The Reds got back on the horse tonight with a 3-1 victory over the Mets. Bronson Arroyo threw eight innings of one-run ball. Brandon Phillips homered and drove in two runs. Chris Heisey hit the go-ahead-homer in the seventh. (He should really play more!) This was a welcome change after Johan Santana shut the Reds down last night. Of course, it could have been worse...
When I went to bed last night, the Reds had lost, and the Cardinals were winning 9-3 in the ninth inning. I was resigned to the Reds' lead in the Central shrinking to a game, and just hoped that things turned around tonight. Well, I was stunned to wake up this morning to find out that the Cards had lost in an epic meltdown (or "Meltdown", for the fangraphs followers in the audience) by Ryan Franklin. The Cardinals have to be kicking themselves over that loss, and if they fall a game short of making the playoffs, they'll certainly look back to the game and wonder what could have been.
Of course, this just makes all of us Reds fans that much happier. Not only did this loss by the Cardinals keep the Reds atop their perch in the NL Central by two full games (three if the Cardinals choke away tonight's game, which is currently tied 7-7 in the 8th.), but it also provides some psychological relief for the Reds own meltdown at the hands of the Braves back in May. If my memory serves me correctly, the score of that game was also 9-3 going into the bottom of the ninth. Mike Leake had pitched a solid game and was in line for the win. Seven runs later, the Reds had been handed a shocking defeat.
It all happened so quick too. I remember where I was. I had spent the day downtown in DC for work, and I came home on the Metro. I got in my car just in time to hear the sports report on WTOP radio at 15 after the hour. They announced that the Reds had a 9-3 lead going into the ninth inning. I was thrilled. The next WTOP sports report came just as I was pulling into my garage at 45 after the hour. They announced that the Reds had lost 10-9. I was disappointed to be sure. Still, even though it was very early in the season, I had high hopes for the Reds this year. I thought the Wild Card was not out of the question, although I really didn't think we could hang with the Cardinals like we have in the division. I just couldn't shake the feeling that the Reds were really going to want that game back come September.
Now? I'm not so sure. The Cardinals have their own game that they flushed down the toilet, and the Reds are serious threats (if not favorites at this point) to win the division now. In fact, coolstandings.com suggests that the Reds have better than a 60% chance of winning the division at this point. The chart below (from coolstandings.com) shows how the Reds division, wild card, and playoff chances have changed over the season. On June 12, I posted that I was concerned about the disparity between the Reds and Cardinals upcoming schedules through the All-Star break. I was just hoping the Reds would stay within hailing distance over this stretch, but they've really turned it on, particularly over this road trip.
I wouldn't go so far as to label the Reds front-runners, but the longer this lasts the more legitimate the Reds appear to be. I'm still not to the point that I expect the Reds to win the division, but I'm definitely expecting them to be playing for it right up to the last week of the season. If they lose the division by a game to the Cardinals, I'll no doubt be crushed. At the same time, I'll probably be less inclined to dwell on that collapse against the Braves now, knowing that the Cardinals had to overcome a very similar meltdown just a couple of months later. On the other hand, if the Reds come up a game short of the Wild Card it will be very tough to swallow. Hopefully they'll keep putting "W"s in the books, and we won't have to worry about it!