Everyone was expecting the B-team lineup today. Reds fans have become so accustomed to the phenomenon that it has a nickname – the Dusty Baker Sunday Special. Social media was atwitterÃ‚Â in anticipation and with good reason.Ã‚Â Bryan Price had every justification to rest his starters and play the bench.
In recent years, the Reds have been content with the goal of winning series. The Reds had clinched the first series of the season by virtue of Joey Votto’s single that knocked in Zack Cozart in the Reds exciting victory early Thursday. Price’sÃ‚Â first team had been on the fieldÃ‚Â
the previous nightÃ‚Â this morning until 1:46 a.m.
If anything, the situation dictated that the Pirates would have to play their starters to avoid the series sweep. Price had the luxury of using the game to get his bench players at bats as the team heads into the weekend series against the Cardinals.Ã‚Â After all, they’d already won the series.
Because the B-team lineup was so expected, so status quo, Bryan Price’s decision to do the opposite sent a loud and clear message. Not a message to the Pirates or to Reds fans. Rather one to his own team. The Cincinnati Reds will go all out to win every single game.
Price had help. Jeff Brantley said on the radio broadcast that Devin Mesoraco told Price he wanted to play, even after catching 11 innings the day before. Price reiterated before the game that Mesoraco, who signed a four-year contract this offseason, would play inÃ‚Â more games this year.
It’s too soon to know if today’s lineup choice by Price was a one-off thing, easy to do in part because the team had Tuesday off. Eventually, veteran players and bulldog catchers need days off.
Intangibles can be oversold. Speculative narratives by outsiders about team psychology are overdone. Wins and losses still depend in large part on talent and disciplined execution. With those caveats in mind, if the Reds, as a team and as individuals, can capitalize on their sense of aggrievement about last season’s collapse, it could heighten their focus and urgency. That edge could result in the occasional extra win.
Pete Rose often stressed the importance of not giving up at bats over the course of a long season. Relentlessness was Pete’s move. And the record books reflect its success. The most hits. The most games played. The most games won. I’ve heard Joey Votto voice the same principle. Don’t give away at bats. Don’t give away innings.
And don’t give away games.
The Reds had the Pirates down two games. The genteel approach would have been to empty the bench and rest the veterans. Instead, Bryan Price put the Reds’ collective foot on the Pirates’ neck and didn’t let them up. His team responded with an electrifying win in a close game.
Here’s to more of that.