Stick this!

Joe Musgrove

Lend Me Your Ear Dept.: Having the umps check Joe Musgrove (second from left) for new old-fashioned medicated goo on his ears and elsewhere looked like desperation from Buck Showalter as Musgrove and the Padres bumped the Mets to an early winter vacation Sunday night.

Few things in this world are as profound as the wrench that happens when an individual resembles a genius one night and a fool the next. Unless it’s when a team resembles a well-lubricated Porsche one night and a two-stroke Trabant the next.

That wrench sent Buck Showalter and his Mets home for the winter after they played a Saturday and Sunday that put their entire season into microcosm. Including the re-exposure of the lacking that turned them from National League East dominators to division sliders finally settling for second best after a self-deflating previous weekend in Atlanta.

It also sent Showalter from being the skipper with the nerve to throw The Book to one side, and his best relief pitcher into the game when its “save situation” presented itself earlier than the ninth inning, to the one who thought a too-little/too-late gamesmanship exercise might knock the Padres off their game slightly more than mid-way through.

That was when the Padres didn’t expose it for them. The Mets’ few lackings this year included offensive depth past the middle of the batting order. The Padres out-lasted them in this wild card series when the lower end of their order suddenly figured out how to hunt, peck, hector, pester, and puncture.

The Padres didn’t lack for issues all year, either, but they rode Joe Musgrove and two relievers to a 6-0 Game Three one-hit shutout, on a night Musgrove simply fed the Mets things they could only hit with moderate contact to Padre defenders on red alert. The nearest Musgrove came to disaster was when Mark Canha sent one deep enough to right center field to send Trent Grisham crashing into the wall after he caught the drive with only inches to spare.

The Mets might have loved nothing more than the crash actually yanking Grisham out of the game. All series long he’d gone from the nothing-special regular season element, whose seventeen home runs didn’t negate puny plate performance papers otherwise, into a 1.917 wild card series OPS. His Real Batting Average on the season: .422. His RBA in the wild card set: 1.167.

The only thing better than moving Grisham to one side for the Mets would have been ridding themselves of Musgrove, who pitched the first no-hitter in Padres history in April and pitched Sunday night as though he’d made the Mets into the classic cartoon volunteers for a cartoon magician’s guaranteed-to-embarrass magic tricks.

Showalter thought he might do what his batters couldn’t entering the bottom of the sixth. He ambled out of the Mets dugout and asked Alfonso Marquez’s umpiring crew to check Musgrove for, shall we say, that new good-old-fashioned medicated goo. Marquez delivered the message to a slightly flustered Musgrove promptly.

“He said, ‘Buck wants to take a look at your glove, your face, your hat, all that stuff’. I said: ‘You take what you want, man’,” Musgrove said postgame. The umpires took looks at all that stuff, including an almost comical-looking inspection of Musgrove’s admittedly shining ears and lobes.

What irked Showalter was information handed him that indicated the spinning rate on Musgrove’s pitches were higher Sunday evening than they were all season long. Baseball government’s obsession with foreign substances (Spider-Tack, et. al.) and lack of apparent concern for consistently made and grippable baseballs was bound to yield oddities but nothing quite like this until that moment.

“When you see something that jumps out at you . . . I get a lot of information in the dugout,” Showalter said postgame. “We certainly weren’t having much luck the way it was going. That’s for sure. But I’m charged with doing what’s best for the New York Mets. And however it might make me look or whatever, I’m gonna do that every time.”

“Was that what he did?” asked Padres third baseman Manny Machado, who had a respectable if not spectacular wild card series himself, who happened to be a measly three feet from Musgrove while the pitcher was being frisked, and who knows Showalter from playing for him as an Oriole. “I wasn’t sure. I mean, how many hits did Joe give up? He gave up one hit? That’s pretty smart by them.”

Maybe not as smart as Machado charitably allowed. Showalter’s shortstop Francisco Lindor seemed uncertain himself. “There were some talks in the dugout,” he told reporters. “Buck made the decision to go check him. I respect that. I respect his decision. At the end of the day, hats off to Musgrove. He flat-out beat us.”

Padres manager Bob Melvin didn’t find it that amusing. If anything, he found it a character assassination attempt. “The problem I have is that Joe Musgrove is a man of character,” he fumed. “Questioning his character, that’s the part I have a problem with and I’m here to tell everybody that Joe Musgrove is above board as any pitcher I know, any player I know, and unfortunately the reception he got after that was not warranted.”

