Monday, August 25, 2008

Take Me Out To The Ball Game... oh Mercy Me! (and yes, Happy Birthday!)

So for my birthday last Sunday (17th), since I was in Cincinnati with Laura to help out her mom, I had the pleasure of going to Great American Ballpark for a Reds/Cardinals game followed by a Mercy Me concert. It was Faith Day! David and Lily went too since it was free backpack day. We were joined by Laura's brother Ed, an even bigger Reds fan! The Reds won - a rare treat this season. Here's how the game 'went down' (courtesy of and

Volquez shines for Reds in win No. 15

08/17/2008 6:00 PM ET

CINCINNATI -- With the Reds likely en route to their eighth straight losing season, it's difficult to highlight many positives. But Edinson Volquez has shined like a beacon in the abyss.

Volquez, making his first career appearance against St. Louis, allowed just three hits in a career-high-tying seven innings, helping the Reds defeat the Cardinals, 7-3, before 37,648 fans on Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.

With the victory, the Reds snapped a season-high eight-game home losing streak and stopped St. Louis' winning streak at four.

Volquez (15-5) walked four and struck out four in a 97-pitch effort. After a relatively rough stretch following the All-Star break, Volquez appears to be back on track.

"Nobody goes the whole year without scuffling," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "Everybody was worried about him, saying he was tired. He's caught his second wind."

The Reds got to Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse early. Jay Bruce's RBI single put the Reds ahead, 1-0, in the first inning. St. Louis was unable to complete a double play on Javier Valentin's slow roller, allowing Jerry Hairston Jr. to score Cincinnati's second run.

Lohse (13-6) allowed three earned runs on seven hits in six innings. He walked three and struck out two.

Volquez was masterful early on. The Cardinals did not hit the ball out of the infield in the first three innings.

Volquez walked Ryan Ludwick with one out in the second, but Albert Pujols grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Volquez needed just 39 pitches to get through four innings.

"His pitch count was relatively low," said Baker. "That was huge for us. If he can do that, he's going to go deep into ballgames."

Rick Ankiel's broken-bat pop fly to Bruce in right field leading off the fifth was the first ball to exit the infield, while Adam Kennedy's single to center with one out in the fifth was the Cardinals' first hit.

Things got a bit testy later in the fifth. After Volquez brushed back Lohse in the top of the inning, Lohse returned the favor, sending Volquez to his knees with a pitch in the bottom of the frame.

Both benches were warned by home-plate umpire Greg Gibson.

Volquez, who had just one strikeout through five innings, said he's trying to evolve into more of a ground-ball pitcher.

"I was struggling a little bit last month," Volquez said. "Sometimes I try to strike guys out too much. I'm a sinkerball guy now, a ground-ball guy."

When he needed a strikeout, however, Volquez was more than willing to appease. In the sixth, for example, consecutive one-out singles by Skip Schumaker and Ludwick put runners at first and second, and Pujols walked to load the bases.

The situation prompted a visit to the mound by pitching coach Dick Pole.

"He told me Ankiel was going to be swinging at the first pitch," Volquez said. "I went to my changeup on Pujols. I didn't want to get into trouble with him."

Volquez fanned Ankiel and Troy Glaus to end the inning.

"That was one of the finest pitching performances under pressure I've seen in a long time," said Baker.

The Reds went ahead, 3-0, on Jeff Keppinger's single to center that scored Edwin Encarnacion from second base.

Brandon Phillips launched his 20th home run, a three-run shot on an 0-1 pitch from Jaime Garcia, with one out in the seventh, to make the score 6-0. Phillips, who went 2-for-5, hit a homer in back-to-back games for the first time this season.

After the Cardinals scored their first run on Glaus' two-out RBI single off David Weathers in the eighth, Joey Votto's pinch-hit single scored Corey Patterson to make the score 7-1.

The Cardinals roughed up Francisco Cordero for two runs on four hits in the ninth.

Rookie outfielder Chris Dickerson, who went 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored, is hitting .409 through five big league games.

