The last week and a half has seen the sub-.500 Cincinnati Reds trade away Scooter Gennett, Yasiel Puig, and top prospect Taylor Trammell, and somehow, their offense has improved dramatically. Unsung prospects Josh VanMeter and Aristides Aquino have taken the roster by storm, as has former 1st rounder Phil Ervin, another unheralded bat at this juncture of his career.
Somehow, though, the mix and match nature and effectively platooning have been working wonders for that section of the Reds roster, and the result is that the offense has gone from largely dormant to the club that has scored the 6th most runs in baseball since the All Star break.
Then, there’s the starting pitching, which is now as talented and deep as it may have ever been in Cincinnati after the acquisition of Trevor Bauer (for Trammell) and the welcoming back of Alex Wood. Paired with Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo, that’s a formidable foursome for this weekend’s series against the Cubs, and considering this is the biggest August series the Reds will have played over the last 6 years, that’s certainly reason for optimism.
Yes, the Reds are 4 games under .500. Yes, they’re 6.5 games back in the NL Central, and yes, they’re 4.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot. Still, they’re not completely vanquished yet, and it seems the moves, trades, and promotions they’ve doled out in the last few weeks have them playing their best baseball of the season. They’re 8-3 over their last 11 games, and have won 4 of their last 5 series - the lone non-victory being a split of a 4 game set in Atlanta against the red-hot Braves.
Enter the Chicago Cubs, the owners at this juncture of a 2.5 game lead in the Central. Their last week has seen them surge to the top of the division on the back of a 3-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers, though all is not particularly rosy for the Northsiders at the moment. At last glance, they had a position player pitching to catcher Kyle Schwarber in a blowout loss to Oakland, and while that’s obviously just a lone game, it’s somewhat indicative of their misfortune at the moment.
Just days after the One True Trade Deadline passed, the Cubs placed star catcher Willson Contreras on the 10-day IL with a hamstring issue, the second such stint of his there this year. Compounding that problem was the lack of Martin Maldonado this time around, as they’d traded him away prior to July 31st and no longer had that safety net behind the dish. Pair that with the placement of both Craig Kimbrel and Brandon Kintzler on the IL, too, and the Cubs are playing about as short-handed as they have at any junction of this season.
I’m not saying the Reds are going places in 2019, but they sure as heck haven’t folded up shop just yet, and if ever there was a miracle up their sleeve for this season, this weekend’s Reds/Cubs series is where we’d need to see it to believe it. Rest assured, there is going to be a wave of blue in Great American Ball Park this weekend, as is par for the course at any juncture of any season. What should, and what I hope is different for the first time in a long time is that there is just as much - if not, god forbid, more - Red there, too, as these Redlegs are up against their biggest stage in at least 6 years.
The first step to success is establishing relevance, as this MLB Network dipwad so elegantly mouth-farted earlier today. The Reds have a chance to do just that this weekend, and I am very, very here for it.