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Month of Pain: Remix
In my post a few weeks ago, “Month of Pain,” I stressed the make-or-break nature of the 30 games between May 24-June 24, during which the Reds were to play 19 games against winning teams (they went 9-10) and 10 combined contests against the Cardinals and Pirates (5-5).
Realistically, the month was neither make nor break for Cincinnati. The Reds are still the third best team in baseball (unfortunately, they’re currently the third best team in the N.L. Central, as well). Going 16-14 during such a brutal stretch should probably be considered an accomplishment of sorts. However, most Reds fans would (should) point to the team’s seven late-game blown leads and 2-4 record in extra innings games as missed opportunities that could haunt the Reds at season’s end.
But it’s tough to recall those exact (squandered) opportunities when viewing the contests as one 30-game chuck. To wit, my thoughts on each game over the past month, and the resulting consequences. Plus: I introduce the Curse of J.J. Hoover!
30 Thoughts from the last 30 Games
May 24: (W) Reds 7, Cubs 4: Cubs loss = Status Quo.
May 25: (W) Reds 5, Cubs 2: The Reds overcame a momentarily terrifying outfield collision between Shin-Soo Choo and Jay Bruce to beat the Cubs, thanks in part to a beautifully executed suicide-squeeze bunt by Derrick Robinson. Call me a sucker for nostalgia, but I love the old-school baseball play.
May 26: (L) Cubs 5, Reds 4 (10 innings): “You don’t wake a sleeping dog,” said Cubs pitcher Matt Garza, in reference to Johnny Cueto throwing over the head of the Cubs’ David DeJesus. Someone should tell Garza there’s a difference between asleep and in a coma. The Cubs won because Dusty Baker continues to ignore the Curse of J.J. Hoover (Cincinnati has lost the last 12 games Hoover has appeared in). (Ed’s note: That number is now 13, following last night’s loss to the A’s.)
May 27: (W) Reds 4, Indians 2: Shin-Soo Choo hits a leadoff homerun. Shin-Soo Choo scores the game-winning run. Dear Cleveland Indians, thank you for Shin-Soo Choo. Sincerely, the Cincinnati Reds.
May 28: (W) Reds 8, Indians 2: The game that will infamously be known as the “Retaliation for Aroldis Chapman throwing back-to-back 100 mph fastballs at Nick Swisher’s facial region game.”
May 29: (L) Indians 5, Reds 2: Text from my father: “Wait … Was that Jason Giambi? He’s still alive? He looks terrible.” (Yes. Yes. And, Yes.)
May 30: (W) Indians 7, Reds 2: Really Homer? Seven runs in one inning? (That’s tied for the most the Reds have given up in an inning all season).
May 31: (W) Reds 6, Pirates 0: Johnny Cueto is pretty talented when it comes to throwing baseballs, especially if he’s throwing them in the general vicinity of a Pittsburgh Pirate. This eight inning, one-hitter pushed his all-time record against the Buccos to 13-4.
June 1: (W) Reds 2, Pirates 0: I didn’t get to watch any of this game, mostly because of my own inability to work the DVR. Regardless, the win put the Reds two games clear of the Pirates at the time.
June 2: (L) Pirates 5, Reds 4 (10 innings): Why does the Reds bullpen hate Mat Latos? He has to hate them back by now. Latos has put in the work for at least 12 wins this season, yet he has only seven. This loss marked the fourth time a Reds reliever had blown a Latos win this season.
June 3: (W) Reds 3, Rockies 0: Jay Bruce displays the early stages of entering beast mode: 3-4, homerun, 2 RBIs, 2 runs.
June 4: (L) Rockies 5, Reds 4: Oh, the Reds blew a late lead again (Sam Lecure this time)? You don’t say? Although the Reds were already loosing when he came in, Hoover pitched the ninth…cough…THE CURSE.
June 5: (L) Rockies 12, Reds 4: Sigh. If you’re going to give up 20 hits and 6 homeruns, you might as well do it in a game you didn’t expect to win anyway. Pedro Villarreal was called up two days before the game for an emergency start in place of Johnny Cueto.
June 7: (L) Cardinals 9, Reds 2: Question: Why are the Cardinals the best team in baseball? Answer: Because they aren’t fazed by being on the road. The Cards have a league best 26-13 record on the road. (Hoover pitched in this game, by the way.)
