With a groundball to the second baseman and a throw over to first, Zack Cozart was the final Reds batter to have a plate appearance this season as the door was forcefully slammed shut on the Reds by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Before delving into the fateful game the Reds ended their season on, every reader and fan should ask themselves a question. This question is a relatively simple one, which purely asks why are you a fan of this club? Winning a World Championship is an accomplishment that only one team gets to boast every season and it just so happens the Reds are yet to do that since 1990. The Chicago Cubs have been waiting since 1908, so come back later with your pity stories of heartbreak and impatience. These new era Reds under Dusty Baker have gone to the Postseason three out of the last four years; the last time that happened, a guy named Sparky Anderson was marching up and down the dugout. Having your heart ripped out in October is a lot better than having it give up hope in June or July in my opinion and there’s nothing that can change that.
When a one-game playoff happens as these new wildcard rounds have brought about, all statistics can be thrown out the window. In a one-game setting, anything goes. The Reds downfall on this evening was not a specific facet of the game, but rather a culmination of events that did not play out favorably.
Johnny Cueto took the hill for the club and was visibly not at his best. A changeup that spun over the center of the plate was deposited by Marlon Byrd and then Russell Martin complied with a cut-fastball that seemed to do anything but cut. The Buccos were out to a 2-0 lead and there was no chance they were looking back.
Starting pitching was not where the Reds lacked this season. If this team had one deficiency that could be quantified on paper, it would be their inability to hit with runners in scoring position. As a team, they went 1-for-10 tonight in such situations with their three and four hitters, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, going a combined 0-for-6.
The atmosphere at PNC Park on this evening was something out of the ordinary for even the game of baseball itself. Those fans waited over 20 years to get playoff baseball back in that town and to think that they wouldn’t be comparable to a howling pack of wolves was the mistake of everyone involved. There is no reason to believe that the Pirate crowd was not the biggest factor in the outcome of this game.
Just six months ago, the Redlegs welcomed in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to Great American Ball Park on the first of April to a day suited for anything but baseball with the bitter temperatures that were swirling. The starting pitcher that day for the Redlegs was Johnny Cueto. The starting lineup was nearly identical, minus the flip-flop of Ryan Ludwick and Brandon Phillips, to the second and fourth spot in the lineup, respectively. The team that took the field for the Redlegs on day one was to be the lineup that hoisted a trophy on the final day of the season, yet it did not come to fruition.
The question that now begs on everyone’s mind is; where do the Reds go from here? Shin-Soo Choo may have homered in his final at-bat as a Red and Bronson Arroyo may have been hammered in his last start as a Red. To some fans, who’s in control of the team may be more important than who is actually on the ballfield. Dusty Baker is signed up for next season but with Playoff disappointments hanging over his head like a dark cloud, are the Redlegs sticking to their guns?
My gut on all these above topics will surely be swayed over the course of the winter, but for the time being, I encourage Reds fans of all ages and backgrounds to see all the good that came of this 2013 campaign and the joy it brought us, rather than the nights of despair and heartbreak.
“’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson