Not Bad!—By Dr. John Huang
(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – Let’s get something out of the way first. The Cincinnati Reds (20-24) haven’t been very good this year. In fact, two months into the season, they’re already mired in last place in the National League Central, six and a half games behind the division leading Chicago Cubs (25-16).
With a rain-delayed 4-2 victory at Great American Ballpark tonight, however, the 18,739 fans in attendance found themselves surprisingly staring at a series win against a team that has dominated them over the past five seasons. Jose Peraza homered in the bottom of the fifth, and Nick Senzel, Joey Votto, and Eugenio Suarez all had two-hit games—sparking Cincinnati to their second straight come-from-behind victory over Chicago. Luis Castillo tossed 5.1 solid innings, giving up two earned runs on two hits, while striking out six on his way to his fifth win of the year. Raisel Iglesias came on in relief for his ninth save of the season.
Pitching really hasn’t been the Achilles heel for the Reds this year. Their major problem has been getting some timely hitting. Heading into the series with the Cubs, Cincinnati was the worst hitting club in the Majors, sporting a team batting average of only .216. They ranked 26th among 30 teams in on-base percentage (.293) and 22nd in runs scored (171).
Having said all that, I’ll take a win over the Cubs any day of the year. Cincinnati may not be going anyplace anytime soon, so fans might as well enjoy bragging rights—at least for one evening. Ever since they broke their infamous 108-year World Series drought in 2016, it seems like everyone’s a Cubs fan. To be honest, I liked it better when these bandwagon jumpers remained hidden in the Wrigley Field ivy. I’ll take Ernie Banks over Victor Caratini, Fergie Jenkins over Jose Quintana, and Ryne Sandberg over Daniel Descalso any day of the week. Harry Caray, Steve Bartman, and the “Curse of the Billy Goat” are the real Chicago MVPs in my book. Perhaps the Reds can learn a thing or two from Chicago’s travails and transformations.
The Reds season thus far—although painful for fans to stomach—at least hasn’t been routine. They’ve had two games delayed by either swarming bees or flickering lights. There’ve been fights, ejections, and plenty of questionable lineup decisions. Just within the past two weeks, the team has blown an 8-0 lead to a team that supposedly can’t score, they’ve been no hit by a guy who supposedly can’t pitch, and they’ve had a game where they hit three home runs on consecutive pitches in the first inning, only to lose as their offense went inexplicably dormant.
As a matter of fact, it seems like every other game for Cincinnati is a one-run affair they somehow manage to lose. In other words, they seem snakebit—the record bears that out. They’re 7-13 in one-run games and the only team with more than nine one-run losses. If that weren’t enough, they’re the only Major League team with a positive run differential and a losing record.
So it’s time to throw in the towel on this team, right? Not so fast, my friend. Here’s why there’s still reason for hope.
First of all, good pitching can overcome bad hitting. As long as the Reds pitching staff stays healthy and maintains their level of success, a move up the standings is not out of the question. Cincinnati’s team ERA of 3.35 leads the National League and ranks second in the Major Leagues behind only Tampa Bay (2.82). The Reds’ bullpen ERA of 3.23 also leads the National League.
Secondly, including the Cubs series, the Reds play 15 of their next 21 games against divisional opponents. If they’re going to make a move for the playoffs, now’s the perfect time. If ninety wins gets you in, then the Reds need simply to play .600 ball the rest of the way. Not easy or probable, but not impossible either.
Thirdly, the Reds offense has shown some recent signs of life. Adding Nick Senzel has provided an immediate spark. Surely Joey Votto is a better hitter than his .200 average indicates. Eugenio Suarez and Jose Iglesias have both shown they can produce in the clutch. Grab a little momentum and the law of averages is bound to equilibrate. Those one-run losses could easily escalate into big-time wins.
“Hell of a team,” said Suarez after the big-time win tonight. “If you’ve got a good defense, and the pitchers do a really good job, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
That sure doesn’t sound like a team mired in last place. Maybe it’s not as bad as you think. Not bad at all, if you’re a Cincinnati Reds fan.
Dr. John Huang is lead writer for Sports View America. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.