Cincinnati Reds Magic Number Countdown Stands at 19
Reds Marching To Division Title
by Robb Hoff
September 2, 2012
The Cincinnati Reds hit an uncharacteristic wall in the last two games of their series with the minor league team disguised as the Houston Astros. For some reason, the Reds morphed back into the team that struggled often early in the season for even a smattering of production.
No disrespect to Astros starting pitchers Lucas Harrell or Bud Norris, both of whom have decent stuff, but the Reds should really do better than one run in 13 innings against the pair.
In these last two games of the series, the Reds squandered a pair of solid outings by starters Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo and made some defensive miscues that defied description -- most notably an under-the-glove, between-the-legs grounder that turned an inning-ending routine play into a walk-off error win for the Astros, courtesy of normally sure-handed Reds utility infielder Wilson Valdez.
It was aggravating to watch the Reds in these last two games. The pitching held up its end of the bargain against the minor league lineup they faced, but the rest of the Reds struggled so bad at he plate and at times in the field that it probably had many Reds fans wondering out loud -- "What is the Magic Number?"
Fortunately, a three-run blast redeemed Reds often-baffled slugger Jay Bruce and knotted the get-away game 3-3 in the top of the eighth inning. A single and a pair of doubles put the Reds ahead for good and -- coupled with another St. Louis Cardinals loss -- dropped the Reds Magic Number for winning the N.L. Central division to 19.
It would take a collapse of 2011 Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox proportions for the Reds to blow their playoff berth now. Or a miracle finish by the Cardinals even more miraculous than the recent-history, season-ending run of the 2007 Colorado Rockies, who finished 14-1 to win a one-game playoff for the N.L. Wildcard on their way to a World Series showing.
So, it's Magic Number countdown time for the Reds and there's no better way for them to start the countdown in earnest than with the three-game home series against the Philadelphia Phillies starting tomorrow -- the same Phillies that embarrassed the Reds in the 2010 N.L. Divisional Series with a sweep that included a no-hitter against them.
And it looks like first baseman Joey Votto will return for the series, as well. With Votto back and the rest of the Reds hopefully smelling the blood in the water, the Magic Number Countdown Kickoff should start with a flourish, especially with ace Johnny Cueto starting the series opener in search of a Major League-leading 18th win.