The start of the Cincinnati Reds-San Francisco Giants game Friday night in Great American Ball Park was delayed for more than two hours due to inclement weather.
That, though, doesn’t mean things weren’t happening.
Before the schedule 6:40 start, during pre-game activities, Reds outfielder Tommy Pham and Giants outfielder Joc Pederson engaged in an outfield skirmish and had to be separated.
Witnesses said Pham slapped Pederson in the face, reportedly a dispute over fantasy football. Pham was in the original lineup but agreed not to play while MLB investigates the incident.
And Giants manager Gabe Kapler announced in a blog before the game that he would not be on the field for the National Anthem, “And I won’t until I feel better about the direction of our country.” It was his response to events surrounding the school shootings in Uvalde, Tex.
And then they played the game and it belonged to Reds rookie pitcher Graham Ashcraft and he pitched the Reds to a 5-1 victory.
It was the first game of a three-game series and Cincinnati’s third straight win.
Ashcraft was pitching at Class A Dayton at this time last year and was making his second major league start.
He was not intimidated by the high-scoring Giants, a team with the second most runs in the National League behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. While Hunter Greene’s fastball is much-admired, Ashcraft featured fastballs between 97 and 101 miles an hour while completely silencing the Giants.
He kept them quiet with no runs on four singles over 6 1/3 innings with two walks and only one strikeout over his 97-pitch evening.
When Ashcraft issued his second walk with one out in the seventh, manager David Bell went to the bullpen. Alexis Diaz finished the inning with a fly ball and a strikeout.
Ashcraft also was not impressed that he was facing San Francisco left-hander Carlos Rondon, who won 13 games last season for the Chicago White Sox and pitched a no-hitter against Cleveland.
The Reds scored two runs in the third, an inning started by Alexis Lopez, the player who replaced Pham in the lineup.
Lopez singled and stole second, his first major league steal. Matt Reynolds doubled off the right center wall, scoring Lopez.
With two outs, Tyler Stephenson nubbed a slow roller to second baseman Donovan Walton. He flipped the ball out of his glove to first base, but Stephenson beat it and the ever-alert Reynolds scored from second base to make it 2-0.
The lead expanded to 3-0 in the fifth when Brandon Drury homered, his team-leading eighth and team-leading 26th RBI, proving to be one of general manager Nick Krall’s best off-season acquisitions.
Even though he was the National League’s best pinch-hitter last season, the New York Mets let him walk away and the Reds signed him to a one-year $700,000 toward the end of spring training this year.
Diaz returned to the mound for the eighth and Giants manager Kapler sent Darin Ruff to pinch-hit. He was in a 2 for 18 slump, but had drawn 27 walks. Make it 28. Diaz walked him.
Tommy La Stella drove a single to left field, putting runners on second and first with no outs. Mike Yastrzemski popped up, ending his nine-game hitting streak, and Bell replaced Diaz with Art Warren.
Warren’s first pitch was rolled a ground ball to left for a single to fill the bases and Warren hit Pederson with a pitch, forcing in a run that sliced the Reds’ lead to 3-1.
With the bases still loaded and one out, Warren faced Brandon Crawford, who had two hits. But he coaxed an inning-concluding double play — Matt Reynolds to Kyle Farmer to first baseman Mike Moustakas (Joey Votto was taking the night off.)
In addition to the pre-game shenanigans, there was bizarre in-game events.
In the fourth inning. Ashcraft threw an in-tight pitch to Flores. He spun out of the batter’s box and made a plea that the pitch hit him.
After a long delay, umpire Hunter Wendelstedt awarded Flores first base. A highly-animated Bell protested and a replay/review revealed the pitch did not hit Flores and he was recalled from first base back to the batter’s box.
In the eighth inning, Kapler sent Jake McGee to the mound to pitch. But he neglected to put McGee on the umpire’s lineup card and McGee was removed from the mound without throwing a pitch.
It forced Kapler to replace McGee with Jose Alvarez and it cost the Giants two runs. Stephenson singled, Mike Moustakas (1 for 22) was hit by a pitch and Albert Almora Jr. singled.
The second run of the inning scored when Nick Senzel reached on catcher’s interference. the 10th time in his young career he reached on catcher’s interference.
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