Cincinnati Reds: Fans should be cautiously optimistic

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 14: Mike Moustakas #9 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates with Shogo Akiyama #4 of the Cincinnati Reds. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 14: Mike Moustakas #9 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates with Shogo Akiyama #4 of the Cincinnati Reds. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /
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The Reds are just one game out of the playoff picture.

The Cincinnati Reds are riding a three-game winning streak and trail the San Francisco Giants by just one game in the race for the final Wild Card spot in the National League. While I’m usually the first one to proclaim that the Reds are ready to make a postseason push, the 2020 season has taught me to approach this team with cautious optimism.

The Reds swept the Pirates in yesterday’s doubleheader and have another game tonight against the Buccos. After watching Trevor Bauer dominate Pittsburgh for six-plus innings and the Reds offense awaken for nine runs in Game 2, it’s hard not to be excited. But the road ahead is not lined with gold and Cincinnati’s upcoming schedule will test the team’s mettle.

The Reds have passed the test so far. After falling behind on three different occasions during Sunday’s “must-win” finale against the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati rallied to win their first series in over one month. Last night offered more of the same.

Bauer dominated the Pirates for six-plus innings, but a seventh inning home run by Colin Moran tied the game and put Cincinnati’s playoff hopes on the brink. Bauer allowed two runners to reach and David Bell called on closer Raisel Iglesias to snag the final two outs and preserve the tie. Admit it, you were not confident when Iggy took the mound.

But, Iglesias was up to the task. He punched out Gregory Polanco on four pitches, then, after running the count full, the right-hander snuck a slider by John Ryan Murphy which sent the Reds to the dugout knotted at one run apiece.

In the bottom of the seventh inning (which, while playing a doubleheader during the 2020 season, is the final inning), José García worked a beautiful at-bat that ended with a single to left field, setting the stage for fellow rookie Tyler Stephenson.

Stephenson, pinch hitting for Shogo Akiyama, stepped into the box and lifted an 1-0 pitch high and deep to left-center field. As the ball left the yard, the Cincinnati dugout erupted, poured onto the field and celebrated at home plate with every fan’s newest favorite player. The Cincinnati Reds took Game 1 by a score of 3-1.

The nightcap held a similar level of excitement. After a back-and-forth contest saw the Pirates take a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning, David Bell called on Sal Romano to get the final out of the inning with the bases loaded. Romano hadn’t pitched in a game all season.

Big Sally got the job done, however, inducing a pop fly from Gregory Polanco to end the frame, and sent Cincinnati into the bottom of fifth trailing by just one run. With two outs and runners on first and second, Mike Moustakas stepped up to the dish and hammered a home run over the wall in center field, giving the Reds 6-4 lead.

The Reds would play add-on in the sixth inning, taking advantage of several mistakes. The Pirates walked in a run, misplayed a routine ground ball, and allowed a run to score on a passed ball. Everything broke the Reds way and Cincinnati won Game 2 by the final score of 9-4.

The Cincinnati Reds have now won three games in a row. That’s called a winning streak, folks, and it’s the first time since the end of August we’ve seen that from this year’s Reds squad. Cincinnati defeated the Milwaukee Brewers twice and followed that up with a win over the Chicago Cubs to bring the Reds record to 14-17 at the time.

The stakes are a little higher now, as Cincinnati has a chance to win the series against Pittsburgh tonight. With Michael Lorenzen toeing the rubber for Tuesday’s game against the Pirates, I’m sure Reds fans are not overjoyed with optimism, but David Bell kept Lucas Sims, Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson fresh for tonight’s contest. Romano will likely be available as well.

Cincinnati needs to ride the wave of momentum and take out Pittsburgh tonight. A series sweep would be nice, and Wednesday’s starter Luis Castillo is coming off his most dominant performance of the season.

Players typically abide by the mantra of one game at a time. I’d encourage fans to do the same thing. While we’d all love to see Cincinnati Reds run off eight or nine straight wins, the upcoming schedule features two of the best teams in the American League (Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins). The road to the postseason will not be easy.

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That said, how fun is it to be watching Reds baseball in September with a chance to go to the playoffs hanging in the balance. It’s been a long time coming for the Cincinnati faithful. Let’s all enter play today cautiously optimistic that this year’s team could do something special down the stretch.