Got Drama? Reds Clinch on Bruce Walk-off

I just felt like something was going to happen, like a home run. When that was going to happen, I was unsure. I felt like it was going to happening in either the first or the sixth. Was I ever fooled.

In the bottom of the first, the Reds put their first two batters on (Drew Stubbs and Orlando Cabrera), but Joey Votto grounded into a double play. Scott Rolen drove in the first run of the game with an infield single followed by a throwing error allowing Rolen to go to second. Reds 1, Astros 0 after one inning.

Reds starter Edinson Volquez reutrned to the mound in the second and almost immediately permitted two runs to the Astros. The second would be his only shaky inning.

The Reds defensive play of the year was to occur in the Astros third. With the Reds still trailing 2-1, Carlos Lee sent a Volquez fastball toward centerfield. Stubbs retreated toward the wall and robbed Lee of a two-run homer. No question about it. That ball was going over the wall and Stubbs prevented a 4-1 lead.

Going into the bottom of the sixth, I noticed that once again Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez was striking out a fair number of Reds hitters. He was also fighting a bit of wildness like in his last start against the Reds. In the Reds sixth, Cincy loaded the bases on back-to-back singles by Cabrera and Votto followed by a walk to Rolen. Time for Jonny Gomes to do a bit of damage.

After a lengthy at-bat of 10 pitches, Rodriguez coaxed Gomes into popping up into foul territory to record out #1. Brandon Phillips approached the plate in what could be the at-bat of the season. Bases loaded, one out. Gomes forced Rodriguez into the 10 pitches and Phillips worked a seven pitch at-bat into a game-tying infield single producing the tying run making it 2-2. Bases still loaded…still only one out. And Jay Bruce to the plate.

As I pointed out yesterday, Bruce has struggled with Rodriguez during his short career. This at-bat would be no different. Three pitches and an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. The Reds managed to tie the game getting Volquez off the hook for the loss in the process. This would be a game for the bullpen now. Volquez tossed a wonderful game: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K.

The bullpen. A somewhat maligned group they are. Not last night. Not even close.The 7th belonged to Arthur Rhodes. 1-2-3. The eighth inning was an inning for Nick Masset to dominate. 1-2-3.

All the while, the Reds offense was not exactly doing a whole lot to threaten the Astros relievers. Stubbs just missed a home run in the seventh, but that was with two outs and he was left stranded at second.

The ninth inning, Reds skipper Dusty Baker made a slightly interesting choice to some. Aroldis Chapman entered the game. Yes, the “Cuban Missile” was about to face his first really pressure packed situation. A situation in which he could be the determining factor in a game. Everyone knows of Chapman’s triple digit fastball. A lot has been made of his electric slider coming to the plate in the low 90’s. I believe we saw a different type of breaking ball last night or Chapman was so pumped he was overthrowing and the ball was not breaking like his normal slider. Didn’t matter really as the Astros went 1-2-3 in the ninth.

For the night, the pen was perfect for three innings. Nary a base runner. Nothing even close to being a hit. It was all set up for dramatics…

Bruce reacts to his game-winning, division-clinching walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth inning. Image: Yardbarker

Houston manager Brad Mills replaced Matt Lindstrom with Tim Byrdak, a lefty, with Bruce coming up. Bruce has had problems with lefties throughout his brief career, but he’s been better as of late. This night, Bruce was 0-3 against Rodriguez. Bruce was 1-1 against Byrdak as Bruce slammed Byrdak’s first offering toward the batter’s eye just to the left of center. As soon as the ball left Bruce’s bat, you knew. Bruce knew. The Reds knew. Marty Brennaman on WLW knew. His son, Thom on Fox Sports Ohio knew. Cowboy knew. I knew. Game over. Reds are the 2010 NL Central Division Champions!

You’ll hear the 15 years since the Reds last playoff appearance frequently today. We’re in the playoffs this year. The sports world is so wrapped up in the “what have you done for me lately” gear. Well, the Reds are winners of the NL Central. That’s what has been done lately.

To watch the guys celebrate like they did, the drenching of Dusty in particular, was emblematic of how the players feel about Baker. What the Reds fanbase feels is really of no significance. The players love playing for him. That and winning is all that matters, right?

The 2010 Cincinnati Reds are the champs of the NL Central!

Now, to get that #2 record in the league and avoidthe train that’s called the Philadelphia Phillies.