That’s a reference to the Citi Field crowd chanting “Cheater, cheater!” at Musgrove post-check. Maybe the crowd became as desperate as Showalter’s sticky-stuff gambit made him look. Maybe they remembered Musgrove was a member of the 2017 Astros whose sign-stealing operation leaves that triumph suspect for all time, even though the pitchers had nothing to do with it. Maybe they forgot Musgrove admits to being embarrased to wear his ’17 Series ring because of his then-team’s shenanigans.

They certainly didn’t consider that the guy from El Cajon which is a very brief commute from San Diego, the guy who grew up rooting for the Padres, was a guy who took the mound amped up with thoughts that he really was living the dream, handed the ball in a Padres uniform on the most important night of his life to date.

“I dove into the fact that we got all the fans in San Diego waiting for this moment,” Musgrove said. “The girlfriends and wives here. The fan base that followed us from San Diego, and I tried to put that on my shoulders and carry.” That fan base had a contingency enough in Citi Field Sunday night that you could hear the “Beat L.A.!” chants as the game neared the finish.

The only question for these Padres now is whether they can and will beat the ogres of the National League West awaiting them in a division series come Tuesday night. They survived the loss of Fernando Tatis, Jr. to a shoulder injury and then a suspension over actual/alleged performance-enhancing substances. It doesn’t mean they’ll survive the Dodgers. But they may not make it that simple, either.

There’s no “only” question for these Mets entering their long winter.

Sunday starter Chris Bassitt embarrassed himself. It only began when Bassitt loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the second before another of the Padres’ final third in the order, catcher Austin Nola, swatted a two-run single . . . on 0-2.

“I was just beating myself,” he said honestly of his four-inning performance. “Looking back at the Atlanta start, I’m not sure how many runs they scored on walks, and then tonight I know they scored two guys on walks. Not too proud of that.”

It was the last thing Bassitt needed with free agency looming for him. He’s not the only one in that position. Saturday’s pitching heroes, starter Jacob deGrom and reliever Edwin Díaz, face free agency, too: deGrom by way of exercising his contract opt-out, Díaz by the expiration of a deal that once looked like a franchise embarrassment before he corrected himself and went from nothing like Seattle to this season’s never-better performance papers.

Brandon Nimmo, one of three Mets to acquit himself series-long at the plate, also faces free agency, as do pitchers Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker and Trevor Williams. General manager Billy Eppler, who looked like a genius last winter in signing or acquiring Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Eduardor Escobar, Bassitt, and Canha, doesn’t look so sharp for not having made a trade deadline fortification move even rummaging an admittedly thin trading floor.

And the Mets don’t look so smart for having built themselves so surely around deGrom and Scherzer they failed to have a consistent rotation behind that pair when their health faltered. Scherzer still looked ailing from his season-long oblique trouble when he was battered in the first wild card set game. DeGrom pitched just enough to his standard to give the Mets room for their Saturday night special.

But the lack of offensive depth behind Marte, Pete Alonso, Nimmo, and NL batting average champ Jeff McNeil burned them, too. When Marte was lost from earliest September through the start of the wild card set with a finger fracture, that lack behind the remaining three bit the Mets where it really hurt. The team on-base percentage for the set was a weak .283.

And with Max the Knifed on Friday, plus Marte playing the wild card set despite the lingering finger issue, the Mets’ health maintenance may need yet another review and remake.

None of which will dissolve the sting of their Sunday embarrassment. The Padres didn’t bomb the Mets into submission Sunday night, they just pecked, poked, prodded, and pushed on a night the Mets had no answer for Musgrove other than one desperation gambit.

The night before, Showalter resembled a prudent man who learned a hard lesson for bringing in Díaz—his and the league’s best closer on the season—in the seventh when the save situation was then and not the ninth. Sunday night, Showalter resembled a flailing  man overboard who’d take an anchor for a life preserver.

“Let me phrase this the right way,” said Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen, not doing these games since ESPN carried them but appearing on an SNY postgame show.

Buck Showalter is completely in his rights to ask the umpires to check a pitcher for foreign substances. It’s up to umpires then to decide whether it’s an appropriate thing to do. I thought that considering the circumstances, 4-0, sixth inning, season on the line, it smacked of desperation and it was fairly embarrassing I thought for Buck to do that in that spot. It was not necessary. As it turned out, Musgrove was not cheating. If you’re going to pull a stunt like that, you better be right and Buck wasn’t right.

Lucky for Showalter that he doesn’t believe he’s too old to learn. We’ll to learn soon enough what he learned from this weekend that might do him right in managing a team that may yet have a different enough look next year than the one he almost led deeper into this postseason.

Who says the old can’t learn?

Edwin Díaz

Edwin Díaz did exactly what Buck Showalter brought him in to do . . . in a true “save situation—in the seventh, not the ninth Saturday night. For Showalter it was once bitten, twice bitter old lesson learned deeply enough.

The next time you see or hear any baseball elder tell you he or she is too “old” to bother learning something new, just show them Buck Showalter. He’s the Mets manager who learned one of the hardest lessons in baseball history and finally got to prove it when he absolutely had to prove it on Saturday night.

It kept his Mets and their skipper from an early winter and eons of second-guessing while they banked a 7-3 Game Two win. In the bottom of the inning in which Showalter showed at last that he really did learn something from the worst disaster of his managing career.

When they still played a one-or-done wild card game, in 2016, Showalter wouldn’t even think of his Orioles’ (and baseball’s, then) nuclear-hot relief option Zack Britton in the bottom of the eleventh. He stayed with faltering Ubaldo Jiménez because it wasn’t a “save situation” in a two-all tie, after all, despite the Blue Jays having first and third with one out.

Edwin Encarnación’s monstrous three-run homer into the Rogers Centre second deck told Showalter and the world that managing to one of baseball’s most nebulous statistics can be suicidal. It also told reminded a stubborn world that “save situations” aren’t strictly ninth-inning lead protection.

Showalter’s been second, third, fourth, and fifth guessed over that one ever since. When asked directly, he could never bring himself to re-open his mind from that moment. Either he’d say, “You just have to wear some things“; or, as he did immediately in that interview, “I can sit here and tell you ten things you may not know about that situation, but nobody wants to hear it.”

Except everybody wanted to hear it. Come the top of the seventh inning in Citi Field Saturday night, with a hard-held two-all tie but the Mets’ season in danger of ending in a wild card series sweep, Showalter found himself in a save situation in the truest sense of the phrase.

This time, Showalter planned for just this possibility. Once bitten, twice lesson learned. This time—just like his Saturday night starter Jacob deGrom pitching six innings of stout, eight-strikeout, two-run ball; just like his bombardier Pete Alonso breaking a two-all tie with a leadoff homer—the manager rose to the occasion.

No “closer” was deadlier than Edwin Díaz on the regular season. (1.31 ERA; 0.90 fielding-independent pitching; 118 strikeouts in 62 innings’ work.) And there Díaz was, up and throwing in the sixth, while deGrom retired the side on a strikeout, a fly to deep enough right, and a ground out.

Social media went half berserk just seeing Díaz warming up, never mind thinking Showalter would be insane enough (their words) to “burn” his closer that early. Except that a one-run lead, in a low-scoring game, for these Mets who sputtered their way toward finishing a 101-win season, after owning the National League East most of the season, qualified as the single most important save situation of their year.

“Buck bringing in Edwin Díaz in the 7th,” tweeted The Cooperstown Casebook author Jay Jaffe, “but only to underscore the fact that he’s still not bringing in Zack Britton.”

So Showalter went to Díaz Saturday night the way he didn’t even think about Britton in 2016. Díaz got Trent Grisham, who’d helped wreck Max Scherzer and the Mets in Game One with the long ball, to bounce out right back to the box, surrendered a four-pitch walk to Josh Bell, but then got back to back ground outs. And the Mets’ previously slumbering bats accepted that awakening happily.

They’d already chased Padres starter Blake Snell after Brandon Nimmo broke a one-all tie with an RBI single in the fourth. They withstood Jurickson Profar’s re-tying RBI single off deGrom in the top of the fifth before Alonso greeted reliever Nick Martinez as rudely as he knew how, sending the inning’s first pitch into the left field seats.

Now they had Adrían Morejón to handle out of the San Diego pen. Their manhandling of him only began with Francisco Lindor—who started the evening’s scoring with a first inning home run, after a leadoff single was wiped immediately by a double play—hitting a line single to open, and taking second on a wild pitch before Morejón walked Alonso and Mark Canha on tenth-pitch full counts.

Up stepped Jeff McNeil, the National League’s “batting champion.” Through the infield into right went his two-run double and out of the game went Morejón in favour of Pierce Johnson. Johnson had Eduardo Escobar pinned at 0-2, but Escobar un-pinned himself with an RBI single, then had pinch-hitter Daniel Vogelbach at 2-2 when Vogelbach lofted a sacrifice fly to deep right center.

Just like that the Mets broke the game open enough. Then Johnson struck out a pair following Tomas Nido’s base hit. Now what would Showalter do? Would he dare to leave Díaz in for a second go-round in the eighth and risk his unavailability for Game Three? Especially with about a 45-minute layoff while the Mets rolled up that four-run bottom of the seventh?

He dared. Díaz got Manny Machado to ground out back to the box to open. After walking Bell he struck Jake Cronenworth out on three straight pitches. Then Showalter made sure he wouldn’t lose Díaz for Game Three if needed, lifting him for Adam Ottavino, who caught Brandon Drury looking on 2-2 for the side.

“I was feeling great,” Díaz said postgame. “I thought I could get Drury out, but [Showalter]  told me that he needed me tomorrow and this was enough for today. So, I said let’s win the game tomorrow.”

It was a bloody good thing the Mets seventh made the Showalter/Díaz pay off, because Ottavino in the ninth worked like anyone but the owner of a 2.06 ERA and 0.97 WHIP on the regular season: leadoff walk, a hit batsman, a fly out, a pair of walks including to Machado pushing the third Padres run home.

Showalter went to Seth Lugo, and Lugo lured Bell into grounding out right back to the box for the side and the game. Leave it to the Mets to salute their skipper’s gambit—the absolute right move to have made, with the game and the season that squarely on the line—with a four-run inning and still have to perform another high-wire act to escape with the win, anyway. That’s still so Mets, right?

Maybe this will be the beginning of the final end of the dubious “closer” and “save” things. Maybe this, at last, will lock down once and for all that you don’t save your best relief option purely for the final inning, because a real save situation presents itself any time at all during a game.

That was then: “This is simple: Showalter screwed up,” ESPN’s David Schoenfield harrumphed. “Even the smartest men are capable of ineffable stupidity,” harrumphed Jeff Passan, then with Yahoo! Sports but now with ESPN. Keith Law began an entire chapter arguing against the save statistic in Smart Baseball with that sad 2016 brain freeze.

This is now, apparently: Too much of baseball world talking about Showalter’s “unusual” or “unconventional” move. But a one-run lead against a tenacious Padres team that’s survived a few blows of their own to get here in the first place, too, can blow any time in the final three innings.

The Mets were very much in a real, not an artificially-contrived-by-nebulous-rule, save situation in the seventh Saturday night. This time, the Buck didn’t stop, blink, flinch, or shrivel. Neither did his team.

A 66-year-old skipper made liars out of the old fart contingency that insists they’re “too old” to learn new if should-be obvious lessons. Showalter proved you don’t get old on earth until you get dead on earth. And dead is what the Mets might have ended up without that proof.

Waste not, want not

Like Trevor Bauer in Game One, Luis Castillo’s Game Two effort was wasted by the Reds’ absentee bats and futile running.

Joey Votto said going in that his Cincinnati Reds in the postseason, however rough and tumble things had to be to get them there, would be a “[fornicating] nightmare.” He just didn’t bargain on every man in a Red uniform at the plate or on the bases being their own worst nightmares.

If the Reds wish to remain postseason competitive, waste management means waste avoidance. Because if you don’t avoid waste, no matter how efficient your pitching might be, you’ll get wasted the way the Atlanta Braves wasted the Reds late but imperatively Thursday afternoon.

The Reds’ irregular season’s grind just to claim one of this year’s ten wild cards got wasted, too, even worse than Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall wasted relief pitcher Raisel Iglesias’s canteloupes.

Nobody wants to take anything away from the National League East-winning Braves. They clung stubbornly in their wild card set, held on to win Thursday, 5-0, and didn’t let the Reds’ stellar starting pitching blow the spirit out of them no matter how long it took. The Reds made it a little too simple for them in the end.

The Reds won’t live this one down too readily. They’re going to have to try explaining how they became the first team in Show history to be shut out for an entire postseason set, 22 innings worth, even if it was a mere best-of-three.

They’re going to have to try explaining how Trevor Bauer in Game One struck out twelve Braves without walking a soul or surrendering a run, without getting credit for a win, but with the Reds losing in the thirteenth inning on the game’s only run—on a measly RBI single by likely National League Most Valuable Player Freddie Freeman.

