CINCINNATI — One win in the grand scheme of 162 games of a Major League Baseball season means little other than it is one win. One win after nine straight losses holds a little more significance. It means players, coaches, front office personnel and fans can all exhale again. They can smile without being reprimanded for not taking things serious enough.
The Reds finally got to smile Tuesday night thanks to seven strong innings of pitching by rookie Michael Lorenzen, a return of their defense and Skip Schumaker’s pinch-hit double in the ninth inning that brought Marlon Byrd in from second base with the decisive, walk-off run in a 2-1 win over Colorado at Great American Ball Park.
"We’re trying to do everything we can to find a way to win that game and hopefully that’s a weight off everybody’s shoulders and we can go back to just relax and play baseball and have fun because that’s the way it’s supposed to be," said manager Bryan Price.
Baseball hasn’t been very fun for the Reds the past 11 days. It had been since May 14 since they last got a win, 4-3 against San Francisco. Over the next nine games they suffered blowout losses, they suffered one-run defeats, they lost games when they played pretty well and they lost games when they looked lost or overmatched.
They got to smile again Tuesday. It should be the easiest thing to do in sports but often it is the hardest. No matter how serious the business of sports is, it ultimately is a game that is played for competition and enjoyment.
"You try to do the best you can to break up the cycle," said Schumaker, who snuck a hit past Rockies third base vacuum Nolan Arenado and down the line into left field. "Sometimes it’s tough to come in when you’re in a (bad) streak because you don’t know how to break it up, do something different. You’re trying everything."
Down Mehring Way a few blocks, the Bengals opened up their spring practice sessions on Tuesday. They are still four months away from playing games that mean anything but these practices are their first steps in the process. There are numerous aspects of the two sports that differ; a loss in baseball can be forgotten with a win the next day. A loss in football requires a week’s worth of work and preparation to put in the past.
Winning is not easy in either sport, and when struggles ensue for a team the process of breaking those losing ways is the same.
"You’ve just got to keep your head up and try to get the next game," said Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko. "It’s doing the little things right, because when you start doing everything right, all of the little things right, good things will happen. Just stay positive, do the little things right and good things will happen."
Remember when the Reds won their first four games of the season? They scored the winning run in the eighth inning or later in all four games. They pitched well and played stellar defense. Those factors have been a staple for them since winning the National League Central title in 2010, breaking a 15-year postseason drought.
"That’s what Bryan (Price) set out to do and that’s the impressive part of those first three or four ball games," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "When things don’t quite fall your way you’ve got to lean back on that, that that will occur again and that’s going to push you back over to the win column. That’s the biggest thing."
The Reds got back to those staples Tuesday and this time things worked out for them.
Lorenzen was in control for seven innings with the exception of one changeup he left in a bad spot to catcher Nick Hundley with two outs in the fifth inning. Lorenzen retired 15 of the final 17 batters he faced. Arenado was the last batter he faced. Lorenzen walked him but then erased Arenado from the base path by catching him attempting to steal second base.
The Reds left eight runners on base Tuesday and were just 1-for-5 hitting with runners in scoring position before Schumaker’s game-winner.
But the bottom line is that they got to smile after a game for the first time in nearly two weeks.
It was a relief to the players and to their manager. They’ll be right back at it against the Rockies on Wednesday afternoon, but Tuesday was more important than just one win in a 162-game schedule.
"It’s a reminder," said Price. "I’m almost 53. I still have to remind myself that I have to enjoy this process as well. Even in the toughest of times it’s an honor to have this job, and if I’m miserable while I’m doing it, it doesn’t benefit me or the team. I have to give myself an occasional reminder when things aren’t going well that I have to enjoy it while I have the opportunity."