The date was April 21, 2017.
The Reds had gotten off to a surprisingly good start, entering play that day with a 9-7 record and a one-half game lead over the Cubs in the National League Central Division.
The Cubs were the opponent that evening at Great American Ball Park. Behind the pitching and hitting of Tim Adleman, the home team held a 5-2 lead going to the ninth. Adleman pitched six innings, allowing two runs, and his two-run double off Jon Lester gave the Reds a lead which had held up until that point.
Cincinnati had not yet played any teams considered contenders. With a three-run lead over the defending world champions with one inning to go, Reds fans could taste not only victory, but some degree of validation that perhaps there was something legitimate in this unexpectedly good start.
The Cubs had two men on base when Anthony Rizzo stepped to the plate with two outs. Michael Lorenzen was throwing heat and looking like a closer.
Then it happened.
Rizzo cranked a Lorenzen pitch out of GABP, tying the game. That palpable taste of victory in a meaningful game was ripped away, replaced with the sudden doubt that perhaps things were NOT different for this Reds team, and that losing would indeed continue to be a way of life. The Reds went on to lose that game in 11 innings, 6-5. It was the first of five losses in six games, and the season slowly unraveled thereafter.
So there was a certain sense of déjà vu when Anthony Rizzo stepped to the plate last night in the top of the seventh. The Reds had just electrified Redleg Nation with a six-run outburst, highlighted by this:
Jesse Winker’s grand slam helped the Reds take a 6-2 lead. In the seventh, Rizzo stepped to the plate with the bases loaded against … Michael Lorenzen.
But wait. Manager Jim Riggleman made a change, perhaps with last year in mind, and brought lefthander Amir Garrett on to face the lefthanded-batting Rizzo. After swings and misses at a slider and a fastball:
Rizzo watched a 97-mile-per-hour fastball sizzle past him for strike three.
A Reds pitcher took care of one of the Cubs’ best clutch hitters with the game in the balance. As deflating as the April 21, 2017 events were, that moment Thursday was one of several which inflated the spirits of Reds fans in a way rarely seen in recent years.
With seven wins in their last nine games, and a 22-21 record over the past 43 games, the Reds have some positive momentum, for sure. Significantly, Reds players got the best of the Cubs at key moments Thursday with clutch performances in big moments.
Steve Mancuso captured the feeling perfectly in his wrapup story following Thursday’s win: “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?”
Amir Garrett’s strikeout of Anthony Rizzo was also big. Garrett celebrated visibly, as did Reds fans everywhere. That too was interesting because earlier this year, a Garrett celebration after a strikeout of Javier Baez prompted the Reds and Cubs benches to empty:
Last night’s similar celebration by Garrett did not spark another incident.
Did you have the same type of feelings of optimism and redemption? Let us know in the comments below.
We’ll see if there is any perceptible carryover tonight in the second of the four-game series against the Cubs at GABP. Game time is 7:10 p.m. Eastern time.
Castillo has been in a slump for about a month, with a 0-4 record and 6.97 ERA to show for his last four starts. We’ve seen a dramatic reversal of fortunes for Sal Romano in his last two starts, Matt Harvey looked very good last night …
For the first time since May 2017, Matt Harvey touched at least 97.0 mph with his fastball, and showed mechanical adjustments that should make us optimistic about his return to form with the #Reds https://t.co/VrCiW8yBd4
— Beyond the Box Score (@BtBScore) June 22, 2018
…and Anthony DeSclafani has pitched well in two of his three post-DL starts. Castillo needs to right the ship and join his rotation mates on the Good Ship Good-Starting-Pitching.
Reds starting pitchers have given up 16 runs in the last nine games. There have been several stretches over recent years when the starting pitchers might give up 16 runs over a two- or three-game span. Many aspects of the team are looking up, but make no mistake, it’s the starting pitching which has allowed the Reds to win seven of nine.
Amir Garrett, Michael Lorenzen and Jared Hughes all combined to put the fire out last night. Jim Riggleman may opt to give some or all of them the night off since they each have pitched three consecutive days. Look for David Hernandez and Dylan Floro in setup roles, and with Garrett, Lorenzen and Hughes all available perhaps for one or two key outs.
|3B Kris Bryant||SS Jose Peraza|
|RF Jason Heyward||2B Alex Blandino|
|2B Ben Zobrist||1B Joey Votto|
|1B Anthony Rizzo||3B Eugenio Suarez|
|SS Javier Baez||LF Adam Duvall|
|LF Kyle Schwarber||RF Jesse Winker|
|CF Albert Almora, Jr.||C Curt Casali|
|C Chris Gimenez||P Luis Castillo|
|P Jose Quintana||CF Billy Hamilton|
Scooter Gennett gets a rare night off with the Reds facing a lefty.
News and Notes
Good news from Greeneville …
Josiah Gray — the #Reds‘ 3rd pick in this year’s #MLBDraft (No. 72 overall) — had an @MiLB debut to remember last night as he struck out 5 in 3 no-hit frames for the @GvilleReds: https://t.co/NSeXP6bMbO pic.twitter.com/NhnjjdqFXl
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 22, 2018
Two of a kind …
Only two teams in the National League have a batting average of.250 or higher AND an on-base percentage of .330 or higher. Those two teams will square off in Cincinnati tonight. #Reds (.253/.332) vs Cubs (.259/.341) at 7:10pm ET.
— Jamie Ramsey (@Jamieblog) June 22, 2018
Nick Senzel continues as the Bats’ top bat …
— Lance McAlister (@LanceMcAlister) June 22, 2018
Nick Senzel since coming back from vertigo 349/406/558 in 96 plate appearances #Reds
— Philip Raisor (@PSR1973) June 22, 2018
Tom Mitsoff is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up in the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek, Ohio. He lived a teenage life atypical of most his age by prioritizing following the Reds. At one point in the 1970s and early 1980s, Tom kept complete scorecards on more than 1,000 consecutive Reds games. Now that adult life has forced him to move on from his beloved Southwest Ohio, he follows the Reds daily through MLB.TV and other online media sources, including Redleg Nation.