Reds baseball and the NL wildcard standings: the day it changed

Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson only remembers celebrating with emotion twice on a baseball field. The first was a walk-off home run in Low-A baseball, one of his first big hits as a professional baseball player.

The second was on July 1, 2021.

That night, Stephenson hit a walk-off single as the Reds beat the San Diego Padres at Great American Ball Park. Before that game, the Reds had a 39-40 record and had lost nine of their last 13 games. After, the Reds are 30-17.

“It was all about the emotions of the game, for us to come back the way we did in the ninth,” Stephenson said last week. “We fed off the energy at the park. I’m not a very emotional guy, but I went kind of crazy after I got the hit. It takes a lot for me to show that kind of emotion.”

Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson (37) celebrates as run for first on a bases loaded, game-winning, single in the ninth inning of the MLB National League game between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres at Great American Ball Park in downtown Cincinnati on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The Reds won 5-4 on a walk-off single, with the bases loaded, off the bat of Tyler Stephenson.

Entering Tuesday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Reds are in the playoff picture with a one-game lead over the Padres for the second wild-card spot. But on July 1, the Reds season was on the brink.

At the time, the Reds had an eight-game deficit in the NL Central and a 8.5 game deficit to the Padres in the NL Wild Card race. The Reds played San Diego seven times in a two-week span, and the Padres won each of the first six matchups.

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