Let’s recap tonight’s titanic struggle….

FINAL
Pittsburgh 6
Cincinnati 2

W: F. Liriano (1-0)
L: J. Cueto (0-1)
BOX SCORE

POSITIVES
–Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier came to play tonight. Ludwick went 3-4 with two doubles. Frazier had a double and made two very nice defensive plays. Frazier also very nearly hit a homer that would have put the Reds up 4-3, but it went a few feet foul.

–In perhaps his final at-bat as a Red, Shin-Soo Choo homered to right.

–The season is over. That’s a positive, or at least it seems like a positive right now.

NEGATIVES
–Three times tonight, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips — this team’s #3 and #4 hitters — came to the plate with runners on base. All three times, they each had terrible at-bats. Not the best night for these two.

Votto and BP also misplayed balls in the field. Phillips’ botched grounder was particularly painful, as they couldn’t get a double play and a run scored.

–Johnny Cueto, quite simply, was not good. Cueto pitched three and a third, gave up four runs on seven hits and a walk.

–Sean Marshall entered the game in the fourth inning and was unable to retire a single batter. He allowed a hit and two walks.

–In a do-or-die game, Logan Ondrusek threw more pitches than anyone other than Cueto. There are no circumstances under which Logan Ondrusek — who seems like the greatest guy in the world — should ever set foot on the field in a game like this.

NOT-SO-RANDOM THOUGHTS
I told you so. I told you not to get emotionally invested, because this team was going to break your hearts. And I was right.

But as the game approached, I felt myself getting hopeful. This is my team. I really wanted a win tonight.

In the end, I’m not bothered like I was by last season’s collapse. Heck, I’m not even disappointed. I was prepared for this. This team just didn’t have what it takes. I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised, but if you don’t expect anything, you won’t be let down.

–The Reds lose their last six games of the season, including four straight to their closest competitors, the Pirates. Talk about a season ending with a THUD. Good job, good effort.

–It was clear very early that Cueto just didn’t have it, and the Pittsburgh crowd really appeared to get into his head. I’m not sure there’s any justification for leaving Cueto in to surrender four runs in a must-win game. Get him out of there at the first sign of trouble.

As we said on the last podcast, Dusty Baker should have had Mike Leake or Homer Bailey warming up in the first inning, getting loose and ready in case they were needed.

–I don’t know if Cueto was really rattled by the crowd rhythmically chanting his name, but he certainly looked like it. When Cueto was standing on the mound, listening to that chanting, and then dropped the ball…well, that appeared to be an omen. A Russell Martin homer followed in short order, giving the Bucs a 2-0 lead, but the game felt like it was over at that point.

Also, Cueto began pitching from the stretch early in the game, even with bases empty. I hope we get an explanation for why he did that. Perhaps he thought he could get better command that way, but it was really bizarre.

–It was strange to see Marshall pitching in the fourth, but I was glad to see Dusty do that. Seems like something he wouldn’t have considered. (Of course, I would have already had Leake or Bailey in the game, but still, that’s some outside the box thinking by Baker.) No, it didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad decision.

–Logan Ondrusek pitched. Alfredo Simon pitched. Manny Parra pitched. Aroldis Chapman hasn’t pitched since last Tuesday. The big lefty was completely wasted this year.

–Marlon Byrd homered for the Pirates. It remains inexplicable that the Reds didn’t claim Byrd off waivers late in the season, if only to prevent the Pirates from claiming him.

–After the game, Brandon Phillips: “We choked. We did. I don’t care about how my teammates feel about what I’m saying right now, because it’s the truth.”

–The Reds have made the playoffs three times in four years. They have failed to advance in the playoffs three times in four years. I’m sure we’ll discuss the reasons why that’s the case, but I have an idea.

Either way, I know you are all clamoring for Dusty Baker to be fired. I just don’t see any way that is going to happen.

–Congratulations to the Pirates. They definitely deserve to be in the National League Division Series. They’ve now won more playoff games at home than the Reds have since 1995.

–On a personal note, it has been a good run, and you guys have made this dumb little site a lot of fun. Thanks, gang.