Reds' busy gloves offset quiet night at plate
Rolen, Votto turn in sparkling plays; Phillips grateful for homefield
PHOENIX -- Although four Reds All-Stars did not have a bountiful evening at the plate, they were kept busy defensively as the National League's pitchers were stellar during a 5-1 victory over the American League on Tuesday at Chase Field.Scott Rolen, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce were a combined 0-for-6 with four strikeouts. It was a particularly challenging night of hitting for Rolen, who struck out twice as the starting third baseman and batting ninth. He faced Mariners rookie sensation Michael Pineda in the third inning and power-armed Angels closer Jordan Walden in the fifth. "That was not the two draws I was looking for, for sure," Rolen said. Pineda started Rolen with a 96-mph fastball for a strike and then threw three straight diving sliders to get him out swinging. Walden also had a four-pitch sequence, with three of the pitches 99 mph or higher.
"I don't think I saw anything below 100," Rolen said. "How do you get that draw in the nine-hole?"In the second inning with one out, the eight-time Gold Glove-winning Rolen made a sliding stop to his left on Josh Hamilton's ground ball before turning and firing a throw to first base for the out. In making the final out of the top of the fifth, Votto slickly fielded a sharp grounder from Alex Avila while on his backside before tossing the ball to Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw covering first base. "I usually do that to give myself some space," Votto said of his technique on the play, which he added wasn't a challenge. Votto was 0-for-2 in the game after entering in the top of the fifth inning as a replacement for starter Prince Fielder after he hit the game-icing three-run homer in the fourth inning. "I say thank you, Prince, because he just gave the Reds homefield advantage for the World Series," Phillips said. "I'm going to give him a kiss on the cheek. I told him already. I'll give him a kiss ... when I get dressed." Phillips took over at second base for Rickie Weeks in the top of the sixth inning and went 0-for-1 with a flyout to center field. He also recorded three putouts on the ground and caught a popup. "It was a lot of fun," Phillips said. "I'm glad I got a lot of ground balls. It felt good to get ground balls. I felt like I was into the game. The whole experience was very nice. It was normal seeing Jay in right field and Joey to my left. It was a beautiful thing." In his first All-Star Game, Bruce struck out as a pinch-hitter against A's lefty reliever Gio Gonzalez to end the eighth inning. Gonzalez was brought in specifically to face the lefty-hitting Bruce. Nothing could take away from the experience Bruce had as a member of the NL squad. "The guys here make it easy," Bruce said. "You play a lot against these guys and see a lot of them. Now you get to know them. It's just fun to put a personality to the face and name. It's been great." Bruce most enjoyed spending some time with Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who dealt the Reds a no-hitter in Game 1 of last season's NL Division Series. Bruce was the lone batter who reached base with a walk that prevented a perfect game. "He said, 'Why couldn't you have just grounded out or something?' I said, 'Why did you embarrass us in the playoffs?,' Bruce said. "Seeing what he does on the field and the way he goes about his business is something I admire. He's a professional." The outgoing Phillips was a popular person the past two days. During Monday's State Farm Home Run Derby, the 30-year-old live tweeted the contest, and during Tuesday's game, he wore a microphone for the FOX television broadcast. "That was nice they let me do that and I could let people know how I felt about the Home Run Derby," Phillips said. "I liked how the Home Run Derby had teams, our team vs. their team. Having Robinson Cano win the Derby with his dad pitching, I think that's the best thing I've probably seen." Of last year's 33 All-Star Game rookies, only seven were back this year -- including two Reds in Votto and Phillips who were voted in on the players' ballot. And there was nothing about the second time around that was less special for Votto. "It's fun sitting with the guys on the bench and picking their brains and seeing some different pitchers," Votto said. "Obviously there is an atmosphere in the ballpark. It's exactly where you want to be." Although any player would welcome the rest a four-day All-Star break brings, Votto preferred not to have it. The 2010 NL Most Valuable Player will spend the next two days back in Cincinnati recharging his batteries, something that was impossible to do with the demands that come with playing in an All-Star Game. "I'm losing out on some energy, but I'm gaining a lot of memories and positive experiences," Votto said. "I wouldn't have it any other way. I wanted to be an All-Star this year and as often as possible."