Let’s recap today’s titanic (in both senses) struggle…

FINAL

San Francisco Giants 6
Cincinnati Reds 4
WP: Cain
LP:  Latos
S: Romo

Just got back from Great American Ball Park. Chad said I could do the recap if I wanted to. And I do.

Obviously we’re all disappointed at the outcome of today’s game and the NLDS. There will be plenty of time and space here to review the championship season, the soul-crushing series, the personnel and begin the discussion of 2013. But I’m going to stay focused on today’s game.

Let me start by saying that the crowd and atmosphere were truly befitting a place named “Great.” In fact, I’ve never experienced a baseball crowd remotely similar. On Tuesday night, the atmosphere was thrilling, the game on the line for hours and the Reds were never really behind until the very end. Homer flirted with another no-hitter and flat out dominated. The optimism – signified by the many brooms – was palpable.

But today was altogether different – and better. Before the fifth inning stomach punch, the crowd was the same as Tuesday night, full of excitement and pure anticipation. It rose and fell with every Reds at bat. It stood for every two-strike Mat Latos pitch. Then BusterMVP happened.

Afterward, dead silence. Understandably. Yet something really uncharacteristic for a Queen City baseball crowd started.

We rallied, along with our team.

Cincinnati baseball fans are usually solely reactive. Today was the first time I’ve ever witnessed a GABP crowd attempt to will the team back into the game. By the ninth inning, the noise reached the point where you could no longer hear. Watching Jay Bruce’s twelve-pitch AB (the adjective ‘dramatic’ doesn’t begin to describe it) was like being in Rupp Arena or Michigan Stadium for a big moment. Literally deafening.

The two key plays to me, besides, well the (word withheld due to site guidelines) grand slam, were Brandon Crawford’s triple in the fifth inning and the strike out-throw out play in the bottom of the sixth. Crawford isn’t much of a hitter, but after Mat Latos missed – barely, really maybe not – with his first two fastballs to Crawford, he grooved one that the Giants shortstop pulled down the right field line. Blanco scored and Crawford eventually scored. Crawford’s triple set the rest of the disastrous top of the fifth into motion.

The Hanigan-Bruce double play never should have been. The called third strike on the Reds catcher was a ball, inside. The right call, on Matt Cain’s final pitch of the game, would have loaded the bases with no outs. Should Dusty Baker have sent Jay Bruce and Scott Rolen on that pitch, as he had done on the previous pitch that Hanigan fouled off? It was risky, but there was sense in the play. Sending the runners avoids a double play, at least a conventional one. Hanigan has a fairly low strike out rate. (The Giants weren’t holding Jay Bruce on second base, so I kind of wonder why he was out by a country mile.)

But again, the (word withheld, see above) pitch was a ball. Sigh.

I was sad when it was over. But I have to admit I was exhilarated by the game. The Reds, to a man, didn’t quit. In the five at bats after Posey’s grand slam, these things happened. (Note how many different players this covers.) Ryan Hanigan was HBP. Drew Stubbs singled and scored his fourth run of the series. Brandon Phillips doubled and drove in two runs. Ryan Ludwick homered. Jay Bruce walked. Scott Rolen singled. Brandon Phillips singled. Joey Votto singled. Scott Rolen singled (again). Super Todd Frazier singled with one hand on the bat. Zack Cozart walked. Joey Votto singled (again). Ryan Ludwick singled.

It’s tempting to focus on all the missed opportunities. But it’s more appropriate to recognize the virtue of how many opportunities there were.

In those last few innings, Brandon Phillips committed Gold Glove defense. Drew Stubbs saved a run in center field. The bullpen stood firm, because that’s what they do. LeCure. Marshall for two utterly dominant innings. Broxton. The Missile.

A six-run comeback is a heavy lift. The Reds fell two short. But I was really proud to be a fan of their team.

As I shuffled out the gate after the game, I overheard someone say. Well, it was a great year. And I agree with that. And you know what, it was also a really great game.