|Chris Speier is managing the Reds while Dusty Baker is hospitalized. (Getty Images)|
CINCINNATI -- Two years ago Jay Bruce came up in the 9th inning of a tie game with a chance to clinch a division title for the Reds. In 2010, Bruce blasted the first pitch he saw from then-Astro Tim Byrdak to straight-away center to give the Reds the National League title. Friday, Bruce once again led off the ninth inning with a chance to clinch a division title.
The coincidence was amazing -- and even if Bruce didn't want to remember his heroics from two years ago, those running the scoreboard at Great American Ball Park didn't give him a chance to keep it out of his mind, showing the homer on the big screen in left field after Jonathan Broxton recorded the final out in the top of the ninth.
As if that weren't enough, the words, "We can do it again" flashed on the scoreboard.
"When they're playing it on the screen, you obviously can't help but think about it," Bruce said afterward. "But once I started the at-bat, I was just trying to take the at-bat."
Instead of a first-pitch homer, Bruce battled Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario before striking out on the seventh pitch he saw from the right-hander. The Reds would go on to lose in the 10th inning, delaying their celebration.
Bruce said he didn't want to dwell on the scenario presenting itself once again, but it was tough not to think about it.
"Obviously it's not something I forgot, it's a pretty big moment in my baseball career so far," Bruce said. "It's one of those things, but at the end of the day I'm just trying to take good at-bats, and that's what I was doing there."
The Reds still lead the NL Central by 11 games -- and with 11 games to go, it's very unlikely they won't win the division -- it just didn't happen on Friday. And even though the team wanted to win, it may work out for the better, as manager Dusty Baker wouldn't have been around to celebrate anyway. Baker spent his third night in a Chicago hospital on Friday with an irregular heartbeat. The team hopes he can return to Cincinnati on Saturday, although at this point it appears acting manager Chris Speier will manage again Saturday.
"Everybody in here, within the organization, wants him to partake in this," Speier said. "The reality is we need to stay focused and think about his health and well-being first and foremost. This is going to happen, would it be great to have him here? Yeah. But I think everyone tonight really, really, really wanted to win. For me, though, the sooner the better -- and that's both things, the sooner he gets back, the better."