They’re going to have to explain how Luis Castillo’s first-ever postseason start produced seven strikeouts in five and a third innings, only one run surrendered, only one batter walked, and Iglesias getting blown up in the eighth after Lucas Sims spelled Castillo with an inning and two-thirds of spotless relief.

Ronald Acuna, Jr. doubling home Austin Riley off Castillo with two out in the fifth only made it 1-0. But Iglesias walking Freeman to open the eighth was flirting with death. Death accepted the invitation when Ozuna found a 1-0 meatball so irresistible he yanked it into the empty left center field seats.

Walking Ozzie Alibes after striking Travis d’Arnaud out following that launch wasn’t advisable, either. How inadvisable came too clear when Duvall licked his chops at an even meatier, 0-2 meatball, and sent it out down the left field line.

“Such a professional hitter,” Braves rookie starting pitcher Ian Anderson said of Ozuna after the game, calling Ozuna the life of the club all year long. “Loves the big moment. And I know it was getting to him a little bit, the way his at-bats had unfolded up until that point. Yeah, he couldn’t have been happier, and we couldn’t have been happier for him. That was a huge hit for the team. You could kind of sense that the dugout relaxed then, just a little bit.”

The Braves now wait to see who wins the win-or-be-gone game between the Miami Marlins and the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field, which might have been played Thursday but for the rain saying “not so fast.”

The Reds are also going to have to explain why they couldn’t find more than two hits off Anderson but found their way to nine strikeouts against the rook making his first postseason start following six irregular season assignments and a shimmering 1.95 ERA.

Those thirteen runners the Reds stranded need some explaining, too. So does having nothing to show against three Braves relievers from the seventh through the ninth.

They’re also going to have to explain why a team with baseball’s worst collective batting average (.212) despite a few offensive upgrades last winter couldn’t find ways to avoid becoming baseball’s first to be shut out of an entire postseason series.

How many times did the Reds answer opportunity’s knocking with “Go away, we gave at the office?”

When they greeted Max Fried in Game One with back-to-back singles giving them first and third and nobody out, only to see Votto—Mr. On-Base Machine—ground out to first, Eugenio Suarez line a badminton shuttlecock to Ozzie Albies at second base, and Mike Moustakas ground out?

When manager David Bell thought he could get away with a play that even the Little League won’t try all that often, having Kyle Farmer on first and Aristedes Aquino on third try a double steal the Braves could smell from about five minutes prior to attempt, with Aquino bagged in an even more kiddie-looking rundown?

When Bell sent spaghetti-bat veteran Freddy Galvis out to pinch hit for Shogo Akiyama with two out and two on in the top of the twelfth, despite Akiyama hitting well enough down the stretch to earn the opportunity, and Galvis rewarded Bell for his unexpected faith by looking at strike three right down the middle?

When they spent Game Two with no non Venezuelan-born Red getting a single base hit, and no Red from any geography reaching base between Galvis’s walk in the second and his off-the-pillow base hit up the first base line in the fifth? When no Red from there got so much as a hit by pitch to reach base and seven out of the final thirteen Red batters struck out?

Their number one irregular season issue, their inability to hit in multiples in most innings, swallowed them deeper than the Braves’ own pitching turned out to do.

“You can look at the defensive positioning, you can look at hard-hit balls that didn’t go for hits,” Bell said after the Game Two loss. “But, it’s something we have to take a closer look at because all teams are really good at defensive positioning and can hit into bad luck at times. Why did that happen for us? We just have to really take a close look at it. We did all year. Yeah, I say, we absolutely do believe in our guys, we made adjustments as much as we possibly could. But we have to find a way to get better.”

Right he is. Every Reds position player except for three will be back in 2021, and enough of them will be on the far enough side of thirty years old. They’ll still have most of their solid pitching, though the Braves didn’t get to see Sonny Gray this week, but Bauer could walk into the free agency market this year with as many potential suitors as a debutante.

Another, older Ian Anderson, leading a British band known as Jethro Tull, sang the epitaph for this year’s Reds a little over half a century ago: It was a new day yesterday, but it’s an old day now.

The Braves get the lucky thirteenth

Freddie Freeman finally drives in the only run of the game . . . in the bottom of the thirteenth.

