MILWAUKEE -- Although hardly alone among some in the Reds' lineup, left fielder Jonny Gomes is finding the hits harder to come by these days.
Gomes, who was given a break on Tuesday, was back in Wednesday's lineup. He came into the afternoon in a 3-for-25 slump, his average dipping to .211. Reds manager Dusty Baker had Gomes in his office on Tuesday to chat about hitting philosophy.
"The main thing is we've got to get Jonny aggressive in the strike zone," Baker said on Wednesday. "He's taking fastballs and swinging at breaking balls. Some of that is a little bit of tension and wanting to do it so badly. We're just trying to get him to the point of relaxing. You can accomplish a lot of things with controlled aggression and relaxation."
With six home runs and 16 RBIs, Gomes leads the club in both categories. And despite his low average, he has a .376 on-base percentage and his 18 walks in 93 plate appearances ranked second in the National League behind teammate Joey Votto heading into play Wednesday.
Baker has not lost confidence that Gomes will start contributing again.
"We need Jonny. I know what Jonny can do," Baker said. "If I didn't know what he could do, it'd be a different story. Where he's batting in the lineup is so very important behind Joey and Brandon [Phillips]. The fifth-place hitter, he's your foundation man of your lineup. He'll be fine. When you're struggling some, you want to be fine today. It doesn't always happen."
With game on line, Chapman impresses
MILWAUKEE -- There was no doubt about it. Aroldis Chapman gave the Reds his best outing as a Major Leaguer in a big moment on Wednesday.
Chapman received the victory in the Reds' 7-6 win over the Brewers in 10 innings. He couldn't have done more to earn it. The Cuban left-hander pitched 1 2/3 tough innings and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth that saved the day.
Of the 19 pitches Chapman threw, 17 were strikes.
"I keep saying it and I'm going to say it again, that's just unbelievable," Reds closer Francisco Cordero said of Chapman. "I'm real glad that I'm here and get to see that and enjoy it."
The Brewers put runners on the corners in the eighth against Logan Ondrusek when manager Dusty Baker went somewhat against the grain and summoned Chapman to face a right-handed batter in Rickie Weeks.
"If a guy can pitch, it doesn't matter if he faces right or left," Baker said. "Sparky Lyle was left-handed. Dave Righetti was left-handed. B.J. Ryan was left-handed. It doesn't matter if a guy has good stuff."
Two pitches into the Weeks at-bat, Chapman hit him with a 98-mph fastball to load the bases and gave Milwaukee a chance to take the game.
"It's tough, but you know that if you put it in play, anything can happen," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Obviously, that's why they brought him in, because they needed strikeouts at the time. Once he hit Rickie, I felt pretty good, and then all of a sudden he was throwing strikes."
Against Carlos Gomez, Chapman threw five-straight strikes of 99 mph or faster and got four fouls. Next came a nasty 88-mph slider that crossed up Gomez as he swung and missed. The Brewers' best hitter, Ryan Braun, saw three pitches of 99, 101 and 98 mph before he grounded another 101-mph fastball for a routine groundout to third base.
Chapman returned for the ninth and got Prince Fielder looking at strike three on a 99-mph fastball. Casey McGehee flied out to right field. Corey Hart followed with a single to right field, but was picked off of first base to end the inning and force extras.
Baker was asked if it indeed was Chapman's finest performance to date.
"Yeah, he went two innings, which he usually doesn't go," Baker said. "Fortunately for us, he was throwing quality strikes and getting quality hitters out. You never want to face Rickie Weeks. You're not in a hurry to face Prince. You're not in a hurry to face -- certainly with the bases loaded -- Ryan Braun. And with their clutch man, McGehee, they have some guys that can hit and hit in the clutch."
Through 12 games this season, Chapman is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA -- after 11 2/3 scoreless innings. He has walked eight and struck out 12. His velocity remained high on Wednesday because he only threw three pitches in Tuesday's loss.
"I'm also glad that we're off tomorrow. He's going to need that time off," Baker said.
Cueto nearly ready, Arredondo improving
MILWAUKEE -- It appears that Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto (right biceps/triceps irritation) will have one more rehab-assignment start before he comes off the disabled list.
The Reds were pleased with the reports from Cueto's latest start. On Tuesday for Triple-A Louisville, Cueto pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings with three hits, no walks and three strikeouts. He threw 83 pitches, 55 for strikes.
"He was able to combine the arm strength with good pitch quality," Reds pitching coach Bryan Price said. "We'll hope for one more outing where we'll get his pitch count closer to 100 and hopefully get himself into that sixth or seventh inning. That would be a really good sign. It's not imperative, but it would be a bonus, if he could get himself to the sixth or seventh inning."
Meanwhile, reliever Jose Arredondo (Tommy John surgery in 2010) is making progress on his rehab assignment. Arredondo was transferred from Double-A Carolina to Louisville. In six appearances for Carolina, he had a 2.35 ERA with four walks and 11 strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings.
During Spring Training, Arredondo had issues with arm strength and trouble throwing his breaking ball and split-fingered fastball for strikes.
"From the reports I'm getting, all of that stuff is getting a lot better," Price said. "The arm strength is more consistent and the breaking ball and split have been much, much better -- what we expected from him when we got him."
Baker says Ondrusek has been 'awesome'
MILWAUKEE -- Before giving up the game-deciding home run to the Brewers' Rickie Weeks in the eighth inning of Tuesday's 3-2 Reds loss, reliever Logan Ondrusek had been on a roll. Ondrusek hadn't allowed a hit in the previous four appearances or an earned run in his previous five outings.
"He's been great. Ondrusek has been awesome," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Ondrusek entered Wednesday with a 1.29 ERA over 13 games.
"It's been all right. There are things I can improve on," Ondrusek said. "I've walked a few more guys than I wanted to or fell behind some guys early and had to battle back. Overall, it's been good so far. I have to keep building on it and keep going forward."
With his 1-2-3 bottom of the 10th inning for his fourth save this season during the Reds' 7-6 win, Francisco Cordero notched career save No. 294 to pass Jason Isringhausen for 22nd on the all-time list. "I feel really good about it," said Cordero, who is 4-for-4 in save chances this season. "I don't want to stop now. I want to keep pitching every day and I'm only thinking about getting the job done and help my team any time I can." ... Marquette men's basketball head coach Buzz Williams visited the Reds clubhouse as a guest of Reds manager Dusty Baker on Wednesday morning. ... Starting on Friday, the first in a series of five Johnny Bench collectible bobbleheads will be available free with full-price paid admission to the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum. The bobbleheads can be had only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the month of May, while supplies last.