Sunday, September 19, 1999

REDS 3, PIRATES 0


Reds love Parris in autumn

BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Jason LaRue is congratulated after hitting a solo home run.
(AP photo)
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        PITTSBURGH — Personal achievement won't mean much, Steve Parris insisted, unless his team also thrives.

        “I don't want to talk about the season I've had unless we win it,” Parris said Saturday, after he carved a six-hit shutout in the Reds' 3-0 triumph over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “For me, it obviously has been fairly successful. But if we don't get to the playoffs, it doesn't mean a whole lot.”

        Defining Parris's impact upon the Reds, on this day and in this year, could be done without his testimony.

        He pumped life into the Reds' postseason hopes after they had lost three of their previous four games. Backed by catcher Jason LaRue, who drove in two runs with a homer and a double, Cincinnati (88-61) moved 21/2 games behind first-place Houston in the National League Central. The Astros' 13-6 loss at St. Louis was their third consecutive defeat. The Reds entered the day trailing New York by three games in the wild-card standings.

        It's worth pointing out that, barring rainouts or injuries, the Reds' starting pitchers in their Sept.28-29 series at Houston will be Ron Villone, who's 2-0 against the Astros, and Parris (10-2), who has the staff's best winning percentage.

[parris]
Steve Parris delivers a pitch.
(AP photo)
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        In the lush garden of the 1999 season, Parris has been a sturdy oak. Until he injured his right triceps in late July and spent a month on the disabled list, he was Cincinnati's most consistent pitcher, regularly lasting six and seven innings while Pete Harnisch battled his shoulder pain, ex-reliever Villone adjusted to starting and Steve Avery, Jason Bere and Brett Tomko fluctuated.

        It's now almost ridiculous to consider that the Reds saw fit to open the season with Parris at Triple-A Indianapolis. “He's been a great addition,” manager Jack McKeon said.

        Nothing bothers Parris, which makes him an asset in September or at any other time.

        He didn't worry about the game's pennant-race implications. “That's after the fact,” he said.

        He didn't waste energy on pumping himself full of extra motivation to face Pittsburgh, his former team. “I like the Pirates organization. There are no hard feelings at all,” he said.

        All he did on a gorgeous 74` afternoon before an announced crowd of 21,253 at Three Rivers Stadium was pitch. He did it well enough to give the Reds their major-league leading 11th shutout and third complete-game blanking. Harnisch has the other two.

        “I had command of (breaking pitches) on the outside and inside corners,” Parris said. “For some reason, (the Pirates) weren't swinging today. They usually pull the trigger. They're an aggressive team.

        “I had some guys baffled, I thought. They didn't know what was coming. That's the greatest thing about pitching, when you can do that. It's pure luck, because you don't know what they're guessing.”

        Said LaRue, “He never got into any sort of pattern where they were able to catch onto anything.”

        Parris, who threw 110 pitches, walked only one Pirate and struck out eight, including six with called third strikes. Three double plays, including two started by outfielders and abetted by poor Pittsburgh baserunning, helped him.

        Also, umpire Mark Carlson displayed a tendency to call strikes on the borders of the strike zone, something Parris exploited.

        The fact that Carlson and Parris were high school teammates at Joliet (Ill.) West was duly noted.

        Parris readily addressed this potentially embarrassing subject.

        “He umpired about four of my games in the minor leagues, so it's really not (a factor),” he said. “He's a professional. He does his job. I thought he called a good game. Players were complaining about a few pitches that I couldn't believe. If they want to go rewind the tape, they can, because I threw a lot of strikes. I don't know why they weren't swinging.”

        Carlson's strike zone was just as liberal when the Reds batted, too.

        “He called the low pitch on both sides,” McKeon said. “Guys didn't like it, but he was consistent all day.”

        He was almost as consistent as Parris.

       



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