Reds Roar Back Against Astros' Closer

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 04: Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates with Brandon Phillips #4 after driving in the winning run in the Reds 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros at Great American Ball Park on May 4, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Hey, don't blame Brandon Lyon. He didn't ask to be a closer.

Or maybe he did. Who knows. The point is that nobody had to make Brandon Lyon a closer. There was never anything in particular about Brandon Lyon that screamed out, By the Thunder of the Gods, the Spirit of Mjolnir in my right arm makes me nigh unto Invincible!

Not that, or anything like that.

Somebody (Bob Melvin) just gave him the job, and then somebody else (Brad Mills) gave it to him again. Despite no particular reason to think that Lyon was ever, say, one of the 50 best relief pitchers in the major leagues.

Anyway, it worked out okay for the Astros last year, when Lyon (as near as I can figure) converted all 20 of his save opportunities.

This year, not so much. This year he's batting .500, which is a phenomenal batting average and a disastrous save percentage. He's saved four games, and blown four games.

Wednesday afternoon's fiasco might have cost Lyon his job.

Rookie starting pitcher Aneury Rodriguez made his debut for the Astros, and gave up just one hit in five innings. His first four successors held Cincinnati hitless. And after eight-and-a-half innings, Houston held a 2-0 lead thanks to a couple of RBI singles in the fourth inning.

Enter the Spirit of Mjolnir.

Drew Stubbs led off and walked. On four pitches. Chad Heisey singled. Joey Votto singled. Brandon Phillips singled. Jay Bruce doubled. Votto touched home, and in the blink of the gods' eyes the Reds had gone from being one-hit and losing to scoring three runs and winning.

Brandon Lyon isn't a bad pitcher. He really isn't, no matter what those four blown saves and 7.12 ERA might suggest. He's a perfectly fine major league relief pitcher, with a perfectly fine 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his career. He's just not good enough to be routinely given the chance to blow one- or two-run leads in the ninth inning.

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