The Cincinnati Reds witnessed with their own eyes Wednesday night what they would like to see in their own future.
They watched the Milwaukee Brewers clinch a wild-card invitation to the National League playoffs.
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And watched is the operative word. They mostly stood and watched their starting pitcher, Tyler Mahle, give up six runs in the first inning on two walks, a grand slam home run by Ryan Braun and a follow-up home run by Eric Thames.
The Brewers used that quick jump start to post a 9-2 victory. Their incredible September Song is a 17-2 record and six victories in a row.
They aren’t satisfied with their wild card spot. They have their roving eyes on the first-place St. Louis Cardinals, only 1 1/2 games ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central.
The Brewers did an obligatory dance celebration near second base, a half-hearted effort. There was no dog-piling or glove throwing or hat throwing.
The Cardinals are a bigger bird to fry.
Mahle survived only 2 1/3 innings and gave up eight runs — a career-high seven earned — and seven hits. His record dipped to 2-12 with a 5.34 earned run average.
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For a momentary bit of entertainment, Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez launched his 49th home run with two outs in the first inning. That leaves him three short of tying George Foster’s club record with four games to play. It is the most home runs ever hit by a National League third baseman, passing Dayton native Mike Schmidt of the Phillies and LA’s Adrian Beltre.
At that moment Suarez was only one home run behind New York Met rookie Pete Alonso for the major league lead. But Alonso crushed a 473-foot three-run home run against the Miami Marlins, his 51st home run.
When Suarez hit his 48th in Chicago on Sunday, setting a record for Venezuelan players, he received a text and a call from fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera.
And it was special because when Suarez was a 21-year-old rookie with the Detroit Tigers, Cabrera was his on-the-field godfather.
“When I came up I watched Miggy in the cage and how he did things,” said Suarez. “You are a rookie coming from the minor leagues and you never see this guy play. But you know he won the Triple Crown, so you try to copy how he does it.
“He helped me to be ready to hit every time,” he said. “He always tell me, ‘If you be ready for a fastball and for a breaking ball you can react. I always think about that.”
Suarez would love to beat out Alonso for the home run title and even has his eye on Foster’s club record 52, knowing he needs four in four games to break it.
“I would love to win the home run title,” he said. “I know it won’t be easy but it is not impossible. I’ll do my best, if I win the home run title, I’ll enjoy it with my family.”
And the team record?
“I would love to get that — 52 by Mr. George Foster, a guy everybody respects,” he said. “To me, that’s four more with four games. I know I can do it but I won’t try. I’ll just let it happen. If it happens, I’ll be happy.”
The Reds had only five hits and two guys had four of them — two each of Suarez and Tucker Barnhart, plus a ninth-inning single by Jose Peraza.
Manager David Bell, as always, put a positive spin on the ghastly first inning by Mahle.
“I love who Tyler is,” he said. “He has been more on the downswing and he needs the off-season. We like so much about him. It’s a year where we’ve identified where he needs to get better.
“It is alway the times when you struggle that help you get better,” Bell added. “That’s part of his process. The main things we like about Tyler are his arm, his ability to make adjustments, his athleticism, all kinds of stuff that we’re excited about.”
It was no fun watching the Brewers celebrate and smelling the champagne wafting down the corridor from the Milwaukee clubhouse.
“Celebrating is the best,” said Bell. “Whenever you see another team do it, you do put yourself in those shoes. You imagine what it is like. It is special and you should celebrate when you accomplish something like that.
“You want to experience it yourself, but you are happy for other people because you know how difficult it is,” Bell added. “All these experiences are adding up and it is good for us to be a part of it all.”
To finish off a frustrating night, the Reds played catcher/infielder Kyle Farmer at shortstop. The significance? He is the first Reds player to play both catcher and shortstop in the same season since some guy named Manuel Cueto did it in 1918 — 101 years ago.