Last night, the Reds gutted out another last inning victory to improve to 76 and 55 overall, and now hold a commanding 6 game lead over the rival Cardinals. It is now August 31st. How many baseball fans in April thought that they could read a sentence on August 31st that said, “The Cincinnati Reds win again, and now are up by 6 games in the NL Central.” I would say 99 percent of people would have called you nuts and said that you were hallucinating.
Well this is no hallucination. This is real. And the Reds are heading into crunch time with a real chance to enter the playoffs for the first time since 1995 and give this city a taste of real playoff baseball. So lets look at the pros and cons that the Reds have going right now.
-Joey Votto is playing like an MVP candidate and in serious contention to win the first Triple Crown in baseball since 1967, when Carl Yastrzemski, also known as “Yaz,” accomplished this very prestigious feat (Pujols could do it too sadly).
-Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban fireballer is joining the big club today. And for Chapman, a 100 MPH fastball is slow, since he has been touching 105 and been lights out over the past month. I hope Tony Larussa and the Cardinals enjoy Chapman’s amazing heat this weekend in St. Louis.
-Jay Bruce is finally living up to the hype and has hit an astounding 8 HRs in August while raising his batting average to a very respectable .274. I told you all to be patient and not sleep on this guy in my post on July 19th entitled “BRUCE!” (https://sportskraze.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/bruce/).
-To state the obvious, we are 21 games over 500, and hold the 2nd largest divisional lead in baseball as we head into the final 31 games (we control our destiny). Last night was a prime example of how we are capable of gutting out 1 run victories on nights where we do not play well.
-It is fun to have a winner in Cincinnati baseball. Lets hope this team’s core group can stay together and put up winning seasons for years to come.
-Now I am typically an optimist, but last night showed some possible kinks in the Red’s armor.
-Do we know how to run the bases? We had at least 4 horrible baserunning mishaps last night that should have cost us the game. Now I know we came back and won, but also realize we were playing the Milwaukee Brewers who are 7 games under 500 for a reason.
-Homer Bailey does not appear to have the right stuff. This guy will never live up to the hype sadly and last night he even threw a hissy fit. He gave up a hit in the 6th (his final inning of work), and failed to back up the 3rd baseman on the throw from the outfield. This is unacceptable and in my eyes, worthy of a fine.
-Joey Votto, may be playing like an MVP, but his drop last night could have given the Brewers another run and cost us the game. Jay Bruce makes a great grab in right and throws a perfectly fieldable ball to Votto, who just flat-out misses it. Now Votto can afford to make mistakes because he has been simply phenomenal during the course of the year, but plays like this in a playoff game will cost us the ball game.
-Did Drew Stubbs forget to wake up yesterday? Now I realize that he got on base two times (from walks). On one particular play, he made two bonehead baserunning errors. He ran through the stop sign given from Red’s 3rd base coach and then did not slide into 3rd. I do not care how fast you are, you could be Flash for all I care, when you are told to slide, you slide. In addition, he popped up a bunt in the 10th. The commentators were saying that Stubbs does not really know how to bunt. How is this possible? The guy has the best wheels in the League and cannot lay down a bunt? Give me a break.
-Where has our seemingly amazing plethora of arms gone? Mike Leake has faltered big time down the stretch. Travis Wood is starting to struggle a little bit. Edinson Volquez has had a rough go of it. Even Arthur Rhodes, who has been the best setup man in the game, does not seem to have it lately. Can our pitching staff redeem its earlier form and lead us deep into October baseball? Hopefully Chapman can provide a boost to the bullpen.
-Lastly, there were 14, 589 fans there last evening, which fills 34.5% of the Great American Ballpark. Cincinnati needs to get out and support these guys even it was just a Monday night. We are in a pennant race and hoping to make a deep run in the postseason. In September and October baseball, playing in front of a packed house at home really can help the team gut out some tight games.
I will admit that I was a bit cynical here today. But I am a realist. If the Reds play like they did last night, they will be swept in a playoff series without question. But the beautiful thing for us, we have a 6 game lead, are 21 games over 500, and have a fairly weak schedule down the stretch.
Hopefully our boys can get their heads on straight and start coming to the ball park ready to play (I know they can).
Last night was a prime example of winning ugly, lets just not make a habit of it.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.