Then there is the biggest what-if of all. What if the Reds played the Pittsburgh Pirates 81 times a season?
With all the pressure of the wild-card chase off, the Reds went wild in another way Monday afternoon in the final game of the regular season at Great American Ball Park.
They crushed and crunched the Pirates 13-1. The Pirates played as if they all had taxis waiting for them outside GABP with the meters running.
It was the 20th time this season the Reds reached double figures in runs scored — and the sixth time against the 98-loss Pirates.
The top five batters in the Reds order went 9-for-14 with 12 RBIs, 12 runs scored, five home runs and three doubles.
Mostly, it was a personal hitting contest between Joey Votto and Nick Castellanos. Votto clocked two home runs to drive in four runs. His second homer, his 35th of the season, nearly splashed down in the Ohio River. It traveled 466 feet.
Despite all that, Castellanos outdid Votto on the RBI front 5-4 — two on a pair of sacrifice flies and the rest on a three-run home run. He has homered in four straight games and has 33. He has the team lead in RBIs by one, 97-96, over Votto.
Jonathan India had 10 three-hit games this season, but no four-hit game. Now he does. He homered, doubled and singled twice. He scored four runs and drove in two.
Max Schrock had two hits, including a double and scored three times.
Suarez had three hits that included his 29th home run and a double. His September surge has lifted his average from .169 to .193. He has hit .375 in September (21-for-56).
Lost in the 13-run, 17-hit barrage was the pitching of rookie Reiver Sanmartin, a stand-in for injured Wade Miley. Making his major-league debut, the 25-year-old left-hander held the Pirates to one run and five hits over 5 2/3 innings with one walk and five strikeouts.
The Reds are not eliminated from the wild card chase, but would have to win their final five games and the Cardinals would have to lose their last seven for the Reds to pull into a tie.
“We haven’t been eliminated yet, so we’re still thinking about pulling off a miracle,” said Votto. “Until that gets taken away from us, we still have our eyes on competing in the playoffs.
“And I know this is not what people want to hear, but this is consecutive winning seasons,” said Votto after the Reds won their 82nd game. “We clinched that, and I’m happy about that, that we got that done.”
So is there an inside competition between Votto and Casellanos for the team RBI leadership?
“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t competing,” said Votto. “We’re competitors by nature. Him driving in runs doesn’t interrupt my ability to drive in runs. I know he hits in front of me, but I have opportunities also. As far as going back-and-forth, that just means more runs for the team.”
Votto missed a month of the season, but at age 38 he is two home runs shy of his career high.
“I thought I’d hit some home runs this year,” he said. “I have that skill set. If you had asked me in my prime if I was happy hitting .270 (current average), I would have said no. I would have lost a lot of sleep over that.
“Now I’m taking more chances and with that comes more outs, but I was confident I’d hit a lot of home runs this year. I could have been doing this very early in my career, but I wanted to be what Juan Soto is right now.
“I wanted to be the best hitter in the game, a guy who got on base a lot against every single pitching style,” Votto added. “This is fun, too. I thought I could hit 50 home runs in my prime, but I didn’t think it was the most efficient version of me or the most productive or helpful to the team.”
And that’s the update on the State of Joey Votto, a triumphant transition from poke it to power it ... 466 feet.