Simon makes most of rare start in win over Mets
Right-hander allows one run over seven innings; Parra gets first save
NEW YORK -- A reliever turned temporary starting pitcher for the Reds, Alfredo Simon is the caretaker of the fifth spot in the rotation until Mat Latos can return in a couple of weeks.
Simon, who hadn't started in the regular season since 2011 with the Orioles, did more than just eat innings or pitch well enough on Sunday. His fantastic seven-inning performance quieted the Mets. A starter-turned-reliever, Manny Parra was charged with closing it out as the team currently lacks a designated closer.
The two pitchers combined to give the Reds a much-needed 2-1 win over the Mets at Citi Field to salvage one game of the three-game series.
"You couldn't ask any more than we got from Simon and Manny Parra right there," Reds manager Bryan Price said.
The start was Simon's longest outing since a career-high, eight-inning start for Baltimore against the Tigers on Sept. 23, 2011. He allowed one earned run and four hits with one walk, one hit batsman and six strikeouts while throwing 79 pitches, with 56 strikes.
Simon hadn't pitched in a game since March 24 during Spring Training.
"I felt real comfortable," Simon said "I know it had been 10 days since I was out there. I just tried to do my best today. Everything came through."
Simon has been an effective middle reliever, a situational reliever or set-up man for the Reds the past two seasons. He was stretched out to start, however, after Latos' left knee injury at the beginning of Spring Training.
"It was a good opportunity for me," Simon said. "I tried to go show them the best I can and tried to win the game. Everything worked really good today."
The Mets took a 1-0 lead on Simon in the bottom of the second. Once again, a left-handed shift backfired on the Reds when Ike Davis punched a double to the left side. Davis scored on Juan Lagares' single to left field.
After Simon walked pitcher Jonathon Niese and gave up an Eric Young Jr. double with one out in the third, he settled into a nice groove and retired 11 of the next 12 and final 14 of 16.
"He was unbelievable," Reds catcher Brayan Pena said. "The fact that he was mixing it up and he was throwing his sinker down, the fact that he got a base hit, it was very exciting. He got us going. You have to give him a lot of credit, because he was following our game plan. He was using his off-speed in very good counts. He wasn't afraid to pitch backwards and then finish them with the hard sinker."
Simon encountered a brief self-inflicted jam when David Wright was hit by his 0-2 pitch with two outs in the sixth. He followed by going to a 3-0 count against Curtis Granderson. That's when Pena stood up in front of the plate and barked some encouragement to Simon.
"Sometimes, I have to act like a big daddy. Sometimes I have to be the six-[foot]-five guy," Pena said. "It was just a friendly reminder to continue to attack."
In his season debut after being activated from the disabled list, Niese allowed only three base runners over his first five innings. Cincinnati put together an extended rally in the sixth and took the lead -- and it was sparked by Simon.
Simon led off with a single to right field, only the second hit of his big league career. Chris Heisey and Brandon Phillips followed with singles to load the bases, before Joey Votto evened the game at 1 with a sacrifice fly to left field. Ryan Ludwick lined an RBI single to left field put Cincinnati ahead.
Simon was sent back for the eighth and warmed up until the Mets led off with a left-handed pinch-hitter in Lucas Duda. The Reds countered by summoning Parra, who retired the side in order. Cincinnati currently lacks a closer, since both both Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Broxton are on the disabled list. With Wright and lefties in Granderson and Davis due up in the ninth, Parra returned and converted the first save of his professional career a six-out one.
"You just get the call and go out there, it almost felt like it was just another inning that you're out there," Parra said. "It happened to be the eighth and the ninth. At the end of the game, I really didn't know what to do. It was just awesome."
"That was great to see," Price said. "We've seen the evolution of a guy who has developed into really one of the better left-handed pitchers out of the bullpen right now in the National League. He's pitching with great confidence. He's making great pitches."
Out of the six games the Reds have played this season, five have been decided by one run. With the team at 2-4, the meant there had been some tough losses already. None were harder than the one game decided by more than a run -- when Davis hit a walk-off grand slam for a 6-3 loss on Saturday.
"What was nice was we came out of here with a victory and it was a well-pitched game," Price said. "We didn't tax our bullpen a great deal. That makes a big difference going into our next series."