Baker was pleased to see his club respond after losing the first two games of the series to the Cardinals, especially with a nine-game, 11-day road trip upcoming.

"I want to see a team that competes," Baker said. "I don't care who you're playing or how many people are in the stands. I'm just glad that our young players are playing hard."

Back to School

I bet you remember those days as well. The first day of school. I still remember my dad walking me into first grade to meet my teacher -- now 42 years later! Well, Lily and I walked David into his first day of 1st grade today. See the big smiles! Yes, pink is an option in the school uniform code and David helped pick out this new pink polo this summer and proudly chose it for his first day! He does look pretty spiffy and handsome in it!

Lily has now started her countdown for her first day of school since she is still off this week... so 8 more days until pre-K classes for her!

Daniel begins his senior year next week as well... and I need to probably sign up for my next MBA class at Liberty this month or next!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bob Dylan in Cincinnati

I was in Cincinnati just 3 days prior and would have loved to go to the show... so I'm living it vicariously through the review... so sorry I didn't get to hear him sing "I believe in you" from Slow Train when I saw him in September.... but it does sound like I witnessed a better show.

August 23, 2008

Half '60s, half hot streak

Concert review

By Chris Varias
Enquirer contributor

Paul McCartney is making news this month for driving along Route 66 to celebrate his 66th birthday. It seems like a lot of fuss over a little road trip, when you consider that Bob Dylan, McCartney’s 67-year-old contemporary, has been living out of a tour bus for the last 20 years.

Bob’s endless voyage has included several Cincinnati gigs along the way. His show at National City Pavilion Friday night was his second stop in town in the last 12 months, and just like the others, this one was made of moments that ranked as good, great or sublime.

Sporting the same five-piece band he brought to the Taft Theatre last October, the iconic singer-songwriter performed a 15-song set with a two-song encore. Dylan drew a near-sellout crowd, perhaps the biggest audience for any headliner in the pavilion’s first season. (Take that Huey Lewis, and you too Weird Al Yankovic.)

The two-hour performance was split fairly evenly between '60s classics and songs from his current hot streak, which began with 1997’s “Time Out of Mind.” The serious Dylan-watcher will note that the only two songs not fitting in either category were the show-opener “Cat’s in the Well” from the 1990 album “Under a Red Sky” and “I Believe in You” from 1979’s “Slow Train Coming.”

Dylan exclusively played electric keyboards on every song, except for a couple of harmonica solos. That was the show’s biggest disappointment, although his playing was fine. He was positioned facing stage right the entire time, and his crowd interaction was limited to a single “Thank you, friends” and band introductions. He connects better with the crowd as a guitar player, doing his weird frontman routine that crossbreeds a Charlie Chaplin stumble and a Chuck Berry duckwalk.

Wearing matching black suits, Dylan and the band weren’t dressed to beat the heat and humidity that lasted all night. They threw in the occasional slow number – perhaps their way of cooling down – but the show had enough rockers to keep things engaging.

The '60s selections included finger-pointing anthems like "The Times They Are A-Changin' " and “Chimes of Freedom,” but the best stuff from that era was the rock material, like “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” and “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Dylan was good enough to play two songs from his best album, 1967’s “John Wesley Harding” – the honky-tonk tune “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” and a version of “All Along the Watchtower” that split the difference between his understated original and Jimi Hendrix’s electrified freakout.

The up-tempo, newer material measured up. The crowd seemed just as excited to hear the opening bars of songs like “Thunder on the Mountain,” “Honest with Me” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” as to hear “Like a Rolling Stone” or anything else.

“High Water” ranked as the best of the new, as it epitomized his classic, inimitable way of doing business as a songwriter. Verse to verse you could hear him mixing blues thievery (“I believe I’ll dust my broom”) with the hermetical (“They got Charles Darwin trapped out there on Highway Five”) and the hormonal (“Throw your panties overboard”).

Is it about creationism vs. evolution? Is it a silly love song? And if so, what’s wrong with that?