The date is August 10, 2004. The greatest baseball video game the world has ever known (yes, even better than its successor) was enjoying its heyday, Facebook was anticipating its one millionth (with an m, not a b) user, Tom from MySpace was working full days, Tom Brady was years away from finding his first grey hair, and the number one song on the Billboard charts was Juvenile’s Slow Motion. In Boston, Red Sox fans everywhere were mourning the loss of Nomar Garciaparra (no, he didn’t die, he just went to Wrigley Field). And speaking of World Series droughts, Fenway Faithful were all but writing a conclusion on the team’s 86th season without a World Series title, despite being tied for the Wild Card spot with the Rangers and holding one of the best run differentials in the league. There was just no way they were catching the Yankees, who boasted a 9.5 game lead in the division and who had just broken their hearts last October.
Now obviously, we all know what happened next. It’s a story for the ages. Everyone who claims to be a Red Sox fan knows where they were when that season ended (there was a lunar eclipse that night, by the way). But as nice as it is to look back on 2004 (Dodgeball came out that year!) this story is not about the Red Sox. See, the Cincinnati Reds had a twenty-five-year-old slugger on their roster named Adam Dunn. In 2004, Dunn happened to be enjoying a sizable increase in his home run numbers, as well as his batting average. The Reds’ stadium, the Great American Ballpark, sat on the Ohio River, a body of water which legally dictates Ohio’s border with Kentucky. On that fateful August 10th night, Dunn crushed a meatball off of the Dodger’s Jose Lima for a no-doubter that exited the ballpark still traveling at an incline. In fact, the ball bounced down Mehring Way before finally coming to a stop. Dunn’s 35th home run was said to have traveled 535 feet, and bounced another 200 feet clear into the Ohio River, which means, for all intents and purposes, that Adam Dunn hit a home run into another state. The baseball world was in a frenzy following that hit, and in the absence of accurate measuring devices that wouldn’t come around for another decade, disputes on how far said dinger actually traveled still exist today. The fact remains: hitting a ball from Ohio into Kentucky, or to any state other than the state the ball was hit from, is a feat that no other Major Leaguer can ever claim to have done, and likely a feat that will never be replicated.
Despite this ball deciding it wanted a trip out of the ballfield for a cup of Skyline Chili, the rest of the Reds’ season was unremarkable; they finished fourth in their division. This circumstance in the standings is a similar fate the Reds find themselves in today. The Reds are a team who had the decency to sell their assets at the deadline, all while enjoying what may remain of the career of Joey Votto, who’s been with them for sixteen years. Like the Red Sox, the team has been riddled with injuries, having just one player who’s played more than 100 games in a Reds uniform this season (!) and ended up parting ways with a few weapons, having dealt Luis Castillo to Seattle and given us Tommy Pham in exchange for minor league infielder Nick Northcut. Like us, they have some exciting young players that have gotten involved, such as Jonathan India and Nick Senzel, and, a couple years before we gambled on Trevor Story, they took a gamble on their second baseman, Mike Moustaskas, after a huge power year in Milwaukee, a bid that has not quite worked out in their favor yet.
As far as pitching goes, the Red Sox may have their work cut out for them Tuesday night, as Brayan Bello, who has looked decidedly sharper of late, takes on Cincinnati’s Nick Lodolo, a poised 6’6” beanstalk of a pitcher who’s finding his footing, showing he can go deep in games, and enjoying 113 strikeouts and a sub-4 ERA in his rookie year. The good news is that the Reds haven’t put more than 5 runs on the board in a win in almost two weeks (they did score 6 in a 7-6 loss last Sunday.) And further, several members of the Reds’ bullpen have uh… concerning… stats on the year (sound familiar?).
Wednesday night may be a bit easier. This is because Chase Anderson, a struggling (1-3, 6.47 ERA) Tampa Bay bullpen arm that has bounced back and forth from the minors this season (and a guy who somehow alluded Chaim on the wire), is listed as the starting pitcher on Wednesday, which may give the Sox some flexibility on what they do with their lineup. While the long leash of creativity has regrettably proven to be a thorn in the Sox side this season, I’d like to remind everyone that the team is not making the playoffs, so I’m one to embrace innovation, unless, of course, it ends up with someone getting hurt or ending up on the blooper reel, which, admittedly, has happened a few times with this team.
As stated in my last series preview, this iteration of the Boston Red Sox is not good, and even though they won the series against the Royals, it was not a series win that gave anyone the warm fuzzies. Even considering the blowout Sunday, the bats mustered a total of two runs in the first two games of the series. (Which, while we’re at it, I’ve once again fallen victim to the ‘attend the only game the team loses all weekend’ curse.) This is because Kansas City is not a good baseball team, and due to many different factors, in 2022, neither are we. But the good news is, neither is Cincinnati.
The next two games are the last games in 2022 that will not not directly influence the fate of literally every other team in our division, which may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending how you look at it. This series in Cincinnati – land of chili, King’s Island theme park, and everyone’s beloved fallen gorilla (may Harambe rest in peace) – is only two games. Blink, and you might miss it. But if you do blink, you may also miss Rafael Devers smack a ball off of this faulty Reds pitching staff into the Ohio River that actually flows upstream all the way into Pennsylvania. Eat your heart out, Adam Dunn! Wait, the probability of that happening is actually less likely than this team winning the World Series this year? Well, a guy can dream, can’t he?