Reds give fans hope following disasterous 2018


Cincinnati’s Joey Votto watches his first inning solo home run during Wednesday’s game in Cleveland. (AP photo)

Cincinnati’s Joey Votto watches his first inning solo home run during Wednesday’s game in Cleveland. (AP photo)


CLEVELAND — Bang. Bang. Reds win. Well, OK, technically, bang, bang, bang, bang. Reds win. But you get the picture.

Cincinnati’s first two batters hammered home runs to stake out a 2-0 lead, and the Reds added two more homers and five more runs to escape Cleveland on Wednesday with a split in the first two games of the annual — cue dramatic background music — Battle. Of. Ohio. #Eyeroll. The so-called intrastate rivals meet again July 6-7 in the Queen City.

Seven runs? The Reds? Hard to believe, but these Redlegs are adept at doing the unbelievable. Just not always in a positive way.

Those back-to-back dingers to open the game? Unbelievable that it had never happened in 118 seasons of Cleveland baseball that the visiting team’s first two batters went yard-yard. (Or is it went-went yard? Grammarians, please weigh in.)

Nick Senzel led off with a 385-foot shot to left that greased the skids for the Reds’ 7-2 win at Progressive Field. Joey Votto followed with a 379-yard shot to center that made it seem pretty clear this would be Cincinnati’s day.

Or not. As we said, the Reds are good at doing the kind of unbelievable things their fans wish never came to pass. For instance, 24 of their 36 losses have come by two runs or fewer. Either this club is getting closer to competing at an MLB level — unlike last year’s team, which was a disaster wrapped in a calamity — or it lacks the kind of “it” factor that turns one-run losses into walk-off wins.

I spoke with writers and broadcasters who cover the Reds daily to see which it is. The consensus is that Cincinnati is close. To winning the National League Central? The NL pennant? World Series? Uh, no. To being pretty decent, which is no reason to throw a party but reason enough to put up with current foibles, including struggling to put bat on ball.

Cincinnati’s .233 team batting average ranks 13th out of 15 NL teams. Bright side? A month ago, the Reds were hitting .212, worst in the majors. The nadir was getting no-hit on May 7 by Oakland pitcher Mike Fiers, whose fastball floats like a paper airplane tossed from a 30-story building.

From that standpoint, the Reds are improving. True, this team lives in the world of two steps forward, one step back. But do that long enough and voila — progress!

“You have to be patient and look at the long term, yet also be able to approach every day like it’s the most important day ever,” Reds manager David Bell said. “More importantly, what keeps it in perspective is how you go about things and the process of doing things the way you believe.”

Votto sees the semblance of a plan coming together, if the offense can do its part.

“We need to get better on our side, put together better at-bats,” he said. “There is a lot left in the tank with this offense. The pitching has been fantastic. We’ve been steady defensively, but offensively we haven’t done our part. Fortunately, we have a good bit of season left to go.”

A solid foundation is forming. Team ERA is 3.58, down from last season’s pathetic 4.63. Starter Luis Castillo looks like the real deal.

“That kid’s nasty, throwing high 90s and he’s got a change-up that’s 10 mph off of that. He’s filthy,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Castillo on Tuesday.

Cincinnati is six games under .500, but only 7½ games back of Chicago in the Central and also in the wild card. If the Reds can string together wins like they did home runs against Cleveland? You never know.

Cincinnati’s Joey Votto watches his first inning solo home run during Wednesday’s game in Cleveland. (AP photo)
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2019/06/web1_onlinevotto-1.jpgCincinnati’s Joey Votto watches his first inning solo home run during Wednesday’s game in Cleveland. (AP photo)

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