Resilient Cincinnati Reds have earned respect this season

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 15: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates with teammates after the 4-1 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 15: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates with teammates after the 4-1 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

When their season was on the line, the Reds showed no mercy.

Respect is earned, not given. As the Cincinnati Reds prepare for their first postseason since 2013, they enter the month of October as dangerous as any team in baseball. Following Friday’s night 7-2 playoff-clinching victory over the Minnesota Twins, the Redlegs are 15-8 since September 1st. But, as Reds Country knows, during the dark days of August, they were feeling anything but good vibes only.

That September 1st date is important to remember. Even though Cincinnati wasn’t quite at their nadir, record-wise, it was the day when emotionally Reds Country reached their deepest depth of despair. Of course, the St. Louis Cardinals were involved.

When the Redlegs made the final out of a 16-2 shellacking from the Redbirds at Great American Ball Park, they were 16-21 and 6.5 games back in the National League Central. Their ace, Sonny Gray, failed to make it out of the first inning and Cincinnati was in the midst of a three-game slide that had seen them outscored by an embarrassing 33-8 mark over those contests.

If you were buying into the Cincinnati Reds at this point, you were kidding yourself. Honestly, there was no reason to believe in this club. For a franchise that had not reached the postseason since 2013, it seemed like other typical Reds seasons flaming out before it really even started.

We didn’t know it at the time, but the tide was beginning to turn. Three days later, Cincinnati’s front office summoned shortstop José García, who had yet to play above A-Ball, to the major league roster. Even though García has struggled during his first month in the big leagues, it put everyone in the clubhouse on notice that changes would need to be made.

Shortly thereafter, rookie catcher Tyler Stephenson was recalled and it appeared as if the Reds would start looking at two of their top prospects for the remainder of the 2020 season. But something funny happened on the road to irrelevance, and it all started, strangely enough, in St. Louis.

Beginning the weekend of September 11th, the Reds took 2-of-3 from the Cardinals, capping a weekend that looked to be one of the few highlights of an otherwise dismal campaign. Following that series, the Reds came home and swept a four-game set from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Reds Country began whispering the word, gulp, “playoffs.”

Let’s backtrack first because there’s a game in the Pittsburgh series that set the stage for what was to come. In the series opener, Trevor Bauer was carrying a one-hit shutout into the top of the seventh inning during the first game of a doubleheader with Cincinnati clinging to a 1-0 lead. However, it wouldn’t be the Reds without some unnecessary drama.

Pittsburgh’s Colin Moran led off the inning and took Bauer deep on an 0-1 pitch to tie the game and leave Reds fans scrambling for the Tylenol. But what occurred next is something no one could have anticipated, and it’s my vote for the moment that truly turnaround  Cincinnati’s season.

With two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the inning Jose García lined a single to left field to keep the inning alive for Shogo Akiyama. However, Akiyama never made it to the plate. That’s because David Bell called upon his  right-handed-hitting rookie, Tyler Stephenson, to pinch-hit against Pirates southpaw Sam Howard.

What happened next will live forever in Reds lore. Stephenson crushed a 1-1 pitch into the left-center field seats and the two rookies crossed the plate giving Cincinnati an unlikely 3-1 walk-off victory. Since that game, the Cincinnati Reds have gone 9-2 and are preparing for October baseball.

Next. Bell deserves credit for the Reds turnaround

The Reds will have as much momentum entering the postseason as anyone in baseball. When the door of opportunity was left ajar, this Reds team didn’t sneak in, they kicked the door down. Even if this team falls short in October, the 2020 Redlegs have earned the respect of not only their fans, but of Major League Baseball as a whole.