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It took the Baseball Gods two innings to make me wish I had never written my last post.

I'll admit, I couldn't help but bask a bit Tuesday morning after the Reds laid a beat down on the Phils. With Mike Leake taking the hill that night, I guess I assumed I would have at least one day to brag without karmic repercussions.

The Gods giveth, the Gods taketh away.

Faster than I could utter the words "the league is catchin' up to him", Leake had surrendered two three-run dingers to the likes of Brian Schneider and Wilson Valdez, and the Reds found themselves in a 6-1 hole. Regret may as well have been streaming from my pores. Not only had I managed to bash the whole Philadelphia organization and fan-base, I also triumphantly sang the praises of Mike Leake while dismissing Joe Blanton as irrelevant. As it turned out, Leake continued his slide into expected rookie form (6.85 ERA over his last four starts) and Joe Blanton does what every middle-of-the-rotation starter does to us right when I assume we've got a game in the bag. I can't count how many times I've assumed we'd beat the Pirates, based solely on the pitching match-up, and how many times Jarvis P. Triple-A handed us our shorts.

Yet, while from the beginning it didn't seem like it would be the Reds' day, they managed to scratch out two more runs to make it 6-3 in the sixth. Then, as if spurred forward by some unseen force, they managed to put two on in the ninth versus Brad "Lights Out" Lidge. At that point I was basically standing up on my chair and yelling at Charlie Manuel through the TV, pleading with him to pitch to Joey Votto. So what if he is a lefty and Lidge is a righty and the two runs on base don't matter and you could set up one more force-out by walking him and, oh yeah, he is by far our best hitter? PUT DOWN THAT SCOUTING REPORT!!!

And he did.

Joey crushed that ball. I mean he absolutely crushed it, so much so that he took a second to admire it as it exited the building (something he almost never does). And just as the collective jubilation of Reds Nation began to swell, the same invisible power responsible for the comeback brought it all crashing down. Never mind that Arthur Rhodes hadn't allowed a run in 33 straight innings and was one inning away from breaking a record. Never mind that Drew Stubbs and Laynce Nix were both hit balls that could have been caught. And never mind that Stubbs' ball could have been caught, oh I dunno, four diferent times within a matter of seconds. Rhodes got hammered, deep fly-outs became doubles, and the Baseball Gods had their way.

Luckily, the beauty of the Baseball Gods lies in their forgiveness. Every day, our heroes take the field and we get a chance at atonement, a shot at redemption. The Baseball Gods are fair and do not hold grudges, and it showed on Wednesday. Backed into a corner full of impeccable control and superb pitch efficiency, the Reds responded to Roy Halladay by spraying thirteen hits all over his eight innings of work. And while, for most of the game it seemed that Halladay would be able to wriggle away with a 3-2 win, Jay Bruce flashed brilliance in the 8th with a mammoth 2-run homer. I've been saying all along that if Bruce realizes his potential, he could put this team over the top. Yesterday, he showed how.

All in all, I don't blame the Baseball Gods for humbling me in this series. If we know anything about baseball, it's that no game is worth more than any of the other 161. Yet, on Tuesday I forgot that, and the Gods were right there to remind me. Still, this series win over the Phillies was big for several reasons. One, it was a series win over the defending National League champs. Two, the Reds showed the ability to beat a playoff-caliber starter in Roy Halladay, a feat they have scarcely been able to match this season. Three, it provided valuable momentum heading into a tough road trip before the All-Star break. Four, it vaulted them once again over the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central. And let's face it Reds fans, to be in first place this late in the season is, well, a Godsend.

Reed Domer-Shank 7/1/2010

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