The Reds are back home to begin what is arguably their most important series in the last three seasons as they take on the St. Louis Cardinals. This is quite honestly the position many thought they would be in at this point in the season. Against the backdrop of what will be the Gillette Civil Rights Game on Saturday, the Reds begin the weekend a mere half-game behind the division-leading Cardinals.
The Reds are hot as they begin this series. Cincinnati enters on a five-game winning streak and is 12-4 in their last 16 games. They are hitting .299 as a team and the pitching was incredible at Pittsburgh this week. The staff allowed just one run in three games and two young starters – Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey – pitched the first complete games of their careers. Forget the shutouts for both. They had never pitched a major league complete game before.
What is very nice is that this team promised payback against the Pirates for the sweep they suffered at the hands of the Bucs in Pittsburgh last April, and they delivered in spades. It’s good to see a young team have enough confidence in themselves that they are willing to put themselves directly in the bullseye, and then deliver so thoroughly.
The spark is in the clubhouse. “We’ve got some excitement going,” said Monday’s winner Bronson Arroyo. “We definitely have a little different swagger than we’ve had the last four years.”
Talk about swagger. Enter the big, bad Cardinals. Forget their recent struggles. This is a team that has always had an answer for their counterparts from the East. The Reds thought they were flying pretty high last month when they entered St. Louis after sweeping at Houston. After winning a rain-shortened game one on Friday, the Cardinals took games two and three to win the series.
It was the second time this year that the Cardinals have put a damper on the Reds season. The first time was the opening series of 2010. The Reds were coming off of a very good spring training and hope was in the air. Then St. Louis took the first two games. Reds left fielder Johnny Gomes hit a walk-off homer in the third game to avoid the sweep. The Cardinals are 4-2 this year vs. the Reds.
Cincinnati has a chance this weekend to take a step over St. Louis. If they can win on Friday, or take two of three in the series, it will be the first time that the Reds have been in first place since June 8, 2006. The Reds have been doing a lot of historical things this week. Cueto and Bailey became the first Reds duo to pitch consecutive complete games without issuing a walk since 1925, when Jakie May (7/27 vs Cardinals) and Dolf Luque (7/28 vs Phillies) did it. Cueto and Bailey are also the first Reds pitchers to throw consecutive complete-game shutouts since Jose Rijo and Tom Browning did it on 6/9 (4-0) and 6/10 (5-0) of 1989, both at Dodger Stadium.
There will be huge crowds at Great American Ball Park this weekend. Fans around the country will get to watch rookie Mike Leake battle it out against Adam Wainwright on MLB Network on Saturday night.
The buzz is in the air. The Reds have a great opportunity to make some noise and ace a very serious early-season test. It should be fun.
SYMPATHIES – Our sincerest sympathies go out to Hall of Fame writer Hal McCoy at the loss of his dog, Barkley, his 12-year-old miniature schnauzer early Thursday morning. Barkley had been diagnosed with Lymphoma. Anyone who has lost a long-time pet, friend, and companion knows how much an animal becomes a part of the family. McCoy said that Barkley passed away in his arms, and that he was “the best friend I ever had.” McCoy was the Reds beat writer for the Dayton Daily News from the heyday of the Big Red Machine until the end of last season, and I consider him a friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with Hal and his wife, Nadine, at this sad time.
About the Author
Written by Dave Allen
I'm a lifelong Cincinnati sports fan who has been following the Reds and Bengals ever since I can remember. My first Reds game was Game 6 of the '72 World Series and my first Bengals game was an October 1975 clash with the Steelers. I've been involved in sports media since Junior High, when I assisted with scores for Bob Trumpy SportsTalk in 1979 on WLW Radio. My biggest Reds highlight came in 1998 when I was chosen to be the public address announcer at Riverfront Stadium (then called Cinergy Field) for Opening Day and the entire first homestand. I am thrilled to be involved with PSB and I hope you enjoy my entries!