CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 13: Brandon Phillips #4 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a single during the game against the Cleveland Indians at Great American Ball Park on June 13, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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CINCINNATI - Any skeptics who questioned the Reds’ leadership and maturity might want to reconsider after their performance last week.
Cincinnati rattled off six straight wins after a disappointing end to an interleague series against Detroit last weekend. The Tigers came to Great American Ball Park and took two of three contests, including a come-from-behind win in which the usually reliable bullpen faltered massively to close the series.
But the Reds have not lost since. They did not lose focus when a replay showed that Tigers closer Jose Valverde appeared to throw a spitball. A flu bug going around the clubhouse hindered the team, but Cleveland came and left Cincinnati without a win. An off-field spat between Dusty Baker and Indians’ hurler Derek Lowe did not translate into distracted play.
Even a trip to the Big Apple came and went without a hitch as the Reds defeated the Mets three games in a row.
So what’s working for Cincinnati? Everyone is gelling at the right time.
Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips have performed consistently and earned their sizeable paychecks last week. Chapman has converted on both save opportunities since the blown save against Detroit, and the rest of the bullpen has been on task too. Even the upstart Todd Frazier has been chipping in with his bat and his glove with several absences due to injuries.
The Reds have allowed more than three runs only once since their last loss, and that game was a comfortable 12-5 win against the Indians.
The six-game streak ties Cincinnati’s longest of the season, and there are three more games against reeling Cleveland on tap. Next up is a rematch involving Lowe on Monday night. Life is always less predictable on the road, but the Reds are one of three teams in the National League with a winning record as both the home and visiting team. All three of those squads leads their respective divisions.
The next big test for Cincinnati is the nine-game West Coast road trip to close out the first half of the season. But Baker and his team are focusing on nothing more than tonight’s matchup at Progressive Field.
And perhaps that focus — a product of leadership and maturity — is the most progressive part of this team.
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