CINCINNATI - And what now?
Dusty Baker, the popular Cincinnati Reds manager, saw his team exit the NL playoffs -- losing 6-4 Thursday to the San Francisco Giants. The spate of stranded Reds base-runners would have outnumbered the stickers on the helmet of an Ohio State Buckeyes middle linebacker after a win over Michigan.
Baker, who is without a contract for next season, will take some of the heat for those missed scoring opportunities. Do the Reds bring him back?
He missed 11 games in September because of a heart condition and a mini-stroke.
"I've come to find out that quite a few people have this irregular heart beat," the 63-year-old told reporters. "I'd never heard of it. I'm getting notes from people, letters telling me life goes on.
"I'm not sure where my career is going here. We're going to talk about that in the next couple of days, but I'm not through managing yet. I have more to do."
Baker has now lost seven consecutive post-season elimination games.
Besides Game 5 Thursday against the Giants, he lost the deciding game of the 2010 NL division series as the Reds were swept by the Philadelphia Phillies; three in a row managing the Chicago Cubs in the 2003 NLCS against the Florida Marlins, including the Steve Bartman game; and the final two managing the Giants as they fell to the Anaheim Angels in the 2002 World Series.
His 1993 Giants won 103 games but lost the division on the final day to the Atlanta Braves.
On Thursday, down 6-0 in the fifth to San Francisco, the Reds pecked away.
Ryan Ludwick hit a solo homer in the sixth and, after a Jay Bruce walk and a Scott Rolen single, the Reds had the tying run at the plate. On a 3-2 pitch to Ryan Hanigan, Baker flashed the sign for a double steal with none out. Bruce looked to have third base stolen as Hanigan fouled the ball off.
"It was 3-2 with a guy who rarely strikes out, but if he hits the ball on the ground and you don't run it's a double play," Baker said. "If you do run and he misses it, it's still a double play. We were trying to be aggressive and stay out of the double play."
Baker kept the same sign for the next pitch. Hanigan thought it was ball four, but plate ump Tom Hallion called it strike three as Hanigan began to walk to first. Giants catcher Buster Posey had an open look at third and threw out Bruce easily.
"It looked like the pitch was outside," Baker said, "and that changed the whole ball game, but it was 3-2 with a guy who rarely strikes out."
Bruce has 29 steals in 52 career attempts.
NO MAGIC THIS TIME FOR REDS
Forty years ago Thursday, Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench homered in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game. Five batters later, George Foster scored on a wild pitch to send the Cincinnati Reds to the World Series.
There wasn’t any such magic this time as Reds fans quietly filed out of Great American Ballpark after a 6-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants.
Twenty years ago Thursday, fans were honking horns on Yonge Street in Toronto after Roberto Alomar hit a two-run homer off Dennis Eckersley as the Blue Jays went up 3-1 in the American League Championship Series against the Oakland Athletics.
Alomar’s game-tying, two-run drive came after Devon White led off the ninth with a single. It also came shortly after Eckersley entered the game in the eighth to strike out Ed Sprague, at which point Eckersley pointed into the Jays dugout with an imaginary six shooter.
The Jays erupted, yelling at Eckersley. They exploded again as Alomar raised his hands over his head with deep drive to right.
Two innings later, Pat Borders hit a fly ball to bring home Derek Bell with the winning run for Toronto.
The Jays lost Game 5 as Dave Stewart shut out them out, but Toronto won Game 6 as Joe Carter and Candy Maldonado homered in support of starter Juan Guzman to win 9-2. The Jays went on to win their first World Series.
Only the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates have had longer post-season droughts since the Jays’ repeat World Series win in 1993.