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Rounding Third: Could it be a Red October?
By Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - We have heard all the story lines coming out of the National League.
Between the hoopla of the Pittsburgh Pirates being back in the postseason for the first time since 1992 and everything that surrounds the Los Angeles Dodgers, you'd think those two teams had already bypassed the first few rounds and were the only teams battling in the NL.
There is one team, though, that is getting next to no attention and it's one that could be the most dangerous entering October.
The Cincinnati Reds have flown under the radar all season. They've barely been a factor in the NL Central and were as many as six games back in the division as late as Aug. 10.
Now in their defense, we've all known since they took three of four from Arizona from Aug.19-22 that they'd likely at least be one of the two wild card teams in the NL.
Unlike any other sport, baseball's regular season is a marathon, not a sprint.
Reds manager Dusty Baker knows that as well as anyone. The Reds may have taken their foot off the gas in June and July, but they are playing as well as anyone heading into the playoffs.
And to boot, they may have the two biggest difference makers in this year's postseason - closer Aroldis Chapman and speedster Billy Hamilton.
Of course, you can kill any Chapman argument by pointing out the fact that recent champions haven't needed a dominant closer. That may be the case, but having one certainly does help.
If you don't believe it, pay attention to how the baseball world is paying its respect and saying goodbye to Mariano Rivera.
Now Chapman is certainly not even in the same stratosphere as Rivera, but he is the best closer in baseball right now. Yes, Atlanta, I'd take Chapman over Craig Kimbrel in a nanosecond. And Chapman is getting better as the season has gone one and is pitching to a stingy 0.96 ERA with five saves in September.
You think the Dodgers want any part of Chapman come playoff time? The Cuban lefty struck out the heart of their order - Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez - to close out a win a few weeks back with fastballs regularly touching triple digits.
Then there's Hamilton. It seems as if we've heard about his exploits forever. Well, he hasn't disappointed since making his big league debut back on Sept. 4, as he has stolen 13 bases in 14 games. And, oh by the way, he's also 6-for-14 at the plate with nine runs scored.
Never was it more apparent how dangerous Hamilton could be than in his first major league start back on Sept. 18 against Houston when he went 3-for-4 with four stolen bases. Two of those stolen bases came on pitchouts!
Now the thing that hurts the Reds here is that they will likely be playing in the wild card game next Tuesday against Pittsburgh. This weekend's series in Cincinnati will probably determine the site of that game.
Anything can happen in a one-game playoff. It's essentially a tossup. But, this is a Reds team that won't be overwhelmed by the moment. Anyone think last season's stunning NLDS loss to San Francisco still doesn't resonate with players like Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto?
It's hard to imagine the Pirates getting past them, regardless of where they are playing.
We do know this, though. If the Reds need a run late in the game and get a runner on, you better believe Hamilton will be on third in the blink of an eye. And then it's Chapman time.
Good luck to the rest of the National League.
* Nice job by the New York Yankees for mishandling Mariano Rivera Bobblehead Night. It's not as if they didn't have enough time to get ready for that.
* It was tough seeing a great young player like Baltimore's Manny Machado go down the way he did on Monday. Luckily, the knee injury he sustained doesn't appear to be that bad and amazingly it seems as if he may avoid surgery.
* Story that will get a lot of play in the coming weeks. Joe Girardi jumping off the Titanic, I mean the New York Yankees. His hometown Chicago Cubs may come a calling and what better job is there in baseball right now than taking over the Washington Nationals. There will be options for the pending free agent. And a lot are better than the Yankees.
* Quick prediction: Seattle's Eric Wedge will be the first manager fired after the season.
* Staying on managers for a second, wouldn't it be nice to see Ron Gardenhire get his 1,000th win at some point in the next few days? He's at 998 right now. Gardenhire's contract is up at end of season and you have to think Twins will look elsewhere. Don't feel bad for him, Gardenhire will be hired in a minute, provided he wants to keep going.
* Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia may actually keep his job, as his team has played as well as anyone down the stretch and are closing in on a .500 record. That would be remarkable considering just how awful they have been. After signing Scioscia to a 10-year, $50 million extension that'll take him through the 2018 season, you have to think that Angels' owner Arte Moreno would like to avoid paying another manager.
* As we get ready to fade to black on the regular season, I leave you with a tweet from Tampa rookie Chris Archer: "Could earth be considered a spaceship? Since we are traveling on it through space?"
Deep stuff right there.
09/25 12:32:11 ET
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