The outcome of the first two games of the NLDS could not have shaken out much better from a Reds point of view. Game 2 specifically. All of the worries that were manifesting in Reds fans due to all that nitpicking being done as the team coasted into the division have seemingly been fielded by the 25 man roster and addressed accordingly. The offense has hummed through the first two, scoring 5 and 9 runs respectively. That sound you hear is the collective sigh of relief and instant worry about whether it will keep up. Here are a few observations following the sunny side of Game 2.
- Hitting at the Top: The bemoaning all season started at the top of the lineup. Games 1 & 2 a switch flipped with the twosome of Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart combining to go 7 for 18. DatDudeBP has been the loudest with the bat driving in 4 runs and scoring another. A normal hitting Joey Votto combined with this newly productive 1-2 is quite the enticing combo.
- Speaking of Votto: The announcers echoed something that I had noticed a bit of in recent games, Votto might not be fully over this knee injury. Trouble getting to balls to first on D and a slightly alarming lack of power has me thinking that Votto, always the gamer, is pushing through a little more discomfort from that knee than he is letting on. Since his return September 5th, Votto has 0 HR and only 8 extra base hits.
- Ludwick’s Spark: Ryan Ludwick‘s 2 for 3 and a HR night in Game 2 gives a little hope that BP, Votto, and the good half of the inevitable Jay Bruce streak will have some company in pushing runs across the plate as the playoffs continue. If Ludwick can return to the form that turned him into the Reds co-MVP with the ToddFather during July & August, the Reds offense suddenly gets that sprinkle of righthandedness and some postseason poise that makes it more dynamic.
- Ryan Hanigan & BAABIRC: Yea, Hanigan is awesome. 3 for 8, 2 runs scored, and 3 RBI through Game 2 just validates this. Almost as important, he also is the leader in the BAABIRC (Batting Average on At Bats I Randomly Catch) statistic. Some explanation is needed. Especially during the last two weeks of the season, I watched as much of every Reds game I could but long work hours have forced me to multitask, sending emails or doing laundry while walking by the TVs in the house with FSOhio on. An inordinate amount of Hanigan at bats ended up on as I passed the TV. In those dozen or more at bats, Hanigan has to have a .800 BAABIRC. Ridiculous. So there is a quick Hanigan story and a lot of the reason (along with a curiously high OBP) why he is just about my favorite current Red. And a prediction: If the Reds make it deep in October, Hanigan will have at least one at-bat in a tight spot that we will be talking about 15 years from now.
- Cueto’s Back & the Team’s Response: I am not going to lie, as I was feverishly trying to tune in the game on MLB’s Postseason.tv package at my fiance’s TV-less apartment and I saw the immediate aftermath of Johnny Cueto‘s 8 pitch withdrawal from Game 1 with back spasms, I instantly went into a 2010-induced Reds’ fan PTSD. I suddenly saw Matt Cain perfect games and being swept out of the playoffs yet again flit into my consciousness. But what transpired afterward proved wrong my fears instead of validating. A great managerial call by Dusty by bringing in Sam LeCure to bridge between Mat Latos instead of rushing Latos in, Latos being a gamer and carrying the team through to the back end of the pen, timely hitting against a Cy Young caliber ace. All things that the 2010 version of this Reds team did not have. Mainly confidence, a swagger and understanding that they belong on this stage. By the 7th inning of Game 1 I was certain just from the events that transpired and watching the players that a matchup with any team left in the playoffs would not shake this team. Now Cueto is recovering and receiving treatment back in Cincy and his return to this series is uncertain according to Mark Sheldon, making the run through the first two games and a potential sweep more important to buy Cueto some recovery time. The deeper this series goes the higher the likelihood that Cueto will need to be swapped off the roster and per rules be lost until the World Series, if the Reds can get that far.
So just a few things from a excellently scripted first two games of the 2012 postseason. We tee up a potential sweep tomorrow with the games (mercifully) back in Cincinnati and in the glorious Eastern time zone with Homer Bailey starting against Ryan Vogelsong. Game 3 is slated to start at 5:37 PM EST and will air on TBS. Get your brooms.