"I was scheduled to leave early this morning and we didn't end up pulling out of Norfolk until after 3," Mesoraco said. "I was kind of panicked that I was going to be late. I was kind of tired from getting up early and sitting in the airport all day. My legs were tight. I couldn't have felt a whole lot worse."
When the night was over, Mesoraco couldn't have felt a whole lot better. Freshly activated from the disabled list, he caught a 3-0 Reds shutout of the Phillies, and all three runs came from his home run in the first inning against Kyle Kendrick.
Mesoraco had not played for Cincinnati since he strained his left hamstring in Atlanta on April 25.
"It was good to have him back," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He's played a really important part on our club. Unfortunately, the hamstring injury set him back a little bit, but he came right back out like he started in St. Louis [on April 8] when he was activated the first time."
Cincinnati rallied right away in the top of the first against Kendrick when Billy Hamilton and Skip Schumaker started the game with back-to-back singles. With two outs, Mesoraco looked at a called strike and two balls before his first swing connected for a three-run homer over the left-field fence.
It was Mesoraco's fourth home run of the season. In 14 games, he is batting .460.
"I wanted to throw a strike right there," Kendrick said. "I left it up a little bit. He ended up getting it out of here."
"I think things cleared up pretty well after that," Mesoraco said. "I felt rushed all day just because I need a lot of time to prepare for the game, get the scouting reports down and do all my stuff in the weight room ... and I didn't have the time, so I was kind of panicked and flustered a little bit."
The game was a battle between two struggling offenses. The three runs leapfrogged the Reds over the Phillies for 12th in the National League in runs scored. Cincinnati was fortunate that it did enough damage to Kendrick, who retired 15 in a row after Mesoraco's homer.
Also in the Reds' favor was their starting pitcher, Alfredo Simon. Coming off of his worst start of the season, a three-inning, five-run effort vs. the Rockies last Saturday, Simon was much stronger vs. Philadelphia. He pitched 7 2/3 innings and allowed five hits and a walk while striking out eight -- one shy of his career high.
"I'm really happy," said Simon, now 5-2 with a 2.45 ERA in eight starts. "I struggled in the last outing and now I feel like I tried to do my best today, and everything came true."
With one out in the bottom of the first, Simon hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch before a Chase Utley single. But Simon got Ryan Howard to bounce one to second base for a fielder's choice, then struck out Marlon Byrd.
In the third inning with one out, Simon walked Jimmy Rollins and allowed a single to Ruiz, but Utley and Howard struck out amid boos from Phillies fans.
"Today he went out there and established that he was going to go right after guys and not mess around," Mesoraco said. "He made a lot of good pitches with all his pitches -- curveball, slider, changeup -- and then he invented a couple of pitches sidearm, eephus pitches. I don't know what he was doing, but it seemed to work."
One of those came in the Phillies' fourth with one out, when Simon floated a 70 mph pitch to get Domonic Brown to ground weakly back to the mound.
"I have no idea what that was. It was super slow," Mesoraco said.
"It was a split," Simon joked back.
Simon retired 13 of his last 15 batters, and did not pay for allowing a leadoff double to Cody Asche in the fifth. In the eighth, he fell one out shy of tying a career high in innings pitched when he was lifted following a two-out single to right field by Utley.
Manny Parra struck out Howard to end the eighth. In the ninth, Aroldis Chapman earned his second save after giving up a two-out walk and single to bring the tying run to the plate.
The Reds, who have pitched two shutouts in their last three games, are now 5-9 in series openers. This was an important one as two tough nemeses in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee pitch the next two games for Philadelphia.
"It sure is nice to get the first two, so we'll be fighting like heck to get that game [Saturday]," Price said.