Giants, Reds share challenges, and a clinching day

The Reds’ Joey Votto was having an MVP-type season before he was sidelined following knee surgery. (US Presswire)

The Reds lost their closer in March. The Giants lost theirs in April.

The Reds lost their third-place hitter in the middle of July. The Giants lost theirs in the middle of August.

The Reds have the best record in baseball since that day they found out Joey Votto needed knee surgery. The Giants are within half a game of having baseball's best record since that day they found out Melky Cabrera was cheating.

How great is it that these are the first two teams to clinch division titles? How great is it that the Reds and Giants did it hours apart?

Baseball is giving us so many great stories this season (A's, Orioles, White Sox and maybe now the Brewers) that we almost forget about the other stories right in front of us.

We almost forget about the Reds. We almost forget about the Giants.

"We all have to stay positive," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said, after announcing that Ryan Madson, his $8.5 million closer, needed Tommy John surgery before he even threw a pitch that counted.

"We have to approach the rest of the year with a chip on our shoulder," Giants catcher Buster Posey told reporters, the day Cabrera's drug suspension was announced.

Every team that wins overcomes something. What links the Giants and the Reds is how dramatically they were challenged, and how dramatically they overcame the challenge.

Votto was having an MVP-type season (.342, 14 home runs, 49 RBI and a 1.069 OPS in 86 games) when his knee knocked him out of the lineup on July 16. The Reds had just a one-game lead in the National League Central.

They've gone 42-22 since. They went 33-16 in the 49 games while Votto was on the disabled list.

The Giants lost closer Brian Wilson after just two April appearances. They lost Cabrera in August.

Cabrera seemed crucial to the Giants' offense when they still had him. He's still leading the National League in batting now. He's still second on the team in RBI.

The Giants were tied for the division lead with the Dodgers the day he was suspended.

They've gone 25-10 since.

They've been so good that they'd still be leading the division, even if they 10 wins deducted for using a cheater for the first 4 1/2 months.

The Giants have been so good that they've made a run at the Nationals and Reds, who still own the two best records in the National League. That's worth something extra this year, because the team with the best record will face the winner of the wild-card play-in game, a team that theoretically will have had to use one of its best pitchers before the Division Series begins.

There's a week and a half left to play for that. There's a week and a half to determine the other four division winners.

Already, we have the Reds and the Giants. They both clinched Saturday.

They clinched hours apart, after seasons that were so much alike.

How great is that?

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