His name isn’t Cy Estrada or Nolan Estrada or Sandy Estrada or Big Train Estrada or Vida Estrada.
It could be Mario Estrada, in honor of Mario Soto and his changeup, but it is just plain Marco Estrada, a run-of-the-mill right-handed pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers.
He is 30 years old and owned 14 major-league wins in his four-year major-league life when he took the Great American Ball Park mound Sunday.
Make that 15 wins.
He was as good Sunday as any of those pitching legends as he pitched a one-hit shutout over seven innings to beat the Cincinnati Reds, 3-1.
Shin-Soo Choo singled to open the bottom of the first and that was that. No more hits. Estrada walked two and struck out nine. At one point he retired 16 in a row. At one point he struck out six in a row.
“Estrada has one of the best change-ups I’ve seen in a long time,” said manager Dusty Baker. “We knew it was coming. The hitters knew it was coming. It was like when I faced (Cincinnati’s) Mario Soto I knew it was coming, too.
“Despite a well-located fastball, that’s the second-best pitch in the game,” Baker added. “Rarely do you hang one, not like a breaking pitch. And it made his 90-miles-an-hour fastball look like 100 miles an hour. He pitched a good game — no ifs and ands about it.
“The difficult part is that he was rarely in the stretch,” said Baker. “We had one hit and two walks — three base runners — so he was always in a windup. That’s like a boxer throwing a knockout punch with every pitch. When a pitcher is in a stretch it is like throwing a jab.”
It wasn’t the way the Reds wanted to end a homestand, losing two of three to the lowly Brewers just before embarking on a six-game trip that begins Monday in St. Louis, the start of a three-game series.
Rookie Greg Reynolds, stepping in for injured Tony Cingrani, made one errant pitch that did him in — a two-run home run in the second by Caleb Gindl.
Reynolds went five innings and gave up two runs, five hits, two walks and struck out two and Baker said, “He did his job. He gave up five innings, gave us a chance to win and pretty much kept us out of our bullpen (Sam LeCure, Manny Parra and Logan Ondrusek each worked short spans).
Milwaukee’s Estrada left after seven innings and the Reds immediately started an assault on relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler with back-to-back singles by Devon Mesoraco and pinch-hitter Ryan Ludwick.
But it fizzled when Zack Cozart hit into a fielder’s choice, Chris Heisey struck out and Choo struck out swinging.
Milwaukee closer Jim Henderson gave up a one-out home run to Joey Votto and a two-out single to Jay Bruce in the ninth and so the day’s work for the Reds added up to one run and five hits and they struck out 11 times en route to an artery-clogging loss.
Another base-running faux pas cursed the Reds at the game’s beginning. Shin-Soo Choo singled to open the bottom of the first — the first and last hit off Estrada for seven innings. Choo stole second and stole third.
Brandon Phillips lined to center field and Carlos Gomez charged hard and caught it. Cho tagged and started home. But he stopped. Gomez’s throw whizzed far over the catcher’s head and Choo broke for home.
The ball ricocheted off the stands directly to Estrada, covering home, and he tagged Choo, who did not slide.
“Choo started and stopped,” said Baker. “We knew Gomez has a great arm. The play looked bad because the ball got away from him. Then it hopped right back to the pitcher.”
The Reds have lost four of seven to Milwaukee in the last 10 days and Baker said, “They’re playing good ball, playing like we anticipated that they would play earlier in the season and would be in the race. You hate to see them beat us by playing good ball now, but they are going into Pittsburgh after a day off and perhaps they’ll help us there by continuing to play good ball.”