It was the summer of 2013. Dusty Baker’s Cincinnati Reds won 90 games and qualified for the postseason for the third time in four seasons. In contrast, the Chicago Cubs finished 66-96, posting the second-worst record in baseball. The Cubs chose a third baseman out of the University of San Diego with the second pick of the draft. His name is Kris Bryant. On the Right Coast, the New York Mets’ Matt Harvey started the 2013 All-Star Game at their shiny new Citi Field. Harvey would finish fourth in the 2013 NL Cy Young voting, with a league-best 2.01 FIP.
Meanwhile a 19-year-old from Olympia High School in Orlando was playing left field for the Dayton Dragons.
Five years later, the Reds are headed toward their 5th straight losing season. They’re 113 games below .500 since 2013. The Cubs, on the other hand, have reached the postseason the past three years, including winning the 2016 World Series. The Reds are in last place, the Cubs in first, with 15 games already separating the two teams in June.
Matt Harvey has gone from being the toast of New York to being toast in New York. Harvey started fewer than 20 games in 2016 and 2017, recording a 6.70 ERA (FIP 6.37) last season. After 8 appearances this season with the Mets, sporting an ERA of 7.00, he was traded to a midwestern, last-place team, hoping to resurrect his disintegrating career.
The Cincinnati Reds played the Chicago Cubs tonight at Great American Ball Park. Matt Harvey started for the Reds. And that kid who played left for Dayton five years ago hit a baseball 417 feet to right-centerfield for a two-out grand slam. In play, run(s).
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we looked back five years from now and were able to pinpoint Jesse Winker’s dramatic home run as the moment that turned around the Reds fortunes?
Cincinnati Reds 6 (29-45) • Stupid* Cubs 2 (42-30)
The “trade Matt Harvey at the deadline” scheme, flickering on life support, got a 5-day reprieve. Harvey pitched his best game for the Reds, holding the Cubs to 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk over 6 innings. He struck out 6. Harvey had exacting control of his fastball, dotting the edges of the strike zone. His fastball velocity hit 98 mph once and he averaged 95 mph.
The Reds had already scored a run in the 6th when Winker homered. Billy Hamilton walked, then Jose Peraza and Tucker Barnhart made outs. Joey Votto started the 2-out parade with another walk. Scooter Gennett hit an infield single loading the bases. Eugenio Suarez worked a walk to drive in the first run. Cubs manager Joe Maddon replaced his starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks with left-handed specialist Randy Rosario. I guess I hadn’t mentioned that the Odd Man Out hit his home run off a left-handed pitcher. Singles by Adam Duvall, pinch hitter Alex Blandino and Hamilton produced the Reds sixth run.
Sam Greene (Cincinnati Enquirer) gets the great pic:
Wanna see another beautiful sight? (If you can’t find it, I provided a small hint.)
In a moment of theatrics that matched Winker’s dramatic home run, 26-year-old Amir Garrett entered the game with two outs and bases loaded in the top of the 7th inning. He faced masher Anthony Rizzo, Chicago’s first baseman and a batter eminently capable of tying a 6-2 game with a flick of his bat. But it took Garrett just three pitches to strike out Rizzo: an 84-mph slider that Rizzo took, a 96-mph fastball that Rizzo swung through, and another 96-mph fastball that Rizzo took for steeeerike three.
Jared Hughes came in with two outs in the 8th inning to strike out Albert Almora, Jr. with two Cubs on base. Hughes retired the Cubs in order in the 9th.
The Reds took the first game of this four game series. They’ve won four games in a row. Luis Castillo tomorrow night.
As Tom mentioned in the game preview, the Reds finally sent Wandy Peralta to the minors (sad trombone) and called up reliever Kyle Crockett. Crockett came up in Cleveland’s system and has a fair amount of major league experience. He’s exhibited quite a handedness split during his time in the majors (1.95 FIP vs. LHB; 4.93 vs. RHB) which makes him look like a lefty specialist. Crockett’s best quality, from the standpoint of the owner of this blog, is not his fastball or slider, but the college for which he played baseball. Around Thanksgiving, when the Reds acquired Crockett, I wrote optimistic words about the signing. Crockett has pitched about as well for Louisville as he did for Cleveland’s AAA affiliate over several years.
Oh, some kid hit a couple home runs in Louisville tonight.
— Louisville Bats (@LouisvilleBats) June 22, 2018
*now deployed ironically
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.