Reds Magic Number Dwindling Fast
Reds Closing In On Title
by Robb Hoff
September 12, 2012
The Cincinnati Reds are bearing down on their second N.L. Central Division crown in three years. Wednesday night, the Reds were vying to top the 30-games-over-.500 plateau for the first time since 1999. The Reds finished 29 games over .500 that year after losing the 163rd game of the 1999 season -- a one-game playoff against the New York Mets.
It's been a long time coming for Reds fans to catch a glimpse of the past glory that once was a part of the vernacular in Cincinnati, but for many reasons that glory faded, much like it has for the once-storied Pittsburgh Pirates, who find themselves in a battle this year to bring home the first winning season for that franchise in 20 years.
But when the wins start piling up again and the Magic Number to clinch a division title dwindles down to single digits, it's hard not to get giddy.
The memories of division clinchers past can last a lifetime for those fans lucky enough to experience them. Watching the Reds clinch the 2010 title on a bottom-of-the-ninth inning blast by Reds slugger Jay Bruce was one of those moments for me -- the spontaneous eruption of the crowd, the joy of my family as we rode the wave of the win and the celebration of the team on the field as they ran their victory lap around Great American Ball Park -- that won't be forgotten by any of us.
But in the time it takes to get there to those memories, moments happen that epitomize how a team achieves its success.
For instance ....... after a leadoff triple in the sixth inning for the Pirates, the Pirates attempted a suicide squeeze with one out, only to discover that the Reds bench coach Chris Speier had suspected as much and called for a pitch out that Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan caught and then applied the tag to cut down the runner attempting to score from third. The play kept the game tied and was for all intents and purposes a diving stab by Speier in the hole to save a win.
Yes, that Chris Speier of 19 Major League seasons as a shortstop and several more as a base and bench coach.
Speier has been a fixture in the Reds dugout for the past five years. And his contribution to the Reds success during that time has been largely unsung, even by the media that covers the Reds.
When people talk about chemistry on a baseball team, the coaches are often overlooked and even among the Reds coaches, Speier seems like more of a bystander not only manager Dusty Baker but also next to Reds first-base coach Billy Hatcher, who was a World Series hero for the Reds 1990 team that was the last Reds team to finish a baseball season as World Champions.
So let it be known that as good as Homer Bailey pitched, as nice as it was for J.J. Hoover to notch his first Major League save , and as important as it was for Ryan Ludwick to score the game's go-ahead run after he led off the sixth inning with a double before he was advanced to third on a fly-out by Bruce and knocked in on a sacrifice fly by Reds third baseman Scott Rolen -- it was Chris Speier who made the call to pitch out on the suicide squeeze that keyed the Reds sweep of the Pirates and , along with a loss by the St. Louis Cardinals , reduced the Reds Magic Number to win the division to single digits at eight games.