Saturday, April 27, 2002

Reds strutting their stuff




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        Close counts for something in baseball. When you win enough nail-biters, you stop biting your nails so much. You leave the cuticle-chewing to the chumps who don't expect to win.

        Instead of conveying seventh-inning stress, you wear the insouciant expression of a frat boy with a trust fund.

        You convey confidence. You stink of success. You step to the plate in a tight predicament and your stride is a strut. You look a lot like the Reds do right now.

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Danny Graves and Bob Boone celebrate.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
| ZOOM |
        The home team extended its winning streak to six games Friday night with a 4-3 comeback conquest of the San Francisco Giants — this despite the continuing absence of a certain center fielder — and ended the evening occupying first place in the National League's Central Division.

        The season is young. Today's trend is tomorrow's nostalgia. Yet even if the Reds cannot sustain their success, they are surely charming their constituents with their grace under pressure.

        Friday's two-out, eighth-inning rally produced the Reds' fourth straight one-run victory and improved their record in one-run games to 8-2. While the outcome of one-run games is not always the most accurate baseball barometer — the Arizona Diamondbacks were 23-25 last season — winning invariably heightens hope. It should lead Cincinnati's suspicious citizenry to start scrutinizing these guys a little more carefully.

        “We're definitely exciting,” said reliever Danny Graves. “We don't win 10-2. That's boring. We come back in the eighth (inning) and win by one.”

        In starting this homestand with three one-run victories over the Colorado Rockies, the Reds probably prompted Buddy Bell's firing. Yet they also demonstrated they are not the same listless bunch of ballplayers who inhabited Cinergy Field last season. Friday's walkup ticket sales of 6,800 reflected a growing buzz about this ballclub, as well as a state visit by His Royal Highness, Barry Bonds.

        “Not to draw up any comparisons with '99,” said Aaron Boone, the Reds' third baseman. “But we knew then if we were close in the middle of the game, the late part of the game it was our game. We believed that with a lot of conviction. We had a swagger.”

        Likewise, these Reds have begun to trust their talent and believe in their destiny. Bullpen depth gives them an edge in the late innings, and their starters have been strong enough to keep games close. A manager would prefer that his starters pitch longer and his relievers get more rest, but you can't quibble with first place.

        Whether the Reds can stay there is speculative. Absent a dominant starter and, until further notice, Ken Griffey Jr., the Reds are a team on a tightrope walk.

        As long as they keep winning the close ones, though, it may not matter.

        Friday's comeback was necessitated by a Scott Sullivan meltdown in the top of the eighth inning. The Giants scored twice against the Reds' submarining reliever to seize a 3-2 lead. Yet in the bottom of the inning, Adam Dunn struck a two-out single, Aaron Boone tied the game with a double and then scored the game-winning run on a single by Todd Walker.

        As he crossed home plate, Boone seemed to swagger.

        E-mail tsullivan@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/sullivan.

       



Reds Stories
Rijo, Reds win again
Reds box, runs
Boston's Lowe gets season's first no-hitter
Friday's Game: Reds 4, Giants 3
Reds box, runs
- Reds strutting their stuff
Graves feels playoff excitement
Kearns playing way into Reds' plans
Reds Notebook: Dessens off to great start
Bonds gets full attention from fans
Rockies fire Buddy Bell


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