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Four Round Knockout

Dayton native and Phillies great Mike Schmidt once said: "any time you think you have the game conquered, the game will turn around and punch you in the nose." I entered this weekend's series versus the Phillies with visions of 5-game division leads and endless bragging rights dancing in my head, like sugar plums on Christmas Eve. Yesterday, I emerged with a big, fat, bloody nose.


Thursday's was the only game I was able to attend, as I had to leave Friday morning to attend a wedding in Tulsa. Before I was even in my seat (my two companions to the game, my girlfriend Jen and our friend Kate insisted on playing multiple rounds of chug-a-beer in the parking lot) Joey had crushed a solo Johnson, kicking off what I assumed would be a four-day assault on Phillies' pitching. I was so pumped, you would have thought I saw a double rainbow. Yet, despite my nearly uncontainable excitement (Cueto vs. Kendrick!...How could we go wrong??), the Phillies went on to win in walk-off fashion in the 12th on the strength of a Brian Schnieder home run. I swear, if that guy smacks one more homer off us I might just pee on the Liberty Bell. The ball hadn't even made it to the outfield seats and I was ushering Jen and Kate down the stairs and past the throngs of celebrating fans. On our way out, an annoying girl asked us who hit the decisive homer. I was pretty ticked at that point so I told her it was Osama Bin Laden. Take that, annoying Phillies fan.


I spent Friday at my buddy's rehearsal dinner and, luckily, for most of the night I was content with the updates my phone was giving me. The Reds were pounding Blanton, Leake was pitching a gem, and Gomes had accumulated four RBI's. And right when I was all ready to buy a round for the house (there was an open bar), the wheels fell off. Leake put some guys on base and gave up a jack, quickly making it 7-5. In an attempt to stop the bleeding, the Reds brought in Coco to get two freakin' outs and waddaya know…he blew it. I know I spent a good deal of energy defending Cordero on Thursday, but this one may have me re-thinking things. And then, of course, the Phils went on to score two runs off Arthur Rhodes (our best reliever) in the bottom of the 10th. Why not.


Saturday I was in the wedding, so I didn't get to even look at my phone very often (and by "very often" I mean while I was standing in front of the congregation in my tuxedo). I knew rookie Travis Wood was making his third start, and through the 5th inning he was matching Roy Halladay frame for frame. Still though, I wouldn't say I was exactly tuned in to the proceedings. However, that all changed when, during the reception I got the following text from my buddy Jose:


> Sat@ 8:42p: At game man…this kid perfect gamin us.


Now, let me add a quick aside about Jose. If anyone ever wondered what or who inspired me to write a blog post dedicated to ripping Philadephia sports fans up and down Broad Street (especially considering I have chosen to make Philly my home for the past three years), look no further.


Jose and I worked together for a few months earlier this year on a special project for the Philadelphia Mayor's Office. It didn't take long for us to realize we both had an insatiable appetite for sports banter, so that is how we spent our workdays. Over the course of three months, I learned a few things about Jose; most importantly, he is a serious agitator. Now, I like to debate as much (read: much more) than your average individual. However, as a general policy, I try to select the position in every debate that I feel to be the most compelling, and argue it as best I can. On the flip-side, I am convinced that, at some point in his life Jose decided to always take the most asinine, back-ass-ward stance on every sports debate, just to observe the reaction it might induce. I personally have engaged Jose in discussions wherein he has contended that Barry Bonds was clean as a whistle, college basketball is akin to modern-day slavery, and Michael Vick isn't a jackass. As we speak, I am sure he is preparing his stance on why Dan Gilbert deserves a Nobel Prize.


But I digress.


When he isn't arguing O.J.'s innocence or pontificating on Hanley Ramirez' leadership skills, Jose has proven himself to be a knowledgeable sports debater and a good friend. However, since I recently switched jobs, most of our running commentary occurs via the text message. He generally occupies himself by texting me different bravado about how the third-place Phils are the defending NL champs, or composing expletive-laden rants about Phillies GM Ruben Amaro. So, the fact that he led off with such a succinct and sobering message made me realize I might need to tune in. Quickly, I texted my buddy Gunz (another Reds fan who happened to be at the wedding) and told him to meet me outside. He has an I-Phone and I wanted to hear Marty Brennamen's call if Travis Wood did, in fact, lock up a perfect game. Apparently, there's an app for that.


Maybe it was the diabolical influence of Jose, or maybe it was karma slapping me with a white glove for abandoning my bro at his wedding. Either way, right as we started listening, Carlos Ruiz doubled and the perfect game was no more. F me. The Reds would go on to lose 1-0 in the 11th on a Jimmy Rollins RBI single, and my misery would continue. I spent the rest of the night trying to drown my sorrows in the personalized beer stein I received as a groomsman gift. It worked, albeit marginally.


Having somehow wrestled myself out of my hotel bed to make my 7am flight Sunday, I was home in time to watch the series finale. Turns out, I should have hit snooze.


In a game as uneventful as I can remember, Cole Hamels out-dueled Reds rookie starter Matt Maloney (a former Phillies farmhand) and handed the Reds a 1-0 loss. While Maloney pitched brilliantly (in his second start of the season), giving up only one run on four hits, the seemingly tired, bedraggled Reds couldn't manage anything against Hamels, a guy who has historically confounded them. A grisly ending to an unbelievably frustrating weekend of baseball. If you would have told me Thursday afternoon the Reds would have gotten the starts that they did from their patchwork rotation (Cueto 7 IP 1 ER, Leake going into the 9th, Wood perfecto into the 9th, Maloney 6 IP 1 ER) and get swept, I would have laughed and said "I'll have what he's having." Unfortunately that's exactly what happened and the Reds find themselves limping noticeably into the All-Star Break. Of course, losing a four game series by a total of five runs is better than getting knocked around for four straight nights, so there are definitely some positives going forward. Check back Thursday for my mid-season awards, and to learn why the Reds might just run away with the division in the second half. Maybe by then my nose will stop bleeding.

Reed Domer-Shank 7-12-2010

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