Growing up, one of my favorite relatives was my Uncle Phil. I would only see him a couple times a year, but I always looked forward to it.
I remember when my cousins and I were just kids, we would go in the basement at my grandparents house and a couple of us would try to gang up on my Uncle Phil. There would usually be two of us at a time trying to tackle him and bring him down, and he would wear these things called Sock’em Boppers, which were basically giant inflatable boxing gloves, and knock the snot out of us, sending us flying into the couch while we laughed and got ready to charge at him again.
He would also poke fun at me relentlessly, and although it was never mean-spirited, I did let it bug me occasionally. But after a while, I grew up. He couldn’t knock me across the room anymore. I stopped letting his jokes bother me and started dishing it out.
Tonight, it felt like the Reds finally beat Uncle Phil.
This seemed like a game that in years past the Reds would have lost. (Probably in 15 or 20 innings.) The Reds are a young, up-and-coming team, while the Phillies are old, and their fading out of their prime. This could be a game that you look to at the end of the season that proved that the Reds are for real.
The 2010 team was the best team Cincinnati had had in 15 years. But they weren’t ready for the playoffs, and Philadelphia quickly put them in their place. This season feels different.
The Reds had plenty of opportunities to lose this game. As well as Homer Bailey pitched, it looked like Cliff Lee would keep the Reds off the scoreboard all night. Especially in the sixth inning, when the Reds loaded the bases with nobody out and the middle of the order due up, and Lee managed to escape unscathed.
Then, when the Reds finally broke through in the seventh with three huge runs, the Phillies erased the deficit like it was nothing, reminiscent of the night before. But the rookies, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart, each delivered solo home runs in the eighth and ninth innings, and that would prove to be just barely enough. It was a total team win.
The next two games in Philadelphia will go a long way toward proving whether or not this team can compete in the playoffs. It doesn’t get any easier after that, with three games each against the Cardinals and Diamondbacks. It’s going to be a tough week and a half.
Notes and observations:
- Why do the Reds always have to play four-game series at Philadelphia? This is now the fifth year in a row. Is that some kind of odd scheduling quirk? The Reds have failed to win more than one game in any of those series, by the way. In that stretch, they have also had to play two four-game series against the Phillies at home as well, in 2008 and 2011. They split the series in 2008, they were swept at home last season.
- I’m actually glad I had to work tonight to have something to distract me from the game. This was the type of game that would find me pacing for about five innings if I were watching at home.
- Tough night defensively for Brandon Phillips. He was charged with an error in the first inning, and probably should have been charged with an error in the eighth on a ball that completely ate him up. It was hit hard and he had to field it on a short hop, but if he had played that ball by staying in front of it, at worst it would have hit him in the chest, and he still would have had time to make the out at first base. Instead it extended the inning and allowed the tying run to score.
- How awesome is it to have rookies like Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier step up and win a big game like that? Between that and Billy Hamilton’s record-breaking night, it really has to make you excited for the future of the Reds. They’re already World Series contenders and they’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of talent. Most of the key players are still developing. This team could be a force to be reckoned with in two or three seasons.