The first inning hadn’t even come to a close, and it already felt like a lost cause.
Tyler Mahle was getting squeezed. Joey Votto couldn’t field. The pitch count ticked toward 30. The Dodgers drew first blood. The game seemed over before the Reds had gotten three outs.
If you think I’m being overdramatic, consider this: Yes, it’s been a difficult six weeks of cheering on the Reds and their woeful .289 winning percentage. Still, I’m guessing that most of you reading this live within what’s considered a reasonable radius of Great American Ball Park, where – despite their recent ineptitude – the Reds still managed to win 154 out of 323 games in the four years leading up to the 2018 season. That’s a home winning percentage of .477, meaning that if you attended a Reds game in Cincinnati during that time, you had nearly a 50-50 chance of seeing them win.
Things aren’t quite so rosy here in Los Angeles. Over the past dozen years, the Reds’ record at Dodger Stadium is 9-29 – and a trio of those wins came in a fluky 2011 sweep. In other words, the recent odds that you’ll see Cincinnati leave the field here as winners are less than one-in-four. If you think the past six weeks have been unbearable, think about how it feels to witness 12 years of failure – and that doesn’t even consider numerous other losses I’ve seen in Anaheim (where they were swept in 2016) and San Diego. Granted, the two glorious postseason victories I witnessed in San Francisco in 2012 outshine any regular-season loss I’ve suffered through – even last year’s uncharacteristic Raisel Iglesias meltdown in which he gave up an 8th inning grand slam, or the prior night’s walkoff loss that caused me to question the sanity of Bryan Price, as well as my own. The point is this: if you think being a Reds fan isn’t easy nowadays, take it from me – it’s long been even worse out here on the West Coast.
Against all odds, however, the Reds pulled one out last night. In the end, it didn’t matter that Mahle threw a gazillion pitches; that Votto, trying too hard to atone for his sin in the previous inning, sent an ill-advised throw sailing past second base; that Adam Duvall, batting second for reasons unknown, looked more lost than ever at the plate; that Jim Riggleman turned to the struggling Wandy Peralta in a tight game; that Riggleman inexplicably called for Alex Blandino to bunt Tucker Barnhart over to third following a leadoff double, thereby lowering the inning’s run expectancy considerably; or that Scott Schebler subsequently struck out instead of bringing Barnhart home.
What mattered was that Votto and Jesse Winker – whose hilarious trolling of a young Dodger fan happened just inches in front of me – got on base ahead of Scooter Gennett, who proceeded to drive them home; that Gennett added an insurance run with an 8th inning longball; and that with Barnhart looking as if he’d be stranded at third after the Blandino and Schebler outs, Billy Hamilton smacked a ball to right field. Meanwhile, despite the bullpen making me sweat for the final four innings (although I admit I finally relaxed a bit in the 9th), the Dodgers didn’t make it past first base after the third inning. Simply put, the collapse that a dozen years of failure conditioned me to think was inevitable never materialized, and I left Dodger Stadium with a smile on my face. Here’s hoping it won’t be the only time I do so this weekend.