Put Commissioner Nero and his itch to fix what isn’t broken plus his allergy to fixing what might be to one side. The second loveliest word pair in the English language is “extra innings”—right there behind “play ball!” The Cincinnati Reds and the Atlanta Braves certainly believed in lovely word pairs Wednesday afternoon.

We just didn’t think they’d take it to a 12.5 inning shutout extreme while they were at it, before the Braves finally won 1-0 in the bottom of the thirteenth.

Neither did we think fourteen pitchers would combine for 37 strikeouts that only began with Braves starter Max Fried’s five in seven innings and Reds starter Trevor Bauer’s 12 in seven-and-two-thirds. That would mean twelve relief pitchers combining for 25 strikeouts.

It also meant history’s first Show postseason game that ever went scoreless for 12.5 innings. Not to mention Bauer become first in Show ever to throw seven-plus shutout innings with no walks and twelve or more strikeouts.

Now, Fried and Bauer were masterful. No question. But then they were also smart enough to exploit a pair of teams whose diets are dominated by long bombs. Teams who also spent six part of their first National League wild card game trying to hit eight-run homers and half a dozen parts running the bases like Dick Van Dyke trying and failing to avoid somersaulting over the ottoman after he’s only three steps through the front door.

Try not to miss the free cookie on second base to start each team’s extra half inning, either. It’s not part of the postseason, but still. Until Freddie Freeman knocked home the winning run in the bottom of the thirteenth, these Reds and these Braves spent the day proving that if they did have the cookies they still would have stranded them.

Except for the top of the tenth and the bottom of the eleventh in Truist Park, neither side could get anyone home even if they’d paid ransom remands. The Reds even stranded the bases loaded in the eleventh and the thirteenth. Atop an afternoon aboard which the Reds went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and the Braves went 1-for-10 likewise.

Freeman’s was the one that counted. With Amir Garrett on the mound for the Reds, and pinch runner Cristian Pache plus Ronald Acuna, Jr. aboard with one out, he lined a slightly hanging slider into right center field far enough for Pache to hit the plate unmolested.

For the Braves first baseman who prayed COVID-19 wouldn’t get him an early transfer to the Elysian Fields before the irregular season opened, it had to be the single most satisfying hit of his career to date.

It was the least Freeman and his mates could do after reliever Shane Greene left successor A.J. Minter with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the thirteenth. Thanks large for lunch, you could imagine Minter thinking as Aristedes Aquino checked in at the plate, I was dying for a jam sandwich, anyway.

Aquino wrestled Minter to 1-2 including four foul-offs before Minter lunged for and missed a changeup that broke so far low and away Aquino would have needed a search party to make serious contact. Then Minter served Jose Garcia just enough to hit a grounder up the middle that forced Mike Moustakas out for the side.

Memo to the Reds and the Braves hitters: When beasts like Fried and Bauer are on the mound, it’s wise men who heed the wise advisory, “Please don’t feed the animals.”

And, memo to everyone banging Reds manager David Bell for not putting Freeman aboard with a base open and only one out—Freeman may be the National League’s Most Valuable Player in waiting, but he’s far less effective against lefthanded pitchers (.250 batting average against portsiders this year) than righthanded. (.341.) And Garrett this year kept the lefthanded swingers to hitting .043 against him.

Lurking behind Freeman? Righthanded Marcell Ozuna, his 1.067 2020  OPS, and his penchant for demolishing lefthanders like condemned buildings and righthanders close enough to that. (.345 batting average against lefthanders this year; .333 against the starboard arms.) You want to pitch to that with the bases loaded, instead of chancing your man luring Freeman into a double play? Cream Puff the Magic Dragon Ozuna ain’t.

So Bell made the only move he could have made and left his lefthander in to face the lefthanded. You give Freeman all the credit on earth for jumping Garrett’s hanging slider. For better or worse there are times when doing the right thing isn’t as right as the other guy doing it.

Better that Reds fan is frustrated by Adam Duvall and Austin Riley collaborating on nailing Nick Castellanos at third in the sixth, when he tried taking the extra base on a single and Duvall thre the kind of strike requiring nothing but the best tag Riley could get down on Castellanos.

Or, by Aquino channeling his inner Little Leaguer with two out in the seventh, getting himself canned in a rundown between third and home. To think he reached base in the first place after a swing and a miss that dropped him on his can before singling to left with one out.

Now the Reds get to play Game Two hoping they can drop Ian Anderson and the Braves on their cans, instead of ending up singing, “It was a new day yesterday/but it’s an old day now.”