The Reds hit two home runs in the bottom of the 9th off Craig Kimbrel last night to win 5-4. It was one of those wins across seasons that you’ll never forget if you’re a Reds fan. It was one of those ‘WOW’ moments that you’re sure is going to really get your team going. And this afternoon the Reds came out and laid an egg and lost 7-2 to those same Braves.
In a season that has failed to swoon me thus far, it was another missed opportunity. But the positives were non-zero.
Everyone who follows this game has their favorites. They may not have one who sits above all else, but they have some they consider to be one of their favorites. Jay Bruce is my favorite player. This wouldn’t work as well if Jay Bruce was a superstar without his blemishes. It’s easy to like a superstar. A true hero in the storybook has tragic flaws. Luckily for us, being in Bruce’s corner is about as frustrating as the day is long.
He entered today with one home run in 142 at bats. He has ownership of a microscopic .246/.296/.345 slash line. It’s been a really tough stretch, possibly the toughest of Bruce’s entire career. And there’s no real reason why. Bruce isn’t out of shape. He’s just turned 26 years old, thought by many to be the prime of his career.
And yet, Jay Bruce has struggled. And when he’s struggled and you thought he was going to come out of it (he had his first homer and a game-tying hit on April 22nd), he’s struggled a little more. He’s had walk-off hits. He’s had four hit games. But it’s sprinkled amidst 49 strikeouts entering today.
Bruce got after one of his detractors on Twitter a few weeks ago. This has all the makings of a nightmare season for Bruce. His bat seems slow to the zone. He isn’t driving the ball. When he connects it isn’t going very far. His line drive rate is way up. His fly ball rate is way down. But above all of that, you get the feeling that the mental side of the game is still what’s eating Jay Bruce.
Today in the ninth inning of a 7-1 ballgame, Jay Bruce hit a solo home run. In a lot of ways it was the most Jay Bruce home run ever. It was the 136th time in his career that he has rounded the bases in such a fashion. When a player has done it that many times, you stop worrying about him. Bruce has never fully allowed that.
As he rounds the bases – you get the feeling that the voice of the Reds Marty Brennaman has made his judgement on Jay Bruce. The silence is deafening. Perhaps Marty was just coming to the end of a long day in the radio booth. Or perhaps Brenneman was thinking the same thing a lot of Reds fans have been.
‘Where are you Jay,’ ‘We need you Jay’, ‘What happened to that beautiful, polished hitter that came up from Louisville in 2008,’ ‘why couldn’t this have been when it counted’?
Take a look for yourself:
And it was a totally meaningless home run. Except to us. And because we’re sick in the head, we scrambled to the internet to see what we could see. It wasn’t enough to stare at Bruce’s line in the box score. There were important things to look at. This player is in a serious slump. What did the swing look like? How was the trajectory of the ball and where did it land? Was it a majestic blast that we have seen from Bruce in some of the best stretches of his career? Was it off a breaking ball? What was his demeanor as he rounded the bases? Did he seem frustrated still? Exalted? Exhaled? Exiled? What could we deduct from a little cold, hard footage?
Suddenly the day felt a little different. Nothing had happened at work, and the Reds had lost. But in a small way, it felt like a win. That’s strange, you know?
I don’t know what the future holds for Jay Bruce anymore, but we took the anchor up and decided we were going down with this ship a long time ago.
I’m Clint and I’m a Bruce-a-holic. Even if it’s bad to be one. Even if it’s unhealthy. This is just one very small chapter of my story.