Pitching and defense ruled the day as the Reds and Rockies staged a rare spring pitching duel Thursday, with Rockies hurlers perfect through three innings and Reds pitchers retiring the first eight hitters they faced in a 4-3 Colorado win over split-squad Cincinnati.
The Rockies' Juan Nicasio bounced back after a rough first outing to record four groundouts and two strikeouts in his two innings on the hill. He was followed by Jeff Francis, who pitched a perfect third, watching the first ball from either team leave the infield with one out, only to drop into the glove of center fielder Dexter Fowler.
Aroldis Chapman proved their equal for Cincinnati, throwing two perfect innings with four groundouts, a dropped-third-strike strikeout, and a popup to second. It was his first outing of the Cactus League, and his perfect performance bodes well for his bid to crack the Reds' rotation this spring.
"I feel really happy about it," Chapman said via interpreter Tomas Vera. "I could locate the pitches where I wanted. The results were good."
Of Chapman's 23 pitches over two innings, 19 were strikes.
The Rockies's Matt McBride broke through with the game's first hit in the bottom of the third, launching a triple off the left-field wall, but he was then stranded. In the next frame, Jordan Pacheco drilled a double to center, then scored on Nolan Arenado's double to center, with Arenado advancing to third on an error from center fielder Denis Phipps.
Arenado kicked off a highlight play in the top of the fifth as Jeff Francis allowed base hits to the first two Reds he faced then coaxed a grounder to third out of Zack Cozart. Arenado grabbed the ball on the bounce, stepped on third base, fired to Eric Young Jr. at second, and watched Young turn beautifully to catch Cozart with a throw to Henry Wrigley at first.