Let us jump back nearly exactly 11 months. The Cincinnati Reds are pouring Gatorade, water, sunflower seeds, and who knows what else on Homer Bailey as they celebrate his second career no-hitter, this one against the San Francisco Giants.
The date was July 2, 2013, and with some scheduling luck, the dates would have been perfectly synchronized for an awkward repeat of history. Starting for the Giants in opposition of Bailey tonight? The same man who started their encounter nearly a year ago, Tim Lincecum.
Even though the Giants march into Cincinnati as the big bad wolf of baseball, their offense is eerily similar to that of last season.
While Buster Posey is undoubtedly the anchor of the lineup, El Gigantes have managed to get off to a 37-20 start without the aid of their star first baseman in the making, Brandon Belt, who has a fractured thumb.
Were it not for an at-bat against Gregor Blanco that got away from him, Bailey would have been celebrating his first career perfect game last July, not only a no-hitter.
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Some fans are quick to forget. Personally, I am not quite sure when I will get over the Redlegs losing three in a row to the Giants to end the 2012 season. It was more than the fact that they lost all three at home; not having done that all season. There was no Johnny Cueto to pitch, and Scott Rolen getting an in-between hop. There was Buster Posey’s Grand Slam off Mat Latos, and runners be gunned down on double steals.
Losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010 did not feel so much as disappointment, as it did success. There is little question where that Phillies team will sit in the annals of baseball history with their back-to-back World Series appearances in 2008 and 2009, so for an over-achieving Reds squad that played Drew Stubbs and Orlando Cabrera every day (and batted them first and second nonetheless), just getting there was enough.
Yet, 2012 was different. I love to quote Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane on this, since I believe it to be 100 percent accurate: “The playoffs are a crapshoot.”
I hold zero malice against the San Francisco Giants organization, but they were not a better team than the Reds were that year. No one was. With a healthy Johnny Cueto, the Reds and Tigers (who eventually lost to the Giants) are locking horns for a World Series crown.
Last season when the Reds swept the Giants to kick off the month of July and virtually curb stomp them out of the playoff race, it tasted extra sweet. There is such a thing as a rivalry in baseball without blood and basebrawls. Both of these teams are fighting for supremacy, and more importantly, National League domination.
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An honest opinion: the Cincinnati Reds are about to catch fire.
Of course, I waited to say this until they were coming home for a 10-game homestand. But, even though the Giants have the best record in baseball (it is only June, let us take a breath for a moment), they are no world beaters.
Following San Francisco, Philadelphia limps into town. Those three games will be vital, especially ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ arrival.
The knock on the Reds the past few years has been that they beat up on the teams they should, and falter when facing stiffer competition. Not given the cushion of an early season lead in the standings, they will really need to buck that trend if they are going to make a run later on this summer.
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Later today, we will have a piece coming up on the Reds’ recent success while selecting in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft. Stay tuned for that and the nightly post-game recap later this evening.
Tags: Cincinnati Reds