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I didn't want to do a full post-mortem on the series and I probably never will. It's all still pretty raw. And my heart palpitations are only just subsiding from that 9th inning Jay Bruce at-bat.
Roughly the last half of this series was riddled with disappointing play, poor on-field management and, most significantly in my mind, the inevitable effects of losing your ace and settling for a one-leg superhero. On that last point, Joey Votto was as good as he possibly could be, but one of the tiny silver linings is that he'll fast-forward to some much-needed rest and recovery.
Instead of rehashing, I'm choosing to think about the series in a more abstract way. This is an effort to shield myself from my emotions and some hard truths.
There are two levels of analysis I've slipped back and forth between since yesterday afternoon.
One is from the down-and-dirty, game-level. It says that this was a mangled choke-job. With the Reds leading 2-0 in the series, Homer Bailey took a no-hitter and 6 straight strikeouts into the sixth inning of a home game. The odds of the Reds winning that series were well over 90% entering the game and crept up to 58% to win the game by the end of the sixth inning.
They went on to lose three straight home games for the first time this season in front of the largest crowds in GABP history.
The other way to look at it is from the series level. These were two-evenly matched teams who played each other to a near-draw over the season series. It's no surprise this one went to Game 5. The Reds outscored the Giants 22-18 over the series, which says they should've won, but it's well within the margin of error for a five game sample. An untimely error, a great defensive play and definitely an injured starter could turn the series. And they all did.
Which perspective is correct? They're both accurate accounts of these five games. but neither tells you everything you'd want to know. Assuming you'd want to know.
One of them chooses to jump into Game 3 and say that the Reds had so many more paths to the NLCS at that point and why the hell didn't they take just one of them?
The other doesn't go back into that housefire. It says that the unexpected events of the first two and a half games and the unexpected events of the last two and a half just seek a center. Why be surprised when we get the hard-fought series we expected?
I think the answer is that neither are worth dwelling on for too long. Sometime after that last game, you eventually work your way back to reflecting on 2012 from the season level. It was a team that won 97 games (plus two in the playoffs) and gave us, in Jay Bruce's ninth inning battle, the most exciting single at-bat of many of our adult lives.
I know it's simplistic to ignore the blunders the Reds made or how close they came to winning this series. But some perspective helps. Other well-run teams with modest payrolls who made all the right macro moves have stalled out in the NLDS. From 2003-2010, the Twins lost in the ALDS five times, never coming as close as the Reds did this time around. For four straight years at the beginning of last decade, the A's did the same, losing in painful 3-2 fashion every time.
For this entire Century, I would've killed for the Reds to do what the Twins and A's did. Now they have their window, but they don't have to become the bridesmades those other teams became. With all the teams that have collapsed, rebuilt or muddled through in the last three seasons alone, it's a nice place to be.