June 8: (W) Reds 4, Cardinals 2: Latos puts in a quality start. The bullpen doesn’t throw it away. J.J. Hoover doesn’t make an appearance. “This strategy has legs, boys,” Dusty Baker thinks quietly to himself as he snarls over a fresh pack of toothpicks.
June 9: (L) Cardinals 11, Reds 4 (10 innings): WHY THE HELL DID YOU PUT HOOVER IN, DUSTY? YOU KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN. No, that “10 innings” indicator isn’t a typo. The Reds really gave up seven runs (six courtesy of Hoover) in the 10th. Formula for a Reds loss: Blow lead sometime between seventh and ninth inning, insert J.J. Hoover after said lead has been blown, and inevitably lose in extra innings.
June 10: (W) Reds 6, Cubs 2: See May 24
June 11: (W) Reds 12, Cubs 2: See May 24
June 12: (W) Reds 2, Cubs 1: See May 24
June 13: (L) Cubs 6, Reds 5 (14 innings): Another blown lead. (LeCure.) Another extra innings loss. (Broxton.) It’s pretty hard to complain about taking three out of four in any series…unless it’s the Reds losing at Wrigley Field (Cincinnati won 12 straight in Chicago prior to this loss, the longest streak in Wrigley’s storied history). The Reds playing in Chicago is the equivalent of playing Tecmo Super Bowl with the Raiders; you have Bo Jackson, and there’s no excuse for losing. Side Note: Hoover Curse.
June 14: (W) Reds 4, Brewers 3 (10 innings): Finally, an extra innings win. Jay Bruce enters Game 1 of an awkward/interesting “homeruns-only beast mode”.
June 15: (L) Brewers 6, Reds 0: The Reds miss out on sweeping a terrible team for the second straight series. Why? I really don’t think we can rule out the Hoover curse (despite the fact that he allowed no runs and looked solid). Also, being the only team shutout by the Brewers all season…yikes.
June 16: (W) Reds 5, Brewers 1: Anytime Johnny Cueto successfully executes a suicide squeeze, victory is inevitable.
June 17: (W) Reds 4, Pirates 1: Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart both hit what will probably be the longest homeruns of their careers into the upper deck in leftfield. Bruce entered full-scale “homeruns-only beast mode.” The Reds were a season-high 15 games above .500 at this point, but then Hoover pitched in three of the next four games…
June 18: (L) Pirates 4, Reds 0: Mat Latos actually loses a game and J.J. Hoover pitches a perfect inning, while striking out the side in the process? What? WHAT? (Still, the Hoover Curse lives on.)
June 19: (W) Reds 2, Pirates 1 (13 innings): Jay Bruce’s “homeruns-only beast mode” saves the day! Differing from their usual strategy, the Reds tie the game late and then decide to go ahead and win one in extras.
June 20: (L) Pirates 5, Reds 3: The third time during this stretch that the Reds blew a late lead against the Cardinals or Pirates. These are the what-if games at the end of the year. To give credit where credit is due, J.J. Hoover has been fantastic in his last five appearances. Only a few of these losses can even be remotely linked to him, but the Hoover Curse tells no lies.
June 21: (L) Diamondbacks 11, Reds 5: Cueto doesn’t owe me anything. I’ll give him a bad start, as long as he continues to sandwich them between five or six good ones. Oh, and as long as he stays away from the pastries Aroldis keeps inhaling. (Hoover Curse.)
June 22: (L) Diamondbacks 4, Reds 3: YOU CAN’T BLOW SEVEN LATE GAME LEADS OUT OF EVERY 30 GAMES YOU PLAY AND EXPECT TO BE PLAYING IN OCTOBER. Side Note: Jay Bruce reaches unparalleled levels of “homeruns-only beast mode”: seven of his last eight hits have left the yard.
June 23: (W) Reds 4, Diamondbacks 2: I think this is the game—if it had been thrown away by the bullpen—in which Mat Latos finally would have casually walked out to the pen, bat in hand, and started Jack Nicholsoning relievers, Shining style. 13 strikeouts. He was fantastic. Luckily, Chapman got it back under control in the ninth to save not only the game, but several lives in the process.