Tribe Fan In Cincinnati
June 14, 2012 By Corey Barnes
Next to base jumping and sky diving, wearing your team's colors to a hostile venue is one of the scariest/gutsiest things an American can do. You make yourself an easy target of name calling, fighting, and mockery depending how your team does.
Even if your team loses, vengeful fans can still take out some rage on you. So when I decided to traverse I-71 South to support my Tribe against the Reds I knew I was deliberately putting myself behind enemy lines. The Indians felt equally uncomfortable on the road as they dropped a 5-3 decision to the Redlegs.
The story of the game was Brandon Phillips. The one-time Wahoo continued to haunt his former club by going three for three with a homer, three RBI, and a run scored. He also played a solid second base and looked like the Gold Glove/Silver Slugger winning player that he has become. Lowe turned in a quality start for the Tribe, throwing six innings while allowing three earned. What killed Lowe were the five walks he allowed. Both Chris Heisey and Wilson Valdez scored after being admitted free passes. Nick Hagadone relieved Lowe and promptly gave up two hits, the latter of which was Phillips' bomb. Esmil Rogers mopped up the eighth and was successfully unremarkable.
The turning point in the game came in the fourth inning. The Tribe trailed 1-0 but was threatening. Jason Kipnis led off with a hit. Carlos Santana walked and Michael Brantley singled to left to load the bases with nobody out. Up next was Johnny Damon. I have mentioned before that Damon is playing for his Footnote Team and wears every second of his 38 plus years like a dead albatross. Naturally he struck out. Casey Kotchman managed to get a run across with an RBI ground out. The Reds likely could have turned two but for Brantley's hard slide into second base. Men on the corners, two out for Lonnie Chisenhall. He quietly grounded out. Mat Latos looked as good as advertised while scattering seven hits over seven innings while striking out seven Indians. So just to recap: bases loaded, nobody out in a one run game and the Tribe manages one "excuse me" run. It was that kind of night.
There were a good number of Indians fans in the park. Honestly, I never felt that I was in physical danger or was being verbally abused. There were a smattering of Ohio State shirts that created a homey feel and it helped that this was just a midweek interleague matchup. Either way the game quickly and inarguably favored the home team which kept them off Clevelanders' backs. I actually got to chat with some Reds fans to pick their brains about the club. There was some very Ohioan optimism (cautious of course) that the Reds could hang on for the division. A few fans mentioned that the Reds are in a window of contention and anything less than a deep postseason run would be a disappointment. The novelty of a National League game is never lost on me (The pitchers hit, you guys!) Lowe even managed a single in the contest. So with rumblings among league officials that the DH might become universal I asked some NL purists their thoughts. To a man, everyone agreed that given the choice they would take the current NL system. I personally agree, but Bud Selig may have other plans in the near future.
Great American Ballpark is one of the nicer venues I have been to. Opened in 2003, the park holds just over 43,000 patrons and is a great place to see a game. Akin to the Jake, GABP has tremendous sight lines, bleachers in left field, and follows the recent trend of neo-retro ballparks. The riverboat in right-center field truly sets it apart. A homer hit hard enough beyond the smoke stacks could theoretically splash down into the Ohio River. The Reds are one of the oldest teams in the country, founded in 1882, and history is everywhere. The team is proud of its five World Series titles (though let's be real the 1919 title should have some serious asterisks around it thanks to the Black Sox). Still, the park is a great place to see a ballgame.
The Indians trailed 5-2 entering the ninth inning when the centerfield bullpen door opened. Number 54 jogged toward the mound and the crowd lost its mind. It was The Cuban Missile: Aroldis Chapman. As his intro video played, I tried to explain this guy to my friend Stacey Kaye and came up with the following: His left arm should be registered as a deadly weapon. He can throw over 100 mph as effortlessly as a sneeze. His slider would make a butterfly dizzy. Entering the game his ERA stood at a godly 0.87. In 31 innings of work he had struck out 55 batters. That's 1.77 batters per inning. He is the single scariest reliever in the National League right now, and he was targeting my hometown team. Shelley Duncan led off with a fly out to left. Rally cap on. Lonnie Chisenhall struck out after watching a pair of 98 mph fast balls go past. Everyone on their feet.
Jose Lopez stands in as the last hope for the Tribe. Improbably, he sends a 100 mph fastball into the Cincinnati night to bring the score to 5-3. It's like my dad says: hard in, hard out (Happy Father's Day, dad). Shin-Soo Choo flew out to end the game and that was that.
Cleveland now trails the Battle of Ohio 2-0 with a matinee to go on this roadtrip. As a baseball fan on the road, I am now oh-for-one. Still, Great American is a tremendous park and it was a beautiful night for a ballgame. Cincy is not so bad when it's all said and done. After all, we're all Buckeyes.