It was doubleheader day in Pittsburgh on Sunday after Mother Nature banged Saturday evening’s game, and the early goings for the Cincinnati Reds showed some initial promise. That was until the bullpen fumbled things, a 3-run homer off Alex Young flipping the scoreboard in Game 1 from potentially a Reds win that would set up an opportunity for a sweep to a Reds loss that further shook morale to the core.
That brought Luke Weaver to the mound for the rubber match on Sunday evening, a concept that 1/(strikes fear) in the hearts of opposing lineups league-wide. And after Weaver yielded a pair of early homers and dug the Reds a hole, expecting the beleaguered bullpen to lift the team’s spirits was a longshot, at best.
Lift them they did, however.
The Cincinnati bullpen combined to allow just a lone earned run across 6.1 innings, and gave the Reds offense the chance to battle back and seize a victory in extra innings in Game 2, winning the series and moving the club back into a tie with the Chicago Cubs for 2nd place in the National League Central. Stuart Fairchild chipped in with a big RBI double and later legged out a would-be double-play ball to plate the go-ahead run in the Top of the 10th as every single member of the active roster played at least some part on the busy day.
That barreled the club into Monday’s day off, a day of rest much needed for the entirety of said roster. It also begins something of an odd week, as they’ll not only play exclusively American League clubs, but also get a pair of days off prior to embarking on a three-city, ten-day road trip out west that will, in all reality, determine whether a playoff run this season is feasible, or not.
That’s what is running through the minds of this young Cincinnati club today. How to beat Cleveland, how to beat Toronto, and how to navigate a week and a half on the road against fellow would-be contenders the Angels, Diamondbacks, and Giants. Los Angeles and Arizona added and held tight (respectively) at the trade deadline with eyes on an improved 2nd half run, though both have stumbled to the point of being backed into a corner. There’s even a chance the Angels welcome back Mike Trout from the IL in time to face the Reds, something that adds just another layer of intrigue to the club’s potential fortunes.
Then, the Reds will be tasked with the San Francisco Giants in the best ballpark in the game, a club that currently sits ahead of them in the standings and in ownership of one of the coveted National League Wild Card spots. The Ohio Cup, Toronto, Los Angeles Ohtanis, an empty Chase Field, and a trip through Oracle Park as the bay breeze begins to turn cold again, quite a way to finish an August that began with the Reds abdicating augmentation at the trade deadline and coinciding with a stubbed-toe attempt at contending this year.
That’s quite the slate, though it’s certainly do-able. It will simply require the best 2nd half run from the franchise in memory to pull off, with the likes of Hunter Greene, Tejay Antone, Nick Lodolo, and Ben Lively perhaps still too far off to throw them a lifeline.