After the Reds dropped all five of the games I saw them play against the Dodgers and Angels earlier this season – bringing their record in greater Los Angeles over the past 15 seasons to an abysmal 15-40 (and yes, I’ve suffered through most of those) – I hoped that a quick trip east might end my personal losing streak. At the time, I had no idea that the games I’d chosen to attend would fall in the middle of what was arguably the team’s most important series of the season, if not the past five years – a showdown with the NL Central-leading Cubs that would likely make or break the Reds’ longshot postseason hopes.
It seems like Cincinnati’s 2019 season has had three distinct arcs – the spring (when the team stumbled out of the gates, the offense was pitiful and Kemp, Schebler and Puig manned the outfield); the early summer (where things started falling into place – in games outside of L.A., at least – thanks largely to strong pitching); and the current post-trade deadline chapter, with new faces galore (Bauer, VanMeter, Aquino, etc.). After leaving Goodyear feeling optimistic and then getting a hard dose of reality at both Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium, I had my fingers crossed that I’d return from Ohio once again feeling good about the team’s prospects, whether for 2019 or beyond.
Although thousands of fans clad in Cubbie blue made Friday’s home debut of Trevor Bauer feel like a road game, Friday’s 5-2 victory – which featured homers by Aristides Aquino, Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez – was just what the doctor ordered. Bauer pitched brilliantly, striking out 11 (free pizza!) over seven innings while yielding just three hits. Things got tense in the 8th, however, as Michael Lorenzen failed to record an out while loading the bases, after which Amir Garrett plunked Anthony Rizzo to plate a run. Garrett then retired the next three batters, though, and Raisel Iglesias slammed the door in the 9th.
The following morning, my wife, our son and I took a tour of Great American Ball Park, our second time to do so. (If you haven’t done so yourself, it’s well worth the expense.) From there, after a quick stop for lunch at a nearby Skyline, we returned to GABP for a question-and-answer session for members of the team’s fan club for children, the Reds Heads. (Luckily for us, their parents were also welcomed.) For 45 minutes or so, Kyle Farmer and Lucas Sims – who we learned played against each other while attending different Atlanta high schools – gamely entertained dozens of questions about their favorite colors, favorite superheroes and favorite flavors of ice cream.
From there, we visited the Reds Hall of Fame & Museum before heading across the Roebling Bridge into Covington, where we dropped by LaRosa’s to cash in the previous night’s reward. Little did we know that our meal would serve as a mere appetizer to an even more gratifying feast – a 10-1 Cub thumping that saw Aquino flirt with baseball immortality and Sonny Gray throw six shutout innings. It didn’t entirely make up for the team’s dreadful showings in Southern California, but I did indeed leave Cincinnati with a good taste in my mouth – and I’m not just talking about chili and pizza.
Of course, the two victories I saw were bookended by losses, meaning that the Reds gained no ground on the Cubs over the weekend. But even if 2019 is a lost cause, I’m already salivating about the team’s chances in 2020, when the rotation will be anchored by Bauer, Gray and Luis Castillo, and the offense will hopefully show pop similar to Saturday’s 18-hit barrage. If nothing else, though, I hope next year’s squad finds a way to finally vanquish the L.A. bogeyman and at least split their four-game series at Dodger Stadium. As fun as it was to watch the team pick up a couple of wins over the weekend, it’d be even more enjoyable if they made Dodger fans see red for a change.