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National Disaster

Something happened Tuesday night. Something terrible.

The Reds were absolutely cruising through their series with the Nationals, just as everyone and their Mom, Grandmom, Mi-Ma, and Pop-pop expected they would. Johnny Cueto had turned in another solid six innings of one-run ball on Monday, and the offense went bonkers for seven runs. Tuesday's game started the same way. Mike Leake was hosting a clinic on pitch location, and the Reds' bats (as if not done with Monday's power-surge bender) continued to smack the Nat's pitching staff around the yard. By the end of the 5th inning the Reds led 8-1, and I was already starting to weave my Stephen Strasburg voodoo doll in preparation for Wednesday.

Then, the rain started. For two hours and forty minutes the rain pounded Cincinnati and I passed the time flipping back and forth between The Office reruns and Martin Lawrence's "You So Crazy." At 11:10, just as Martin was transitioning from his bit where he makes fun of white people to his bit where he makes fun of white people, the grounds crew (which has to be one of the coolest man-jobs there is) pulled the tarp off the field and it was time to rock. Wait…time to rock? More like TIME TO SUCK. It was as if during the rain delay Bob Boone had walked into the clubhouse, pointed at the Reds current winning record, said "THAT'S not Reds baseball, THIS is Reds baseball!" – and then proceeded to pop in a lowlight reel of every Reds team from 2001 to 2009. It was as if Pete Rose had popped his head in and said, "I got 500 doubloons on you guys tankin' this one; WHO WANTS SUMMA' THAT ACTION??" Or, more likely, it was as if an executive from the Nationals clubhouse had snuck in and somehow convinced everyone how sad former Red Adam Dunn is that his team never wins any games.

We'll never know what happened in the clubhouse that night, but this we do know: the team that emerged from the tunnel was not the same team that went in. With the Reds heading into the 6th up 8-1, I confidently decided to call it a night. After all, the Nationals lineup was sporting such heavyweights as Willie Harris and Ian Desmond, and a seven run lead is, well, a seven run lead. No sooner had I finished flossing and applying my facial moisturizer, some guy named Micah Owings surrendered a two-run homer and put two more runners on. Suddenly, the Nats were within striking distance. Then, sent in to stop the profuse bleeding, herky-jerky Bill Bray saw fit to allow a walk and a bases clearing triple. Before I could lie down and say my customary "Dear God, thank you for my family, my friends, and Joey Votto," a seven-run chasm of a lead had shrunken to a one-run sliver. Hello, Apocolypse.

Somehow, some way, the bullpen held the rest of the way, and the Reds got the win. (Yes, the same bullpen that houses Nick Masset and Francisco Cordero.) However, the good news would end there. Up 2-0 in the series heading into Wednesday, it was as if the Reds forgot to wipe off whatever crap they had stepped in Tuesday night and proceeded to track it all over my heart. Wednesday was supposed to be a monumental day for Reds fans. It was supposed to be the day Bronson Arroyo looked at Stephen Strasburg and said: "You may have a 99 mile-per-hour heater and more money than Cuba, but you won't win because your team STINKS." Instead, Arroyo came out flat, gave up seven runs, and basically baked, prepared, and served Strasburg his fifth win. Now, it is worth mentioning that Wednesday's game was not nearly that simple, and the Reds made it much closer than it could have been (the final was 8-5). However, the combination of bad luck (Cairo's flub of a two-run line drive single, Hanigan's near-game-tying homer) and poor production (managing only one run in the 7th inning, after the bases were loaded with no outs made me want to kick my own ass) was the story of the game. Never mind that we handed Strasburg the worst outing of his Major League career; he was good enough to get the win. And that's not saying much.

And, of course, yesterday's game was the proverbial icing on the crappy cake. Any avid sports fan that has DVR (and if you don't have DVR, are you REALLY that big of a fan?) knows how hard it can be to record a game and then go the whole day without hearing the score. We spend the day answering our phone like Jerry in the pilot episode of Seinfeld: "If you know what happened in the Mets game don't tell me, I taped it. Hello?" Plus, nowadays people are texting like fiends, so you've got to send out a forewarning to everyone you think might have any inkling to give you an update on the game: "Yo everybody – I taped the game today so please be cool and don't send me anything that might resemble a leaning one way or the other as to the result of the game or any goings-on therein." Even then, there's always a chance that your buddy who has no interest whatsoever in the game will text you something ambiguous just to cheese you: "WTF…lol…how did THAT happen???" I swear, someone could mail me a rock with hieroglyphics on it and if I receive it on game day I will curse them and spend the rest of the day consulting with anthropologists. It's a compulsion. And, even worse than the dip, dodge, duck and dodge dance of avoiding human correspondence, is the vow of abstinence one must take as it pertains to accessing any websites like ESPN,, or anywhere else that might show the score. Every sports fan that has an office job knows that, in any other scenario, this would be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

So, since yesterday's first pitch was at 12:35, those are the sacrifices I made for six hours. I put my phone on silent. I set up my out-of-office e-mail responder on my personal account. And, instead of surfing the web, I did – gulp – real work. Needless to say, it was awful. And, as it turns out, completely not worth it. Doing his best Rick Vaughn impersonation, Volquez bumbled his way through 2 2/3 innings, hitting less spots than McLovin ("IT'S IN!") and charting the course for an absolute disastrous end to a once promising series. Never did the Reds threaten (soft tossing Livan Hernandez tossed a complete game), and a series that started 2-0 ended a miserable 2-2. Thankfully, through the magic of DVR, I was able to watch the game on triple-time and cut my suffering down to about 45 minutes. To make matters worse, the bleepity-bleep Phillies could only manage one win in a four game series with the Cards, putting us 1.5 games back in the division. They are quickly turning into my own personal Newman; only there is a team full of them. How we ever got swept by them, I'll never know.

Maybe the Reds did get visited by the ghosts of crappy-teams-past Tuesday night. Maybe Charlie Hustle did involve them in one of his ill-advised schemes. Or maybe the Reds just felt bad for their old buddy Adam Dunn and decided to even the playing field a bit. Any of these scenarios would be better than the alternative, which is that the season is finally catching up to guys like Brandon Phillips, Jonny Gomes (both hitting well above their career averages) and Scott Rolen and Volquez (injuries). After other disappointing losses this season, the Reds have done a great job of bouncing back (something past teams have been unable to do). However, if guys continue 'coming back to Earth' and injuries continue to nag, Bob Boone could easily be adding another season to his reel.

Reed Domer-Shank 7-23-2010

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