by Kevin Burton
When your two favorite teams play each other you have to watch, right?
The Reds and Royals played a doubleheader Aug. 19. They played two seven-inning games that Wednesday because the Tuesday game was postponed because the Reds had a virus case.
I hadn’t watched a game all year. But I was under some significant stresses. Taking in a little baseball seemed like a good way to clear my mental palate.
So there I was, sitting there like Barry Manilow, “trying to get the feeling again,” the baseball feeling, the one that made me pace and shout and fight static on AM radio. The little boy feeling.
Some of my Reds-Royals ties over the years? Child of divorce, father in Ohio, mother in Kansas. So naturally those were my teams.
In the 1976 playoffs, Chris Chambliss of the Yankees homered in the ninth inning of game five to eliminate the Royals and send New York to the World Series against Cincinnati.
If not for that, my Royals would have played my Reds with everything on the line.
Since then, the Reds and Royals have never made the postseason in the same year. In this strange virus year, eight teams from each league will make the playoffs.
So the odds of a Reds-Royals meeting are a touch better this year, right?
Both teams were under .500. The Reds were a game out of a playoff spot, the Royals three. So who should I root for? The Reds because they were closer or the Royals because they needed the games more?
Well, neither game was an instant classic.
In game one Cincinnati was sloppy after four days off because of the positive virus test. A first-inning error by Joey Votto led to three KC runs and the game was basically over. Royals starting pitcher Brad Keller had a no-hitter through five innings. KC won 4-0.
The Reds and Royals are Midwest small-market, revenue-poor cousins. They will take a chance on a broken-down former star pitcher trying to prove he still belongs.
And that is the description of the Royals’ game two starter, Mat Harvey. Remember that name?
The last time he appeared in a Royals game that mattered was game five of the 2015 World Series. KC glory days!
Harvey was a different guy back then. He was the ace of the Mets, talk of the town. He was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA that year.
So it was that in the top of the ninth of game five, with the Mets leading 2-0 Harvey had the stature to argue with then manager Terry Collins to stay in the game.
He walked Lorenzo Cain then was allowed to pitch to Eric Hosmer who drove him in with a double. Now it’s 2-1 and Jeurys Familia enters. The closer blows his third save of the series and Royals went on to win the game and the World Series.
After that season, arm injuries limited Harvey’s effectiveness. He left the Mets and bounced around the league, even to my Reds in 2018.
In a pregame interview, Harvey sounded like anything but an ace, saying, “just having the opportunity to play again opened my mind to whatever role is needed.”
In his Royals debut Harvey pitched two scoreless innings but gave up three runs in the third, including back-to-back home runs to Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez.
That meant game two was basically over because Trevor Bauer was pitching for the Reds.
Bauer is the last player you would want to invite over for tea and crumpets but the first guy you would want pitching a big game for you. On this day he pitched a complete game one-hitter, end of story. Reds 5, KC 0.
Royals broadcasting legend Denny Matthews said about the visiting Reds “this is the fourth game we’ve played against them and I’m not all that impressed. Something is missing.”
I concur with that assessment and extend it to the Royals. I know it’s early but I will go out on a limb and say my Reds-Royals World Series dream will have to wait at least one more year.
It’s kind of funny, but not really. Matt Harvey’s a guy struggling to recapture his 2015 form, on a team that’s also a shell of its 2015 self. This pseudo-season has been thoroughly depressing.
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