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Comeback says destiny with Reds

The Associated Press

Pokey Reese’s three-run homer in the bottom of the 12th inning Sunday provided a 7-5 win and Cincinnati’s wildest on-field celebration in years.

Monday, September 27, 1999

Pokey Reese’s three-run homer in the bottom of the 12th inning Sunday provided a 7-5 win and Cincinnati’s wildest on-field celebration in years.

”The biggest hit I’ve ever had,” said Reese, who’s had few hits of any sort lately. ”I’m so happy I don’t know what to say.”

Destiny? Mark McGwire thinks that’s the only possible explanation.

”Destiny is on their side. What can I say?” McGwire said, after leading a futile St. Louis comeback with his 60th homer.

Only one week ago, the Reds’ playoff hopes were fading. They trailed the New York Mets by four games in the wild card chase and were 3 1/2 behind Houston in the NL Central with only a dozen to play.

They’ve kept winning – cooly, improbably – and played themselves into the favored position for a playoff spot by taking five of six.

The Mets and Astros both lost Sunday, leaving Cincinnati a game ahead in the wild card race and a half-game behind the Astros in the division.

The headlong rush has given them the inside track for their first playoff appearance since 1995. They’ve won 93 games, their best total since the Big Red Machine won 102 in 1976 on its way to a second consecutive World Series championship.

With six games left, including two in Houston, the playoffs are only a few more wins away.

”There’s no pressure on us,” manager Jack McKeon said. ”We’re just having fun, going out and playing hard. The other two teams are the ones that are supposed to be here. The pressure’s on them.”

The Reds started believing that something was afoot after Sean Casey checked his swing and the ball flew off his bat for a bases-loaded single to win the series opener Friday.

”We began to think it when Casey got that check-swing hit,” Reese said. ”We all looked at each other and said, ‘This is like destiny.”’

History briefly got in the way of destiny on Sunday. McGwire’s solo homer in the eighth off Scott Sullivan made him the second player to hit 60 twice – Sammy Sosa beat him to the 60-60 mark eight days earlier.

It also made McGwire the third player to hit 400 homers in a decade. Babe Ruth had 467 in the 1920s and Jimmie Foxx had 415 in the 1930s.

McGwire said it was tougher to get 60 this time around because the Cardinals have been losing, leaving him as the center of attention all season.

”When a team is winning like Cincinnati, you can’t point out one superstar,” he said. ”The whole team is a superstar. That’s what winning does.”

Fernando Tatis’ second homer of the game, a two-run shot off Danny Graves, tied it in the ninth, and Edgar Renteria put the Cardinals ahead 5-4 with an RBI double in the 12th off Scott Williamson (12-7).

The 40,000 fans were deflated, thinking the home team had blown a huge chance. When Eddie Taubensee singled off Mike Mohler (1-1) with one out and Brian Johnson walked, there was hope.

Struggling closer Ricky Bottalico came on to face the slumping Reese, who had not homered or driven in a run since Sept. 4 and was in a 2-for-26 skid.

Bottalico’s first pitch resulted in a passed ball that advanced the runners. Reese tried to hit the next pitch for a tying sacrifice fly; it kept going for his 10th homer.

”I didn’t think it would go out,” Reese said.

The way things are going for the Reds, it would have been a shock if it didn’t.

Notes: The Cardinals hired former Colorado GM Bob Gebhard as a special assistant. He’ll join the team this week. … Instead of Kent Bottenfield, the Cardinals will start Garrett Stephenson (6-2) in the final game of the series today. Bottenfield won’t pitch the rest of the season because of fatigue. … Tatis also singled and stole his 20th base, making his the first Cardinals infielder to steal 20 and hit 20 homers in a season. His 32 homers equal Ken Boyer’s club record for a third baseman. … The Reds have hit 201 homers this season, trailing only the 221 hit by the 1956 team for the franchise record.