Jeff Keppinger fractured his patella in Tuesday’s game against the Marlins. He is expected to be out several weeks. Keppinger was hitting .324 at the time of his injury and seemed to have taken the starting SS job away from injured Alex Gonzalez. Jeff is a guy that has had to show he belonged, even though he hit wherever he went. After hitting .383, .365, & .389 in three seasons at Georgia, he went on to post a career minor league batting average of .320 in six long seasons. Now it’s a given he can indeed hit as exhibited by his .313 major league average in 565 at bats.
But this story isn’t about the long road Keppinger took to the majors. It’s about his replacements, temporary as they may be. Rice’s former SS Paul Janish was called up from Louisville to take Jeff’s spot on the roster. While Janish batted .345 in his last year with the Owls, it’s been his glove that’s gotten him his shot at the big leagues.
Reds skipper decided to go with Jerry Hairston, Jr. at SS in Wednesday night’s game against Florida. Hairston would be the offensive half of SS by committee, with Janish being the fielder in the equation. Kind of a Jerry Janish or a Paul Hairston, Jr., if you will. Anyway Hairston lived up to his part of the bargain, going three for four, with a double, triple, walk, stolen base, two runs scored, and an RBI. So with a six run lead it was time for Janish to take over.
Funny how the ball finds you. The first two batters for the Marlins hit grounders to Paul. The first grounder was routine. But the second was a hard hit grounder to Janish’s right, Paul doing his best Mark Belanger imitation, went to the ball, skidded on his right knee, got up, and threw a strike to first. It must’ve seemed surreal to Janish who the night before was pulled from the Louisville game in the 8th inning and told to drive to Cincinnati. As luck would have it, his mom was coming to Louisville to see her son play, she happily rerouted her trip to the Queen City. The announcers were focused on the young shortstop, making his big league debut, looking for a smile as he exited the field. But this kid had worked too hard to get here and wanted to show he belonged.
A little more about the game… Bronson Arroyo looked like his old masterful self as he had everything going on as he led 6-0 when he left the game after six innings of work, lowering his inflated ERA to 6.08, turning the ball over to Mike Lincoln. Coco Cordero, the Reds closer, had worked the previous two nights and was looking forward to a night off. But it wasn’t to be, as Francisco answered the call with the bases loaded in the 9th, a run in, and nobody out. After letting up a two run single to make the score 6-3, Cody Ross stung his old team with a three run game tying bomb.
Would there be anyway Dusty could reinsert his offensive shortstop for his defensive one? Nope it’d be Janish’s job for the rest of the night. Paul almost did himself proud in his first big league at bat as he sent the Marlins outfielder to the wall to track down his deep drive. But things really got interesting in his second time to the dish. The bases were loaded with two outs, game tied, in the bottom of the 10th. Tough lefty reliever Renyel Pinto was on the hill for Florida. Pinto was sporting an ERA of right around 0.50, having only allowed one run in his last 24 innings. Janish just flicked the ball over the first baseman’s head, just inside the rightfield line, for a game winning base knock.
I don’t know what the Reds were doing in the ensuing celebration as they almost killed Paul. They were patting him on the back & jumping on him. In fact one Cincinnati player kicked Janish in the face. Throughout the rest of the scene on the field, the youngster could be seen wiping his nose, checking for blood. Funny thing is, he didn’t seem to mind.