervous for the Reds again. He retired pinch-hitter Yadier Molina on a ground ball, but gave up a single to right by Jedd Gyorko and walked Matt Carpenter on a full count — putting the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base with one out.
Tommy Pham, who had three hits, flied to deep right and Gyorko took third. Iglesias struck out Paul DeJong on an 1-and-2 pitch to end it, Raisel’s 19th save.