Cincinnati pitcher Nick Nodolo threw his second consecutive impressive outing as the Reds take two of three from Baltimore (Photo MLB Baseball Gameday).

By Dr. John Huang

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – The Cincinnati Reds and the Baltimore Orioles finished off the month of July with some extended fireworks.

Brandon Drury provided the firepower, hammering his 20th homerun of the year—a Felix Bautista pitch—into the left field bleachers in the bottom of the eighth inning for a 3 – 2 Reds’ victory and another series win.

“That’s what it’s all about,” said Reds’ manager David Bell in his postgame presser. “The big at bats. Great players want to be up in that spot against the best…He absolutely wanted to be in that spot. A day that started with him not starting, [he] came in. That’s not the easiest thing to do when you don’t do that a lot.”

You sensed this one would be close from the beginning. The Orioles’ Austin Voth (1 – 1) and the Reds’ Nick Nodolo (3 – 3) battled through five scoreless innings in a classic pitching duel before Cincinnati broke through with two runs in their half of the sixth. Joey Votto delivered a single to left scoring Jonathan India to break the stalemate. Kyle Farmer then drilled a sacrifice fly to center plating Donovan Solano for a 2 – 0 lead.

Baltimore rallied with a single run in the top of the seventh and Reds’ reliever Alexis Diaz (W 3 – 1) surrendered a solo homerun to Anthony Santander in the very next inning tying the score at 2 – 2. A half inning later, Drury furnished the heroics.

For the afternoon, Nodolo went a total of six-plus innings, giving up one run on four hits while striking out seven and walking two. Buck Farmer picked up his first ever career save in 260 total major league appearances.

“Just being in the zone more,” Nodolo answered, when asked about the key to his recent success. “Just getting ahead of guys, keeping everything in the zone, [and] making my misses a little smaller. Honestly, to just keep attacking guys is the biggest thing.”

If you’re a Cincinnati Reds fan, watching baseball after the All-Star break can be challenging. Nearly a hundred games into the regular season, visions of a pennant race have all but vaporized. Sure enough, the last time I glanced at the standings, the Reds (40 – 61) were still mired in last place in the National League Central, a whopping 17.5 games behind the division leading Milwaukee Brewers.

So why follow along? Or better yet, why spend your hard-earned dollars out at the ballpark? After all, a premium seat down the third base line will easily set you back about a hundred bucks. Throw in parking, food, and gas, and the amount easily doubles. A family of four can easily blow half a grand in one afternoon when all is said and done.

Evidently, 20,496 citizens of the Queen City and vicinity decided that attending a Reds game at Great American Ballpark on the last day of July was still worth their time and money. Why do they keep coming? Here’s a sampling of their mindset when I polled a few of the die-hards donning Reds’ gear outside the ballpark.

Reason No. 1: Although waning in recent popularity, there’s a nostalgic element associated with baseball. Many still call it America’s Pastime. The pace isn’t frenetic, there’s no timeclock, and there are enough breaks in the action to catch up on the latest gossip about your favorite NFL team. In terms of quality face-to-face time with friends and family, there’s not a more relaxing four or five-hour block of time to reconnect and rehash.

Reason No. 2: Although the Reds stink, it’s the other teams the fans are often flocking to see. That’s certainly true of teams with fervent fan followings like the Cubs or the Braves. But I spotted quite a few Oriole loyalists sporting the ugly orange on the way into the stadium. In fairness—although also 17.5 games outside of first place in their division—the Birds did come into the contest a game above .500.

Reason No. 3: Along the same lines, Major League Baseball still has star power. Big name players like Freddie Freeman, Aaron Judge, Paul Goldschmidt, and Yordan Alvarez still pack the bleachers—especially in opposing ballparks. Want to watch Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw pitch without traveling to Houston or LA? They’re likely to pop up in the rotation when their teams roll in for a visit.

Unfortunately for the Reds, their star power barely registers. The only two Cincinnati players ranked in the top 100 by CBS Sports at the beginning of the year were Jonathan India (No. 97) and Luis Castillo (No. 59). Of course, the Reds just traded Castillo to Seattle the other day, so that leaves only India as the solitary Reds’ player to move the needle. I guess if you’re into nostalgia, you can still count Joey Votto in that category.

Reason No. 4: Finally, there’s just something about supporting the home team no matter how much they struggle. Regardless of the influx of St. Louis or Pittsburgh fans into southern Ohio, many in the region will always consider the Reds as the hometown team. Fans may make cynical jokes and get angry at management, but at the end of the day, we all want to see the hometown team do well.

Will I shell out a couple hundred bucks to attend any more games this year? Probably not. But as long as I have access to my comfortable press box seat, I’ll stick with the Reds during the dog days of August for as long as they’ll let me watch.

Dr. John Huang covers professional sports for Sports View America. He’s also a columnist for Nolan Group Media and serves as editor-in-chief of Check out his latest Kentucky Basketball book, KENTUCKY PASSION, at . If you enjoy his coverage, you can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

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