Friday, September 20, 2013

News and Notes from MLB Week 25

by: Dan Howard
Staff Writer

Whoops, my bad! Through my unbridled joy of the Reds sweeping the newly crowned N.L. West Champions Los Angeles Dodgers two weeks ago, I failed to mention one very important point. The 3 – 2 win on Sunday September 8 gave Cincinnati its 82nd win of 2013, and marked the first time the Reds have had back to back winning seasons since 1999 – 2000.

The 2013 Most Valuable Player of Cincinnati Reds Beaters award goes to…..Milwaukee Brewers centerfielder Carlos Gomez. Gomez line this past weekend, five hits in nine at-bats, a .556 average, one run scored, six runs batted in, and a second robbery of a potential game winning home run this time off Jay Bruce. His first Reds theft came July 8 off the bat of Joey Votto.

Balance in the sports universe? After completely dominating St. Louis and Los Angeles two weeks ago winning six of seven, the Reds followed that up by promptly losing four of the next six games to bottom feeders Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers.

Johnny Cueto looked really good in his first start since returning from the disabled list on Monday night. Yeah, I know it was against the Houston Astros.

On September 17 against the Astros, Jay Bruce drove in as many runs in one game, five, as Adam Dunn drove in the entire month of September 2006. I sincerely apologize to all you Adam Dunn fans, but I just can’t seem to let it go.

Bruce is slowly becoming a dark horse candidate for N.L. M.V.P. His numbers this month, .277 average, 4 homers and 16 R.B.I., with ten of those ribbies coming in the last three games at Houston. Bruce is now third in the National League in home runs, and second in R.B.I.

Way back in 1979 the Houston Astros finished second to Cincinnati for the National League West title. The Astros, as a team, hit 49 home runs that season. Chicago Cubs slugger Dave “Kong” Kingman led the National League with 48 home runs.

Useless Trivia; when the Yankees’ Babe Ruth hit 54 home runs in 1920, he out homered 14 of the remaining 15 Major League teams. Only the N.L.’s cellar dweller of that year, the Philadelphia Phillies pounded more home runs than Da’ Babe – 64.

Somehow, with five teams making the playoffs in each league, the pennant chase seems to lack that winner-take-all excitement. Don’t misunderstand me, I love the ten team playoff format, but I remember back during baseball’s last true pennant chase, the epic 1993 N.L. West showdown, the tension as to who would finally win the division was nearly unbearable. Atlanta clinched on the season’s final day with 104 wins. The San Francisco Giants went home with a record of 103 – 59. Cincinnati came in fifth, a full 31 games back.

Speaking of pennant races; this weekend games at Pittsburgh may be the Reds biggest series, in my humble opinion, since October 1 – 3, 1999 at Milwaukee. That was the final weekend of the ’99 season which saw the Reds and Houston tied for the N.L. Central top spot, and the Reds also held a two game lead on the New York Mets for the N.L. Wild Card. The Astros hosted the L.A. Dodgers that weekend while the Mets played Pittsburgh at Shea Stadium.

Needless to say, the Reds struggled at County Stadium, dropping two of three; in fact the Sunday finale was the only Reds win in the series. By that time it was too little too late. Houston won two of three over the Dodgers to clinch the N.L. Central title, while New York swept the Pirates to tie the Reds and force a one game playoff in Cincinnati the following evening, a game the Reds would lose 5 – 0.

More on this crucial weekend series; Cincinnati fans please remember, this is the third time in the past four seasons our Reds have been locked in a pennant chase, and most of the players on the Reds roster have been there before. This is the Pirates first pennant race since 1992, so experience heavily favors Cincinnati. Winning two of three this series will have the Reds and Pirates tied for the top spot in the Wild Card race with one week left. Expect a large and excited crowd at P.N.C. Park this weekend.

In baseball, momentum is only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher, and I would rather have Mat Latos on the mound as anybody not named Justin Verlander.

I always thought that baseball players, both past and present, were a close knit fraternity. The Astros’ Jonathan Villar took that to a new level on Tuesday night. NBC’s Today Show host Natalie Morales said Villar and Brandon Phillips went “cheek to cheek”.

Another one of the media’s talking heads said that Villar needed to go through the “five hole” instead of Phillips’, uh, well, you get the idea.

Insignificantly Useless Trivia; the term “five hole” comes from hockey. If a puck goes between the goalie’s legs for a goal, then the player is said to have scored through the five hole.

Be prepared to see replays of the now infamous “Butt Tag” for the next thousand years. I believe New York Jets Quarterback Mark Sanchez of the world renowned “Butt Fumble” from last Thanksgiving is very relieved.

Anyone remember when Wladimir Balentien played for the Reds? It was in 2009, and Balentien played just 40 games, had a .264 average and hit 3 home runs. Balentien now plays for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of the Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB) and this past Sunday he broke the league’s season home run record by hitting his 56th and 57th of the year. The previous record was held by Japanese baseball legend Sadaharu Oh who hit 55 home runs in 1964. Oh currently holds the world professional baseball record for career home runs with 868.

For what it’s worth; I’m rooting for the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals to make the playoffs in the American League. Just a bit tired of the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Yankees and Rangers getting in seemingly every year.

Have a blessed week. GO REDS!!!

Dan Howard

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