When Max Fried takes the mound to face the Cincinnati Reds to officially begin the NL Wild Card round, it will be the first postseason appearance by the Reds since 2013, which also was the last season the Reds finished with a winning record. That likely is not a memorable moment though for Reds fans, as Cincinnati was defeated by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and like Braves fans can easily relate to, the Reds had their own moment of infamy:
While the Reds have not had much success over the past few years, they are no strangers to the postseason. Over 139 years of franchise history, the Reds have made the playoffs 16 times, which includes 10 pennants and five World Championships. Their last World Series was in 1990, under the guidance of Lou Pinella.
The Reds most recent run of postseason success was at the beginning of last decade, as they made the postseason in three out of four years between 2010-2013. However, they did not make it past the division series, as they lost twice in that round of the playoffs before losing in the NL Wild Card game in 2013. They were close to advancing in 2012; however, the San Francisco Giants, en route to winning the World Series, won three straight after dropping the first two NLDS games to the Reds.
The peak of the Reds playoff success is likely the most famous era of their franchise: The Big Red Machine of the 1970’s. Led by names such as Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and Pete Rose, the Reds made the playoffs six times, including three World Series and 2 World Championships. They won their titles in back to back years, 1975 and 1976, with the legendary Sparky Anderson as their manager.
Between the two stretches of postseason participation mentioned above, the Reds only appeared in the playoffs twice between 1979 and 2010. The first was their World Series run in 1990. The other was in 1995, as Cincinnati was the Braves NLCS opponent in the first year the expanded playoff format was actually used (1994 was the year it was introduced). Atlanta swept the series, as they won four straight games due to a dominant performance by their pitching staff. In 134 plate appearances, the Reds produced 28 hits, five runs, six extra base hits, 12 walks, and 31 strikeouts. After a close contest in Game 1, the Braves outscored the Reds 17-4 over the final three games.
As for the postseason experience of the roster itself, the only players with extensive postseason experience are Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray, Wade Miley, Mike Moustakas, and Joey Votto. Moustakas and Votto have played in multiple postseasons, but have not produced well with a .610 OPS and .574 OPS in the playoffs, respectively. Gray has a 2.95 ERA over four playoff starts in his career, while Bauer has produced a 3.81 ERA in 10 appearances, including six starts, in the playoffs. Though he is not currently expected to get a start, Miley has a 2.05 ERA over 17 1⁄3 IP in the playoffs since 2018. While Miley just recently returned from an injury, he could appear out of the bullpen for Cincinnati during the series. Reliever Archie Bradley also had some decent success in his postseason experience with Arizona in 2017.
For whatever it may be worth, it certainly seems the Braves have the upper hand when it comes to playoff experience. However, as the past shows, the Reds have had some good success once they reach the playoffs, though they have won only one playoff series since 1990. Though the Reds will clearly be ready to seize the moment when the games begin on Wednesday, if the Braves can simply play to their potential, there is a good chance Cincinnati will be heading home just like they did 25 years ago.