Game 52 // Ninth Inning, Cincinnati // Votto Time

 // Sketch by Henry Gustavson

 

TOP OF THE NINTH: REDS 6 – (4) 6 CARDINALS

 

The Cardinals strike back. As always, as dreaded, as anticipated (by now) every time an NL Central tenant finds themselves with a lead.

And the red-faced Reds, a late-game lead vanished, looking up at the scoreboard and seeing an equation all too familiar: a bullpen ERA over 6.00. Again?

They’ve had some losses this year. Some losses. 14-3. 16-0. 15-6. 13-1. 17-4.

But this one, they had this one—no blowout, no sure loss and a 6-1 lead as late as the seventh. Then 6-4 coming into the ninth. Redbirds rally underway.

The bottom of the St. Louis order coming up, Tony Cingrani on the mound—only major-league pitcher I can think of whose surname resembles his team location (unless…Ozuna signs with Arizona? …Pedroia with Detroit?)

Yadier Molina comes up first, single on the ground the other way. Through the hole to Brandon Phillips’ right, the second pitch back after the ad break. Eric Fryer on to pinch-run.

Randall Grichuk pops up to Tyler Holt. One out.

Now Jedd Gyorko, whose name I can’t stop saying aloud (pronounced “jerk-oh”): Gyorko, Gyorko, Gyorko… star of a certain 1979 hit comedy.

Image, done crudely, on Microsoft Word

He gets stuck in a quick 0-2 count, fouls off an outside slider. Cingrani adjusts his camp, flicks his fingers, his red beard concealing the quivering lip of a man knowing he’s about to get smacked around (Gyorked around?)

Gyorko reaches low on a fastball, just connects with it, and it’s lifted over Zack Cozart’s head at short, into left-field for a single. And Greg Garcia trots out of the dugout to replace Gyorko. Two pinch-runners on. One out.

Matt Carpenter up now.

First pitch. Hit the other way. Lands on the grass in left-field, Duvall lays out in a full dive. Under his glove. Rolls to the wall, pinball-bounces around under the LED scoreboard, and Matheny’s looking the smartest man in the room. Both of his pinch-runners sprint around the bags, dash home and it’s tied. 6-6. Carpenter sliding into third with a magic-trick maneuver—and the home crowd lets out a collective, sad, “Damn…”

It happened, again? Again?

But then: Carpenter’s called out on the replay review. Diaz pops up on the first pitch of the next at-bat. And a minute after hopeless deflation they’ve found their three outs. Relief. Cingrani cursing at himself, a long walk back to the dugout. Bottom of the ninth on the way.

 

BOTTOM OF THE NINTH: REDS 7 (6) – 4 CARDINALS

Zack Cozart comes up first for the Reds, Kevin Siegrist on the mound. Weak pop fly to Matt Holliday. Quick first out.

Then, a stroke of batting-order luck for Cincinnati. The best Red this decade striding up to the plate. Clearing the dirt with shiny gold cleats, choking up on the bat, flexing his legs as if readying for a power clean.

Joey Votto. Wild man. Killer of (paper) airplanes. Bad motherf*cker. Tightest pants in pro sports.

He steps into the box, clears more dirt with his cleats, sets up, and Siegrist delivers.

Votto bends back from an inside pitch. Then another. 2-0 count.

And a moment later, he drops the mic. Bat tossed onto the grass. Fireworks over the Ohio River. Votto leaning, neck tilting back, his eyes on a ball flying many-hundred feet over centerfield, into the bullpen. A no-doubter.

“That bad boy is gone!!” says one of the Cincy TV guys, “Reds win, Reds win!!”

And he trots to first, rounds second, struts around third and into a full-on party at home plate—the highlight of this sullen Cincinnati season.

His right hand out in front of him, admiring its raw ability a la Dwyane Wade, touching home with teammates mobbing him, a full bucket of bubble gum thrown into the air, ice-cold Powerade dumped over his head—dripping blue with the pride of a happy Reds crowd in desperate need of a win.

And he’s off into the clubhouse. Reds on top. That was big.

 

 

See more of Henry’s artwork here: gustavgustav.com

Previously:

5th Inning: PHI vs. MIL

9th Inning: ATL vs. SFG

7th Inning: BAL vs. BOS

8th Inning: CHC vs. CIN

8th Inning: SFG vs. LAD

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