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Stickin' to the Script

Think of every action movie you've ever seen. Now try to recall the climax to each of those movies, the seminal moment where all the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears of the story come to a head. Odds are, you're thinking of a fight scene. You know, the showdown between the tired, bedraggled, yet motivated hero and the sinister villain that you've spent two hours learning to hate. In Die Hard you had John McClane facing off against the head terrorist. In Tombstone it was Doc Holliday putting a bullet between Johnny Ringo's eyes. The Princess Bride had Inigo Montoya exacting revenge on the six-fingered man. Hell, pretty much every Star Wars movie ended in some type of lightsaber fight; Luke even lost his hand in one. And I shouldn't even need to mention the Rocky movies…ALL of them. Face it, the list goes on and on.

In essence, all of these movie moments are the same. I mean, they're different in that they involve different characters, settings, and dialogue. But they're basically the same. The hero often starts out disappointingly, staggering around and leading us all to believe that there is no WAY he can possibly recover enough to vanquish the bad guy that stands mockingly before him. Yet somehow, by the grace of all that is pure in the world, the hero always musters the strength to battle back. Valiantly, he fights his way out of the metaphorical (and sometimes literal) corner he's been backed into, hacking, clawing, and swinging the pendulum of momentum back his way. Meanwhile, drained of energy and as bewildered as we are about the hero's surge of righteous adrenaline, the villain dodges and parries and attempts to fight back, but to no avail. Eventually the hero always overpowers the villain, knocking him to near unconsciousness as we, the audience, begin to rejoice.

BUT WAIT! The villain always has one more trick up his sleeve. Whether it's the magical appearance of a sock-dagger, the shameless tossing of sand in the hero's eyes, or the "I'm going to beg you to pull me back up from the cliff/ledge to safety, only to then try to use my upward momentum to throw you off the very same cliff/ledge" maneuver, the bad guy always tries to throw in one more hijink; if for no other reason but to remind us of what a doucher he is. But alas, the hero always sees it coming. No way he's gonna' come THAT far and let it all slip away. In a flurry, the wide-eyed villain takes a sword to the heart, leaving us all gasping and leaving the theater happy and drained.

Wednesday evening, in what turned out to be the breathtaking seminal moment in the climax of the Reds' nine-game West Coast series, the good guys followed the age-old, made-for-Hollywood script and won…BARELY. Indeed, for two nights the Reds staggered around versus the Giants, taking punch after punch until they could barely stand. By the time Wednesday afternoon's game rolled around, the Giants (a team that wasn't supposed to be able to hit) had wracked up 35 hits, 27 runs, and two decisive wins. The Reds were reeling, down to their last breath, and completely backed into a corner. Yet, then Wednesday's game began and the boys in Red decided to swing back. Fueled by a righteous adrenaline only a team fighting for its divisional life can summon, the Reds surged forward, blasting the hapless Madison Bumgarner for eight runs in the first three innings. The Giants looked utterly confused, slogging through their plate appearances and committing multiple errors in the field. Somehow, after taking a bludgeoning for two straight days, it looked as if the Reds were going to pull this one out.

BUT WAIT! The villain wasn't going away that easily. Reds audiences everywhere sat in shock and awe as the heroes, after valiantly wrenching victory from the jaws of defeat, were confronted with the bad guy's last hurrah. Perhaps the Reds thought the game was already won (a reasonable assumption based on their NINE RUN LEAD), or maybe they were just confident in their bullpen, a unit that has been a strength in August. Either way, the Giants capitalized on our heroes' lethargy, performing the equivalent of a sock-dagger/eye-sand/cliff-doucher combo and scoring 10 unanswered runs. Suddenly, Reds nation was again on the edge of its seat.

Now, my experience as a Reds fan (and, more generally, an Ohio sports fan) has taught me a number of lessons, the most sobering of which being: don't EVER expect to win. In essence, this is the Murphy's Law of Ohio sportsdom. It doesn't matter if the Buckeyes steamroll through the regular season on the strength of their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. They'll still look like molasses-infused cream puffs next to the Florida defensive line. It doesn't matter if Lebron was blessed enough to possess more basketball talent than any player that ever lived and lucky enough to play in front of an adoring hometown crowd every night. He's still going to "take those talents to South Beach" and take a massively talented dump on cold, depressed Cleveland. And, it doesn't matter if the Reds have a nine-run lead and have gotten multiple home runs out of their MVP-caliber first baseman. They will still blow the lead and wallow in the wake of what could have been an excellent West Coast series.

Normally, that is exactly what would have happened. This time, however, the Reds chose to fly in the face of Ohio tradition and stick to the Hollywood script. Down 11-10, Drew Stubbs rolled one to third and used his blinding speed to lay some serious pressure on Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval promptly airmailed his throw and Stubbs moved to second. Next, Paul Janish laced one into shallow right and Stubbs came around ahead of the throw, scoring from second. And in the next inning, with the help of (who else???) Joey Votto's RBI single, the Reds managed to stem the dying effort of the Giants, sinking the sword deep into the villain's chest.

Immediately after Co-Co clinched it by inducing a pop out, the vast importance of the game began to come into focus. After starting out 3-0, ending a road trip 5-4 would have been tough. Watching a 10-1 lead turn into an 11-10 loss? Well, that would have been downright debilitating. Yet, as it stood, the Reds squashed their West Coast bugaboo by going 6-3 on the trip, and ended the series 3.5 games ahead of the Cards in the division. Like true action stars, they seemed to absorb the Giants' every blow; bending, weakening, but never quite breaking. And finally, in what would be a fitting climax to a tumultuous series, the Reds got to play hero for a day.

Reed Domer-Shank 8-27-2010

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