Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?
March 1, 2007: Cincinnati Reds 9, Pittsburgh Pirates 7
The first game of spring training is in the books, and it was exciting, if a bit sloppy. The Pirates jumped out to an early lead. The Reds tied it, only to see Pittsburgh pull ahead again - twice.
But a big fifth inning changed the whole game. The Reds scored four runs in the 5th, and never looked back. The Bucs made it surprisingly close with a late rally in the bottom of the ninth, but it was too little, too late.
Though Bubba was not in the starting lineup, he ended up getting three at-bats. He entered the game in the 4th inning as a pinch-runner for Adam Dunn, who worked a walk against Gorzelanny. The score was 1-2, Bucs. With Bubba on 1st and no outs, Bellhorn struck out. Hamilton was up next; Narron called for the hit-and-run. Bubba made it safely to 2B, Hamilton was out. Next up: A-Gon. He hit a single, and Bubba scored from 2B. Game tied, 2-2!
In the bottom of the 4th, Bubba took Dunn's place in left field. Luis Matos promptly crushed a homer off Paul Wilson, way over Bubba's head. While the announcers blamed the wind for the earlier home runs in the game, they admitted that this one was gone, wind or no wind.
Wilson had looked very good earlier in the game, but kind of fell apart in the 4th. After giving up the homer, he gave up a single to Rajai Davis. Davis then stole 2B, then scored on an error by Freel.
Bubba's first at-bat came in the 5th. One on, one out, Bucs' closer Salomon Torres on the mound. Bubba flew out to right-center.
He came up again in the 7th. Right-hander Allan Simpson was on the mound for the Bucs. One out, none on. Bubba hit one down the left field line - a standup double! Dewayne Wise is up next. He hits a sac fly, moving Bubba to 3B. Then comes Josh Hamilton, who hits a monster home run to dead center, making it 9-4 Reds.
Bubba's last at-bat was in the 8th. Right-hander Brian Rogers on the mound for Pittsburgh. Bubba comes up with the bases loaded, two outs. He strikes out (with at least one questionable call, mutter, grumble). Bummer.
The last half-inning was pretty exciting. The game seemed out of reach, but the Pirates made it awfully close. Brad Salmon was the Reds pitcher. It was 9-6, seemingly a comfortable lead. But a single, a walk, and an error by Votto loaded the bases...with no outs.
Salmon then got a strikeout, a groundout that allowed a run to score...and gave up a double. But the Bucs got greedy, trying to stretch a one-RBI hit into two. A strong throw from center field gets the 2nd runner out. Game over. (Not quite sure who the center fielder was. The radio broadcast said it was Denorfia; John Fay and the box score say it was Jerry Gil. Who I didn't even know was an outfielder.)
Bubba's line for the day: 1 for 3, with a double, 2 runs scored. Which means he's batting .333 and slugging .667.
It's only the first game of spring training, so it's way too early to read too much into it. But I can't resist...
The Reds hit five home runs...and committed five errors. Which is more like the stereotypical old Reds, not the "pitching and defense" team they keep saying they want. You expect players to be rusty at this time of year, of course. And the center field errors committed by Freel and Denorfia may have been partly due to the wind, which was pretty brutal today.
Hamilton is looking promising enough that I think they'll do whatever it takes to keep him. That may mean trading for him so they can send him to the minors, but they'll find a way to keep him.
The Reds really need a closer. Dunno if someone can emerge from the pack, but no one did today.
I think it's a good sign that Bubba doubled to left. He always pulls the ball when he's struggling. When he can go the other way, spray the ball more, he's getting hot.
And Bubba scored two runs today. The margin of the win!
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