In hindsight, was starting a pitcher who missed most of the season, in a one game, winner take all, playoff, really a good decision? The Reds sent staff ace Johnny Cueto to the mound in last night’s Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. From the start it was obvious that Cueto did not have his best stuff, not did he have the command of the strike zone typically demonstrated by a team’s #1 starting pitcher.
It was clear from the start that any of the Reds other starting pitchers would have been a better choice. Cueto pitched behind in the count and it didn’t take long for the Pirates to touch him up. If not for the great defense of Todd Frazier the game could have been out of hand by the 3rd inning. As it was, it got out of hand soon enough, and the Reds hopes for advancing evaporated in the hostile environment of PNC Field.
On the flip side, the Pirates are the feel good story of the season. Their faithful fan base has been deprived of a playoff appearance long enough and they deserve to enjoy their team’s success. Not only that, but the Steelers have the good folks of Pittsburgh mourning an 0-4 start and a declaration by Big Ben that they are the worst team in the NFL. I know this is a baseball story, but how much does a Cincinnati sports fan have to love hearing the Steelers starting QB make such a pitiful claim? So Pirate fans, “Go enjoy your moment because the Cardinals are waiting to cut the celebration short!”
Back to the dugout before we wrap this post up… Another winter of “what if’s?” await the Reds. What if Joey Votto had hit like an MVP is supposed to hit? What if the Reds gad started Latos or Bailey? What if Ludwick had been the power hitter everyone had hoped he would be? What if Walk Jockety had made the trade to put them over the top? What if…
- Todd Frazier Makes Sick Catch to Save Reds from Big Inning (bleacherreport.com)
- Colin Dunlap: Pirates Fans Had A Huge Part In Wild Card Win (pittsburgh.cbslocal.com)
- National League Wild Card game: Reds-Pirates lineups (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
What is the only thing scarier for a Bengals fan than playing the Steelers on Monday Night Football? Playing the Steelers on Monday Night Football after the Steelers were embarrassed the previous week. In week one of the new NFL season the Steelers were manhandled by the Tennessee Titans and lost 16-9 at home. Trust me, that’s not how the Steelers roll. Even though they have been decimated by injuries the Bengals should expect a gut-check performance from the Steelers. It’s just what they do.
The Bengals do have a few things in thier favor this week. First, the game is played in Cincinnati and a home crowd is always a boost. Don’t be surprised though to see plenty of yellow “terrible towels” waving in the night sky. Pittsburgh fans travel like no other fans. I remember games at Riverfront Stadium when more yellow was visible than orange. Secondly, and much more interestingly, James Harrison plays for the Bengals now. The former Steeler, and perhaps, the most frightening defender in the NFL is wearing orange and black instead of the old Steeler uniform. Add to that, he’s not real happy with his former employer. James Harrison knows how to impact a football game – just ask Colt McCoy.
Statistically, since 1990, any team opening the season at 0-2 has only a 12% shot at making the play-offs. With that said, Cincinnati desperately needs to win this game. They gave one away last week to the Chicago Bears and championship teams just don’t give games away that they lead in the fourth quarter. Monday night will go a long way in helping Bengal fans know if their team really does have the goods to deliver on a play-off season or if this is just another mirage in the desert of NFL wishful thinking.