Thursday, July 1, 2010

Say it ain't so, Joe!

View from our seats: Joey Votto follows through on his game-tying three-run homer.
Nobody will ever figure out baseball ... and if I ever, even subtley, allude to the fact that I have, thump me on the ol' skull, will you please?

Not sure where this one is going to go, but let me start by asking a question: When you're watching a baseball game in which a team is facing a seemingly insurmountable deficit yet comes all the way back to tie in dramatic fashion, is it just me, or does it seem to be that the rallying team goes on to lose anyway?

Maybe it's a recent phenomenon, maybe it's always been this way, maybe it's an illusion and completely untrue, maybe it's having watched too many Cubs games, but it feels like more often than not, a team that rallies from behind in thrilling fashion and ties it up -- but is not able to take the lead -- late, still goes on to lose either in the ninth inning or in extras.

I have no stats to confirm or refute this and, probably more accurately, I'm too lazy to do any research involved, but I was front and center for a case in point last night involving the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

Forget the fact that this year's Reds team had won 24 games in come-from-behind fashion going into last night's game against the Philadelphia Phillies, 13 of which have been in their last at-bat. The Reds were down by five runs early, but chipped away to pull within three runs when the ninth inning rolled around.

After two quick outs, and the next three batters being the top of the lineup in Brandon Phillips, Orlando Cabrera and Joey Votto, this was the basic premise of a conversation Aaron and I had just before Phillips stepped in:

Aaron: Just get on, Phillips.. somehow... get two on for Votto..
Jeremy: Yeah, if Phillips gets on that's huge, b/c no way Cabrera goes 0-for-5
Aaron: And Votto will tie it up with a three-run homer.. I want it to be a no-doubter...
Jeremy: Man, that would be... humongous...
Aaron: This place would be nuts
Jeremy: I can't even imagine.. And then watch them lose in extras... it always seems like that happens when a team comes back to tie.. they just lose anyway..

I don't actually think either of us thought that was how it would go down -- but Phillips drew a walk and Cabrera promptly singled to bring up Votto, who, sure enough, could bring the Reds all the way back yet again from the verge of defeat with one swing.

And after a coaches visit to the mound, Phillies closer Brad Lidge battled Votto to a 1-1 count, before Votto crushed Aaron's "no-doubter" to the Cool Zone in right-center field to tie this baby up.

Aaron rejoices with Reds fans after Joey Votto's homer.
Now, if you could have heard how loud the place was -- the fans, the fireworks, The Brennamans -- feel the electricity, see the curtain call and all the players at the top step of the dugout, and trying to compute the improbability of everything falling into place that perfectly -- with 2 outs -- you'd have to logically think that the Reds would have to go on and win that game... the surge of momentum has to be almost tangible, and blowing that kind of lead on the road would have to be crippling for the Phillies.

Or maybe by assuming that, you drastically underestimate the resiliency and professionalism of a big league team -- this superhuman ability to respond at any time, under any sort of duress, to recapture what was rightfully yours and finish what you started.

Well, the latter was certainly the case again last night, because in the very next inning, the Phillies put up a three-spot to inexplicably waste the theatrics from a half-inning before, lending even more credence to the aforementioned theory.

But before Aaron and I, in our pomposity, had a chance to think we had it all figured out, the baseball gods threw their own curveball at us to turn this theory completely on its ear.

Yes, the Phillies went on to win this game by bouncing back with three runs in the 10th inning, but they scored those three runs off Arthur Rhodes -- the man who entered the game with a Major League single-season-record 33-game scoreless streak, (which he shared with two pitchers, so one more scoreless appearance would have given him sole possession of the record) including 30 consecutive scoreless innings.

In other words, no F-ing way...

And just to make sure we didn't have any more misgivings about our grasp on this sport, consider another conversation Aaron and I had that night. This one involved Jay Bruce and included such words as "frustrating," "disappointing" and "hasn't lived up to expectations for being so highly touted."

The following day, Mr. Bruce hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning to give the Reds their Major League-leading 25th come-from-behind win and 14th in their last at-bat ... along with the series win over the Phillies.

Maybe it was the fact that his homer gave them the lead rather than merely drawing them even that ultimately deflated the Phillies ... then again, who knows?

What I do know, is that I know nothing. Nobody ... nobody has figured this game out in over a century, and for that I'm glad. Because every instance like this ensures that this game will remain a mystery for that much longer.

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