During the final six games of Cincinnati’s 2013 baseball season, the Reds went up in smoke. They couldn’t do anything right. Their bats went comatose. The pitching was decidedly hittable. Even their defense, supposedly a strength, turned surprisingly sloppy.
If the Reds weren’t choking or gagging, they were certainly giving a mighty good impersonation of it. Something was obviously obstructing their throats. Or maybe the problem lay in another piece of anatomy, their hearts. Cincy’s lack of fire and passion was as breathtaking as it was appalling. With so much at stake, the Reds barely registered a pulse. Many on the club acted so listless and uninspired, it was as if they had been lobotomized.
From September 24th thru the first of October, the Reds sleepwalked their way into oblivion. It was a period of undeniable ineptitude. As mentioned above, they lost six times during a depressing eight-day stretch. It probably would have been worse but the schedule maker gave them a reprieve. Mercifully, he idled them on a couple of occasions. Even as bad as the Reds were going, it’s damn hard to lose when you’re not scheduled to play. But given enough time and perhaps left to their own devises, these reeling Reds might have actually figured out a way to do so. Losing had infected their blood. It had crept into their marrow.
The spiraling downward began when Cincy dropped two straight to the lowly New York Mets. An unforgivable and inexcusable sin. But what came next was even worse.
In arguably the most important and crucial home series of the season against Pittsburgh, the Reds completely crapped out. They threw nothing but snake eyes. Knowing two victories would secure home-field advantage in the upcoming Wild Card game versus the very same Bucs, the Reds didn’t even sniff a win. Cincy got the worst case of stage fright. The Reds froze up and buckled. And the Pirates gladly took advantage of Cincy’s fragility and pounded them into submission, winning by scores of 4-1, 8-3 and 4-2. It was a clean and easy sweep for the Buccos. They discarded the Reds like yesterday’s trash.
Now, forced to travel to Steel Town for the play-in game, the Reds had the look of a dead team walking. Attempting to shuck off a massively negative vibe, without a scintilla of momentum and devoid of much energy or juice, the Reds seemed like the longest of shots.
Also, complicating their predicament was the fact that Mat Latos, clearly their best and most dominant starter was unavailable because of bone chips in his elbow. This forced the Reds to improvise and they elected to turn to Johnny Cueto, just off the disabled list for the third time. Though he’d pitched solidly against weaklings Houston and New York since returning, Cueto was nowhere near being in midseason form. From a conditioning and stamina standpoint, he was still very suspect.
Moreover, it had been eight days since Cueto last toed the slab. There was no way he could be sharp or possess any sort of edge. How in the world could the Reds have any reasonable expectation that Cueto, given his situation, could hold at bay a Pirate team that was hot, highly motivated and honed in? This writer always felt that Homer Bailey, in better shape than Cueto and capable of being lights out, would have been a wiser choice. Yes, Bailey would have been operating on short rest but he seemed a sounder option than the questionable Cueto.
And sure enough, Cueto didn’t come close to getting it done. He looked rusty. Continually up in the zone, Johnny got drilled. He lasted just a paltry 3 and 1/3 innings, being charged with four runs, on seven hits and basically, burying his team behind the eight ball.
But Cueto wasn’t alone in helping to deep six the Reds. He had plenty of company. The bullpen that followed Cueto to the mound didn’t douse the fire, they added to it. And Cincy’s offense, for the most part, rolled over for Buc left-hander Francisco Liriano.
Joey Votto was a complete non-factor and looked overmatched while striking out twice. Brandon Phillips, admittedly a bit gimpy with a bruised shin, offered nothing at the plate as the cleanup hitter. Neither he nor Votto managed to even hit a ball out of the infield. Even Phillips’ defensive wizardry deserted him when he botched a play in the field that cost his side an unearned run. The end result of all this misery was an embarrassing 6-2 drubbing.
The only Reds who appeared engaged and demonstrated a bit of pluck were Shin-Soo Choo, who homered, Ryan Ludwig, who rapped out three hits and Todd Frazier, who in addition to turning in a pair of sparkling defensive plays, delivered a double. The rest of the Reds were missing in action, their heartbeats barely registering.
And while we’re at it, let’s not allow then manager Dusty Baker to aviod some serious scrutiny. For more than a week, with his club scuffling and flatter than a dollar pancake, Baker did nothing to shake them from their lethargy. His inability to instill in them a sense of urgency and a more combative spirit, was a damning indictment. When the Reds truly needed a forceful leader ala Patton to get their attention and stoke the fire, Baker made like Nero, fiddling away as Cincy burned. Not surprisingly, given his inferior record in the postseason and the total collapse of his team, Baker was relieved of his duties on October 3rd.
What a sorry end it was to what could have been a significant season. Losing six in a row, flaming out in the Wild Card game and showing hardly a spark when everything was on the line, casts an unflattering light on these Reds. This was a team that got exactly what it deserved. A quick, swift and just death.
Watching them implode down the homestretch made for bad theatre. It was an ugly sight to behold. The Reds exited the stage with hardly a whimper of protest. They seemed to accept their fate with little or no pushback. Resignation was written all over them. Cincy bowed out in a most ignoble way.
Their atrocious finish will forever stain the Reds of 2013.
Source; cincinnati.reds.mlb.com.- Schedule/ Oct. 1 / Boxscore.