By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — It was ABC broadcaster Al Michaels who uttered the famous words, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes.”
It was when the U.S. hockey team, stuffed with amateurs, upset the USSR in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Just seven years previous, Al Michaels was the radio play-by-play announcer for the Cincinnati Reds, so there is a ‘miracle’ history.
Does anybody believe in miracles involving the 2019 Cincinnati Reds? They began Tuesday night’s assignment against the Los Angeles Angels 7 1/2 games out of first place and 5 1/2 games out of the second wild card spot, with 51 games to play.
They more than have a pulse these days. It’s a hard-thumping heart as they showed once again Tuesday, whipping the Angels, 8-4.
The Angels tried to steal the Reds’ first-inning thunder. They scored three runs off starter Anthony DeSclafani, a three-run home run by Justin Upton.
The Reds, though, matched it with three in the bottom of the first, a solo 451-foot upper deck homer by Eugenio Suarez and a two-run home run by Jose Iglesias.
Aristides Aquino untied it in the fourth with a 448-foot down-range home run to center field and the Reds added two more in the inning.
To keep their hearts beating, the Reds swept this two-game series. They have won four of their last five series and split the other one, compiling a 10-and-5 record in the process.
To complete this miracle, the Reds either have to win the National League Central or climb over six teams ahead of them in the wild card standings.
Manager David Bell doesn’t believe it will take a miracle. He believes if his team continues to play the way it has functioned lately that positive things will happen.
It is also why he admits that he is a daily-nightly scoreboard watcher, constantly checking on what the other teams are doing. And he checks the standings every day.
“It’s everything,” he said. “It is one statistic that I like paying attention to, that’s what this is all about. You keep an eye on it, but you can’t control what other teams do, unless you are playing them.
“You can only control what you do each night by going out and winning,” he added. “And if you do that, that’s how you gain ground, by taking care of business in your game. But it’s fun to follow the standings because that’s the one that really matters, the team stat that this is all about.”
With 50 games left and the NL Central a mish-mash of up-and-down teams, Bell isn’t ruling out anything.
“It’s our goal, even though we’re not there yet,” he said. “We do have a shot at it. We have to continue to play better. We’ve played well enough, off-and-on, all year, enough to the point we have the confidence to know we are good enough.
“It is absolutely energizing when you have close to two months left and you feel like if you play as well as you are capable of playing, that is what it is going to take. If we do that, we’re going to be right there,” he said.
After the three-run first, DeSclafani regrouped and held the Angels to no runs and one hit until Mike Trout came to the plate in the fifth. Trout homered for the second straight night, his 38th, cutting the Reds lead to 6-4.
Tucker Barnhart retrieved that run in the sixth with a home run to right field. After a 54-minute rain delay, Barnhart did a home run encore in the eighth, his first multi-homer game. And it was the fifth of the night for the Reds.
When Albert Pujols singled with one out in the sixth, DeSclafani was removed and Amir Garrett retired the two hitters he faced in that inning.
The amazing Aristides Aquino Saga continues In addition to his home run, he had two singles and scored three runs. For his brief career he is 7 for 16 with two homers, seven runs scored and five RBI.
Can the kid play defense? Well, with the score 7-4 in the top of the eighth, the Angels loaded the bases. Pinch-hitter Kole Calhoun drove one up the right center gap — seemingly a sure-certain three-run game-tying double.
Using his stilt-like legs, Aquino covered more ground than a rabbit scampering for his hole with a coyote in pursuit. And he snared the ball. Yes, he can play defense.