The second month of the 2013 season is in the books for the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds finished the month of May 19-8 and stand 2-1/2 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals. With a third of the season already behind them, the Reds have a good idea of where they stand going forward.
After treading water in the month of April, the Reds found a groove in May and took advantage of playing some bad teams. The return of Johnny Cueto and Ryan Hanigan helped bolster the rotation and catching position. Furthermore, the platoon of Xavier Paul, Derrick Robinson, and Donald Lutz held there own in left field.
Despite playing some very good baseball over the last month, the Reds actually lost ground in the division. Entering June 1, the top three records in all of baseball played in the NL Central. The St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cincinnati Reds are making the NL Central a national storyline. With nobody backing down or fading from the pack, it appears the division crown will be as competitive as ever.
Joey Votto has returned to his 2010 MVP form and once again looks like the best hitter in the National League. Votto currently leads all of baseball in runs scored (45), walks (46), and on-base percentage (.465). More importantly, he is driving the ball to every corner of the field and hitting for power when opposing managers actually decide to pitch to him.
The starting rotation continues to produce quality start after quality start. Johnny Cueto looks healthy and strong after spending time on the disabled list in April. Mike Leake produced one of the best months of his young career while going 3-1 with an ERA of 1.87. Nobody on the current rotation has an ERA over 4 and the Reds have Tony Cingrani in the wings if anything should happen going forward.
Todd Frazier has hit a sophomore slump in a big way. Frazier didn’t hit a home run in the month of May and hit only .220. The Reds managed to produce enough offense from other positions to make up for the lack of production at third base, but there is no doubt they will need more from Frazier throughout the remainder of the season. Jay Bruce and Frazier supply the power this team needs in the middle of the lineup.Jonathan Broxton has looked uncomfortable in the setup spot. Even when the big guy does his job, it isn’t easy. Relievers have ups and downs just like hitters throughout the year, but perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to let Sam Lecure try his hand in the eighth inning.
Lecure has been near dominant this season and he has the mindset to succeed in that role. There is no shame in giving Broxton a break for a few weeks until he finds his stuff both mentally and physically.
Although Cueto and Hanigan returned, injuries are still a concern for this team going forward. It looks like Ryan Ludwick will be out until at least the middle of August. Sean Marshall is back on the disbaled list with a sore shoulder and Chris Heisey continues to rehab his hamstring. The Reds are continuing to get by with the active players on the roster, but at some point the injuries could catch up.
As mentioned in a recent column, the Reds took advantage of a weak schedule in the month of May and established themselves as a force in the National League. While it’s somewhat depressing to go 19-8 and still lose ground in the division, the Reds have done a great job of keeping pace with the Cardinals and staying in striking distance.
June brings two big series at home against the Cardinals and Pirates as well as the first west coast trip of the year. The Reds have played extremely well at Great American Ballpark and need to take advantage of the seven games against St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the coming weeks.
With the first two months behind them, the Reds find themselves in the heart of what looks like a very exciting division race. Strong pitching, good defense, and clutch hitting from Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips has been the recipe for success so far. Strong pitching and remaining healthy will be the key going forward.