This is No. 4 in a series recalling the "It" moment for teams clinching postseason berths, the episode that filled everyone with the same thought: "Hey, we can do this." Aug. 13, Cincinnati: The Cardinals have just left Queen City and left the Reds for dead. Instead of turning the other cheek to Brandon Phillips' pre-series vent -- "I hate the Cardinals. All they do is ... moan about everything, all of them." -- the Cardinals turn on the Reds. They beat them -- 7-3, 8-4, 6-1 -- and beat them up, in an ugly brawl. They sweep the Reds out of the National League Central lead and under the bus. This is the perception of everyone, including the 106,681 who had packed Great American Ball Park for three humiliating days and then stormed the chat rooms: "The Reds got seriously schooled in this series," writes one. Another simply says, "Adios."
The Reds have shown good bounce-back all season. After an atrocious April 24 loss in San Diego slammed them into the cellar, they won five straight to scale .500. A month later they blew a seven-run ninth-inning lead in Atlanta, and two days later were back in first. After an insulting four-game sweep in Philadelphia -- two by 1-0 scores -- heading into the All-Star Game break, they took their first seven series of the second half. But those were mere potholes. How do you get out of the bottom of a sinkhole? This is how. Phillips leads off with a single against tough Florida righty Josh Johnson. Laynce Nix, Joey Votto and Scott Rolen also deliver singles. An out later, Jay Bruce adds another. Three runs on five hits in the first inning off Johnson -- more than he gave up in 18 of his prior 23 starts. The Reds win, 7-2. "We're going to keep playing," Rolen promises. "That's the way it's going to be." The next day they reclaim first place for keeps, and they keep winning, taking seven in a row, including a three-game sweep in Arizona in which they oppressively pour across 17 runs after the sixth inning.
The Reds never look back, except maybe all the way to 1995, the last time they made it into the postseason.