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On This Date in Sports: September 7, 1975: The Big Red Machine

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With an 8-4 win over the San Francisco Giants, the Cincinnati Reds clinch the National League Western Division. Holding a 95-47 record with 20 games remaining, the Reds are the earliest team to clinch a division in a 162-game season. It is the fourth division championship for the Reds in six seasons. The Reds would finish the season with a franchise-best 108-54 record, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers by 20 games. 

 The Cincinnati Reds were the dominant team in the National League during the 1970s. Winning their first division title led by Sparky Anderson in 1970, the Reds were defeated by the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. After acquiring Joe Morgan in 1972, the Reds lineup became the strongest in baseball, earning them the nickname of “The Big Red Machine.” They returned to the Fall Classic in 1972 and lost to the Oakland Athletics in seven games. A year later, they were stunned by the New York Mets in the NLCS. 

 In 1974, the Reds posted a record of 98-64 but finished four games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for the Western Division title. The Big Red Machine was back with a vengeance in 1975. The Reds began the season with a 2-1 win in 14 innings on a walk-off single by George Foster to beat the Dodgers. Cincinnati swept the opening series but had their struggles in April, hovering near .500. After holding a record of 20-20 on May 20th, the Reds began to heat up as May came to an end, going on a seven-game winning streak, as they went into June with a record of 28-21. 

 June is when the Reds took control of the West, as they continued the momentum of the seven-game winning streak and went in first place for the remainder of the season on June 7th. Before the month was over, the Reds had extended the lead to seven games. The Reds posted a record of 21-7 in June and 20-9 in July; by the time August began, the Reds were leading the West by 14 and a half games. The Reds made it a trifecta by posting a record of 21-8 during August. The three consecutive 20-win months enabled the Reds to build an 18 and a half-game lead over the Dodgers, as September would prove to be little more than a warm-up for the postseason. 

 While the Dodgers were losing to the Atlanta Braves 5-4 at Fulton County Stadium, the Reds were hosting the San Francisco Giants at Riverfront Stadium. They had Don Gullet on the mound while the Giants countered with Pete Falcone. Before Falcone recorded an out, the Reds had a 2-0 lead as George Foster doubled home, Pete Rose and Dave Concepcion. Foster later scored on a sac-fly by Tony Perez. In the second inning, the Reds made it 4-0 as Doug Flynn scored on a single by Pete Rose. 

 The Giants answered with three runs in the fourth, but the Reds added runs in the third and fourth to lead 6-3. Joe Morgan walked with the bases loaded, and Foster had an RBI single. After San Francisco scored in the fifth, the Reds answered again as Tony Perez scored on a wild pitch by Charlie Williams in the sixth, while George Foster collected his fourth RBI with a single to make an 8-4 score for Cincinnati. Don Gullet pitched seven innings, allowing four runs on nine hits, while Pedro Borbon handled the eighth and Clay Carrol handled the ninth as Willie Montanez grounded out to second to end the game. 

 The Reds would finish the season with a record of 108-54, winning the West by 20 games. The Reds advanced to the World Series by sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS. In the World Series, the Reds would beat the Boston Red Sox in seven games to win their first World Series in 35 years. The Reds would win the World Series again in 1976.