JULY 28, 2005
It’s been a long time since our Redlegs won a game at Dodger Stadium…5 years, in fact.
The Reds are winless in their last 12 tries at LAD, dating back to July 28, 2005 when Cincinnati beat the Dodgers 6-1. The winning pitcher that day, you ask? None other than Brandon Claussen.
To put into perspective how long it’s been since the Reds last won in Chavez Ravine, our old friend Marc Lancaster was still a Reds beat writer for the now defunct Cincinnati Post.
For fun, Marc sent me his game story from that day and graciously gave BOR permission to share it with you folks…
LOS ANGELES - If Brandon Claussen wanted to convey the impression Thursday that he had figured some things out after a pair of brutal starts, his opening move wasn’t ideal.
Dodger leadoff man Cesar Izturis hit the fourth pitch delivered by Claussen into the stands down the left-field line, erasing an early Cincinnati edge and indicating the left-hander might be on track for another early exit.
“You saw the very first hitter of the game, Izturis, he got the ball up to him and got it whacked,” said Reds manager Jerry Narron. “After that, I think he had a pretty good idea he better keep the ball down.”
The left-hander did indeed get the message, making the adjustment for one of his most effective performances of the year as he allowed just four more Dodgers to reach base and no one else to score through seven strong innings. The Reds prevailed 6-1 to split their series at Dodger Stadium and couldn’t help but feel a bit better about one of the cornerstones of future starting rotations.
Claussen was coming off a pair of outings after the All-Star break in which he had lasted 3 2/3 innings each and surrendered a total of 16 runs – including a career-high nine last Saturday against the Brewers. There was a common thread in that beating, as well as a July 18 loss to the Cubs in which he tied a club record by allowing five home runs.
“The other two starts, I don’t want to say he wasn’t finishing his pitches, but he was consistently up in the zone,” said catcher Jason LaRue. “Obviously, if you’re up in the zone in the big leagues, these hitters are usually going to make you pay, and he ended up having some rough outings.”
Apparently, the Izturis homer was enough to jar Claussen (5-8) back to the plan he had set out to follow.
”I was just trying to stay aggressive in the strike zone like I’ve been trying to do all year,” he said. “But this time I was aggressive [ITAL]down[/ITAL] in the strike zone.”
Claussen allowed a single to Milton Bradley with one out in the first but got out of the inning when Olmedo Saenez grounded into a double play. The next 13 Los Angeles hitters went down in order, five of them striking out and only one hitting the ball particularly hard. That was Jason Phillips, who led off the third inning with a drive to the wall in right-center that Ken Griffey Jr. tracked down on the dead run.
Claussen got into a bit of a jam in the sixth when he hit pinch-hitter Hee-Seop Choi with a pitch and later surrendered a double to Antonio Perez to put runners on second and third with two outs, but he got Bradley to ground to third to end the inning.
Kent Mercker and David Weathers came on to wrap things up and the Reds had some momentum to take down the interstate for this weekend’s series at first-place San Diego.
“It would have been very easy, after losing the first two here, just to kind of lay down,” said Narron. “But to their credit, they didn’t do it. They kept grinding and pushing and were able to come out of here with a split.”
Most the grinding took place in Wednesday night’s come-from-behind victory. Thursday’s triumph was a lot more straightforward, both on the mound from Claussen and at the plate. Aside from another first-inning run manufactured by Ryan Freel and friends, the Reds turned again to the longball to carry them through.
LaRue did the heavy lifting this time, hitting a three-run homer to left in the second inning and a two-run shot to right in the ninth to cap the scoring. It was the sixth multi-homer game of the catcher’s career and his first of the season.
In between, it was all Claussen, and everyone in the Reds’ clubhouse was pleased to see the earnest left-hander bounce back.
”Everybody needs one of these at any given point in time,” said Claussen. “It feels good. The other eight guys out there gave a heck of an effort. Griff made a big-time catch out there, LaRue coming up with the bat. Great day to pitch, great day to play baseball.”
You can follow Marc on Twitter at Twitter.com/MarcLancaster