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CINCINNATI – What I love most about baseball is that you never really know what you are going to get when you go to the ball park.
Such was the case last Tuesday when my wife and I journeyed up to Cincinnati for our annual two-game excursion at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds were hosting the Milwaukee Brewers in a game that could have had some major ramifications in the National League Central Division race.
With tough-luck pitcher Bronson Arroyo on the hill for Cincinnati, you had to think the Reds would be in the game and would have a chance to win late against Milwaukee's Marco Estrada.
About the only history imaginable before the game would be Joey Votto smacking three home runs or something along that line.
Possible pitching history? Uh, nothing more than seeing Tom Seaver's Reds' jersey in the Reds' Hall of Fame before the game.
But there we were, perched in the mezzanine level over third base watching the soft-throwing right-hander mow down the Brewers inning after inning. Hey, I keep score at games and we knew the possible no-hitter was in the works.
Suffice it to say I am glad I did not have Marty or Thom Brennaman's job last Tuesday. The oldest of the unwritten baseball rules is that you say nothing about a no-hitter when one is working. But the job of a play-by-play man is to inform the listeners or viewers of what is going on at the time. They did.
In the stands, there was no way I was about to say the words, but when Arroyo took the mound in the eighth inning, I got my cell phone out to try to get a picture. After all, the meat of the Brewers' batting order would not be due up again and you had to think the no-no was in sight.
After Arroyo gave up a one-out walk, Milwaukee's Taylor Green, a guy hitting .208, stepped to the plate. On a 1-2 pitch, he lined one down the right field line, falling about six inches fair.
Baseball really is a funny game.
Nine pitches later, it was no shutout and no decision as the Reds' 3-0 lead was a 3-3 tie and Sean Marshall came on to get the final out of the inning.
And something I dream of seeing fell by the wayside again. I have seen no-hitters, even perfect games, at the high school level and they are rare.
But despite seeing hundreds of big league games over the years, a no-hitter is still on my want-to-see list. It is that random. There has to be a hot pitcher, some great defense behind him and a little bit of luck for one to come about.
(Actually, it was not my closest flirtation with a major league no-hitter. Back in 1984, I was there when Reds' great Mario Soto was one strike – one measly strike! – from one when the Cardinals' George Hendrick put one into orbit for a home run.)
Last Tuesday, what makes baseball maybe the most unpredictable game of all continued when the Reds' Drew Stubbs hit the eventual game-winning home run in the bottom of the eighth, then closer Aroldis Chapman, the “Cuban Missile” who had been having his own crisis in his previous four outings, came in and struck out the side, then turned a celebratory somersault.
Even though the Brewers came back to win 8-4 last Wednesday afternoon, breaking my personal 10-game Reds' winning streak of games seen in person, it was a trip to remember. The Reds were still atop the division standings and seem to have a favorable second-half schedule. My wife even high-fived me after Stubbs' home run – what more can a man ask for?
After all, no matter what happens, it is never a bad day when you are at the ball park.
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