It was September 1964.
A middle-aged man is riding in the car with his 10-year old son. The Reds were trailing the National League-leading Philadelphia Phillies by 6 1/2 games with 12 games left to play.
"The Reds are finished for the season," said the father, jaded by the law of probabilities. But his son had youthful optimism. "They could win seven games in a row. They play the Phillies tonight. They could catch up."
"It is possible but I doubt it will happen," said the father.
The Reds indeed played the Phillies that night. The Reds John Tsitouris was locked in a scoreless pitching duel with Western Hills graduate, Art Mahaffey for the Phils.
In the sixth inning, Mahaffey retired another West High grad, leading off the inning. Chico Ruiz followed with a single. Vada Pinson hit a bullet down the right-field line and headed to second but Johnny Callison threw a strike to Ruben Amaro to nip Pinson for the second out. Frank Robinson came to the plate. For some unexplained reason, Ruiz took off for home. He stole it clean to put the Reds ahead 1-0. No one scored the rest of the game.
The Phillies lead was cut to 5/12 with 11 games to play and the St. Louis Cardinals, six games behind.
The stunned Phillies lost nine more in a row. By September 27, the Reds led the league by a game.
The 2021 Reds are now three games behind the Cardinals for the last wild card slot for the playoffs with 11 games to play, 3 1/2 games better than the 1964 team was at that point in the season.
The Pirates jumped out to a 5-0 lead against the Reds and Vladimir Gutierrez.
There were two outs in the bottom of the third inning. Reds' rookie spark plug, Jonathan India, walked.
A two-out walk with two outs in the third inning didn't feel momentous and eminently forgettable at the time. Kyle Farmer followed with a single. Nick Castellanos hit a drive high off the center-field barrier off Dillon Peters, scoring both runners. Joey Votto followed with his 32nd home run to pull the Reds within one run. Votto's 34th tied the score. Eugenio Suarez put the Reds ahead with his 27th home run. Farmer added his 15th to add to the margin. The Reds eventually walked off with a 9-5 win.
After the game, Votto, Castellanos, and manager David Bell insisted the spark was Jonathan India's walk.
"It doesn't always have to be a home run," Bell said. "Sometimes it is something as simple as grinding out an at-bat."
"Home runs are nice but 0-for-5 or 5-for-5 you've got to win ballgames," Votto said. "Comebacks are going to be necessary, not only with our record but within ballgames. We are going to do it together. Jonathan India's at-bat was a pivotal moment."
True a base on balls is not as dramatic or exciting as a steal of home. Could it lead to the playoffs?
Yes, indeed it could.
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