September 17, 2013

Mr. Perfect and the last 11

Tom Browning being introduced on the main stage

Tom Browning is a real part of Reds history, ergo all my pictures of him are from Redsfest or mugshots.

The Hardball Times had a nice piece yesterday recounting the events of the perfect game thrown by Tom Browning 25 years ago.

Now for the moment of truth, the bottom of the ninth. First up was long-time catcher Dempsey. The veteran would hit .251 on the year—not spectacular, but not a pushover. But Dempsey just flew out to right. That was 25 down, two to go.

Second baseman Steve Sax came up next. The former Rookie of the Year Award winner and three-time All-Star had never quite lived up to the hopes of his early career. Now, with a chance to ruin Browning’s hopes, Sax grounded one up the middle, but Barry Larkin fielded it cleanly for the 6-3 ground out.

I’ll leave the excitement of the last batter (and the story of the rest of the game) for you to go read over there. What a thrill that must have been.

Even so, as we’re acutely aware right now, even a perfect game is just a single win in the season record. With just 11 games left to play, the Reds are 2.5 games back on the Pirates and Cardinals. I think a lot of us are hoping they’ll swoop in and make a run for the division, but even with half of their remaining games against poor teams, I just can’t quite make myself believe it. The way our boys have played against crummy teams lately, I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost the series to the Mets.

I’ve focused a lot on the NLC with all the jockeying for position that’s been going on there, but there are other contenders that could make a challenge for the second wildcard spot as well. At 8 games back with 13 games to go, the Diamondbacks have entered It Would Take a Miracle territory, but the Nationals are a little closer. Just 5.0 games back, they wouldn’t need a miracle exactly, just some serious Wheels Falling Off from the Reds.

If you’re going to talk about late-season wheels falling off, though, you simply must mention the Pirates thanks to their late-season performances the last few years. What if the Reds surprise everyone (most of all: Dusty Baker) and find some intensity for the remaining games. With 6 of the 11 against the Pirates, the Reds could do some serious damage to the standings as we currently see them.

The winning, yes, I want. The pushing of the Buccos out of the postseason, not so much. I kind of like the Pirates. Besides, I might puke if ESPN turned out to have correctly predicted a Nationals-Tigers World Series.

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