Here’s to Al Oliver and Willie Stargell and Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench as the Reds and Pirates play another big series
To those of us of a certain age, it’s one of the great thrills of this baseball season that the Pirates and Reds are playing a huge series this weekend. They’ll play six more times in September, but that doesn’t take away from the fun they’re going to have at Great American Ballpark.
The Reds have overcome a mountain of injuries, most recently Brandon Phillips suffering a pulled calf. On July 15, the Reds lost Joey Votto and didn’t miss a beat. They’ve gone 14-3 without him and increase dtheir lead in the National League Central from one game to 3 1/2. Phillips and Drew Stubbs were among the players who stepped up in Votto’s absence, but now Phillips is gone for awhile. The Reds have the National League’s second-best ERA, and they may have to rely on the staff a bit more until they start getting their most important guys back.
As for the Pirates, who haven’t been to the playoffs in 20 years, they’ve ridden a terrific pitching staff back into contention. Only the Diamondbacks and Nationals scored more runs than the Pirates in July, and general manager Neal Huntington has made three recent changes to his offense, adding top prospect Starling Marte and acquiring Gaby Sanchez and Travis Snider. Huntington also got solid lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros. Andrew McCutcheon is having an MVP-type season, and if Pedro Alvarez continues to contribute, the Pirates seem likely to stay in contention until the end.
These two teams have quite a history. Between 1970 and 1979, they met four times in the National League Championship Series, with the Big Red Machine winning three times. They met against in the 1990 NLCS with the Reds winning again. Those were outstanding teams with a bunch of iconic players, and it feels right they could be creating more special memories in these final two months of 2012.