Compared to the first nine years of this century, this is a golden age for Reds baseball. Three postseason appearances in four years? That would have been unthinkable as recently as 2009 when the Reds suffered their ninth straight losing season.
Three times in the first decade of the 2000s, the Reds had a team ERA over 5.00. They played .464 baseball in the decade and never finished above third between 2001 and 2009.
Cincinnati has turned things around with three winning seasons in the last four. It’s playing .551 baseball this decade.
Yet going into Tuesday’s wild card playoff game against the Pirates at PNC Park, the Reds realized regular-season success won’t satisfy the fans any longer.
“We’re in a society where there’s only one room at the top,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said before the game. “I would like to think if you keep persevering, you’ll get to the top. If you don’t get to these settings, you have no chance of being a champion.
“It hurts to go home. It hurts to lose. I really can’t imagine losing and going home now. So this is a very important series for us all, a very important series for our town and a very important series for our players. When I got here, a lot were kids, but now they’re men.”
Roster announcement: The Reds waited until 1 p.m. Tuesday to reveal their roster for the game. There were no surprises.
Cincinnati put 10 pitchers on the roster, including Sean Marshall, who came back in September after a long stint on the disabled list, and not including starting pitchers Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo.
The Reds can change the roster before the next round against the Cardinals. That’s why those three are not on the roster for this game.
One of the big question marks was whether rookie outfielder Billy Hamilton would make the roster. He did. Baker was asked if he thought about starting Hamilton.
”I don’t think he’s ready to start yet,” Baker said. “People are making a star out of him ahead of schedule because he’s so exciting. But let’s not forget he just started playing center field a year ago. He was hitting .251 in the minors. I try to put guys in a situation where they’ll most likely succeed.”
Pittsburgh excitement: A stadium worker riding the elevator at PNC Park couldn’t contain his enthusiasm before Tuesday’s game. Expressing the excitement of an entire city, he said, “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Another worker showed the same attitude later, asking everyone in the elevator where they were from and saying, “Welcome to Pittsburgh. We’re so excited!”
Early to rise: Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was asked about his emotions on the eve of the big game. Did he have any trouble sleeping like many Pittsburgh fans?
”I had a very trying evening,” Hurdle joked. “I had to help Maddie with some fifth-grade math homework, then I was challenged with two games of chess with my son Christian, who just joined two weeks ago the chess club at school. Then it was the welcoming of family and friends coming in from different parts. I went to bed at 10:30. I got up at 6:15. I’m good to go.”