Sunday, August 27, 2000

Reds 3, Marlins 2

Rain delay doesn't deter Harnisch

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Barry Larkin hits a first-inning homer.
(AP photos)
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        MIAMI — Though the Reds' fate developed slowly Saturday night, one fact was quickly reaffirmed: Pete Harnisch is one tough pitcher.

        Few hurlers would try what Harnisch did at Pro Player Stadium, where the Reds won their third game in a row by outlasting the Florida Marlins, 3-2.

        Ignoring standard practice, Harnisch returned after a two-hour, 40-minute rain delay stopped play in the bottom of the second inning with the score tied, 1-1. He ultimately lasted six innings and allowed five hits, including Mark Kotsay's first-inning homer.

        Most starting pitchers would have called it a night once the game was halted. Or their managers simply would have removed them. Conventional wisdom dictates that once a starter's arm cools down, it can't be warmed up again. Handling Harnisch with care would be excusable, since he's only two months removed from the end of his eight-week stint on the disabled list with shoulder problems.

        “I just didn't want to pack it in and throw the rest of the game on the bullpen,” said Harnisch, who threw 79 pitches, including 56 strikes.

        “You never feel good when stuff like that happens. But I wasn't hurting, so I thought I needed to go out there again. I wasn't looking for much. Six (innings) was an outside (goal). I was thinking if I get through five, maybe those (bullpen) guys could pitch an inning each or something. But we got the extra inning.”

Pete Harnisch spared the bullpen.
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        While the delay drove away most of the 35,392 fans, Florida's largest home crowd of the year, Harnisch (6-6) stuck around to earn his third consecutive victory. Danny Graves, the Reds' third reliever, earned his 22nd save and kept Cincinnati (64-64) 7 1/2 games behind first-place St. Louis in the National League Central Division.

        The Reds expressed proper gratitude toward Harnisch for sparing their bullpen.

        “You can't say enough about his effort,” Graves said. “That was huge for us. Rain delays always scare you because you think it's Johnny-Whole-Staff from here on out.”

        “He saved us,” pitching coach Don Gullett said. “You couldn't ask for anything more.”

        Gullett kept Harnisch limber by having him throw underneath the grandstand twice during the delay, at approximately 30- to 40-minute intervals. This also prevented Harnisch's arm from stiffening in the air-conditioned clubhouse.

        “It broke up the boredom a little bit,” Harnisch said.

        Though Harnisch blanked the Marlins for 4 1/3 innings after the delay, he didn't feel as dominant as the zeroes indicated.

Danny Graves celebrates the win with Jason LaRue.
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        “You don't ever feel normal in those circumstances,” he said. “When you warm up 12, 13 minutes to start a game and then you sit for 2 1/2 hours, you're never going to feel normal after that. But you don't have a choice. You just go out there.”

        With Harnisch out there, the Reds feel better about themselves. He's 6-2 with a 2.88 ERA since leaving the disabled list. He has hastened the progress of the Reds' starters, who are 18-11, 3.57 since the All-Star break.

        The Reds scored twice in the sixth inning to break the early deadlock.

        Barry Larkin, whose first-inning homer opened the scoring, drew a leadoff walk. Two outs later, Alex Ochoa singled, prompting the Marlins to replace reliever Vic Darensbourg with Braden Looper.

        Chris Stynes singled to center on Looper's first pitch, scoring Larkin. Ochoa also scored when Marlins center fielder Preston Wilson flung the ball into Cincinnati's dugout.

        Though Kotsay's homer ended the Marlins' scoreless innings streak at 23, Cincinnati's impressive defense smothered them afterward.

        Stynes started a double play on David Berg's bouncer to third base to help Harnisch escape a two-on, one-out jam in the fourth inning. Center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. made a smooth running catch of Mike Lowell's howling drive to deep center field, ending the sixth inning with Henry Rodriguez on second base.

        Left fielder Brian Hunter turned the seventh inning into his personal showcase, making a diving, sliding catch of Berg's pop-up before plucking Ramon Castro's line drive off the wall and throwing him out as he tried to stretch a single into a double.

        The Marlins rallied in the eighth, which began with Mark Smith's pinch-hit single. After Luis Castillo forced Smith at second base, left-hander Dennys Reyes replaced Larry Luebbers, since Florida had left-handed batters Kotsay and Rodriguez due up. Kotsay singled and Rodriguez flied out, moving Castillo to third.

        Graves relieved Reyes and induced a meek grounder up the middle from Wilson, Florida's cleanup hitter. But the ball was hit so weakly that second baseman Juan Castro had no play, resulting in a run for Florida and an infield single for Wilson. Lowell grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

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