Reds back on track?

August 9, 2006

Since nothing is happening on the hockey front in Columbus, EOB turns it’s attention to baseball for a day.

With the Cincinnati Reds about to begin a crucial series with the division leading Cardinals, GM Wayne Krivsky and the management team put together a plan to get fans in the seats to support their team. They’re offering half-price tickets and $1 hot dogs, in an effort to drum up a little noise in the park.

Since the turn of the century, August and September in Cincinnati have been difficult months. The only reason to head out to the ballpark was to catch a glimpse of the other team’s stars, as the home team was long out of the race. This particular season, the Reds have hung close in the Central Division race (3 1/2 back right now) and are tied for the lead in the Wild Card race. While it may be a few weeks early to start calling it “pennant fever”, there was something going on in the Great American Ballpark last night.

When it comes to baseball (specifically the Reds) the last decade, I’ve been the rock-solid pessimist. Whatever promise the team shows through May, I’m sure they’ll come crashing back to earth before the All-Star break (and I’m usually right, which oddly doesn’t make me feel very good). This year has been different. Prior to the series with the Cardinals, I stated that this would be the set of games that would likely determine the Reds’ fate for the rest of the year. Losing the series opener 13-1 was not a good start.

Last night, the team nursing a 4-1 lead with one out in the top of the fifth, Cincinnati starter Eric “The Human Batting Tee” Milton was facing Albert Pujols at the plate with runners on first and second. Phat Albert goes with an outside pitch and it looks like a sure double (if not worse) to the gap in right center. The producer switches to a high camera behind the plate, and this cameraman is tracking Griffey lumbering towards the ball.

As it became apparent that Griff wouldn’t get there, I started mentally writing the obit for the team. After losing in grand fashion the night before, this sure hit would score two and take whatever momentum the Redlegs had acquired and plant it firmly on the Cardinals’ bench. Before I could finish my mental article, right fielder Ryan Freel (Charlie Hustle, Jr.?) comes flying into the screen. Literally… flying (for an incredibly short time, you literalists). He dove for the ball, and needed every inch of his body to make the catch. Number six hit the ground hard, but managed to hang on. In typical Freel fashion, he sprung right up and fired a rocket into second base. No runs score on the play, the crowd is going nuts, and the EOB editorial team is standing in the living room having already yelled “nice [flipping] catch” four times before the ball made it to second (EOB quotes are paraphrased for family friendliness).

If you only saw replays, or highlights on SportsCenter, I don’t think it’s possible to understand what that play may have meant to the game and maybe the season (Hyperbole is acceptable here based on the information provided in the Sports Blog Writers Handbook, Section 7, paragraph 4). I mentioned at the beginning of the article that the team was selling half-price tickets and cheap hot dogs. Well, those tactics got fans in the seats and the sell-out crowd let the team know what they thought. I have not heard energy like that in Cincinnati for a ball game in many years, through a television no less. There was a playoff atmosphere in the park for over half the game last night.

If the Reds make the post-season, many will look to the moment when Ryan Freel is stretched out over the field as a key element in tasting the playoffs. Of course, if the team stumbles in the next six weeks, you’ll always be able to stop by the End of the Bench and hear the familiar, “I told you so.”

Go Reds!

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