Reds Review/Preview: Week 7

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Results: 4-3 win over Braves; 5-1 win over Braves; 4-3 win over Giants; 10-2 loss to Giants; 11-2 loss to Giants; 9-8 loss to Giants.

Record // Run differential // Place in NL Central: 18-20 // minus-18 // tied for third, 7.5 games back of the first-place Cardinals.

Notable performances/trends: How great it must’ve felt for regular-turned-in-limbo-bench-warmer Devin Mesoraco to drive in the winning run Tuesday night. Mesoraco—who is slated to try to catch a bullpen session this week—plated Michael Lorenzen, who pinch-ran for Brayan Pena and scored from first. The former collegiate center fielder looked the part running the bases—and claims he could beat any Red in a race aside from Billy Hamilton. … Speaking of Pena, he’s slashing .337/.414/.384 in Mesoraco’s stead while also beautifully performing his duties as Reds Director of Clubhouse Morale. … After leaving Tuesday’s game early, Brandon Phillips was diagnosed with turf toe on Wednesday. DatDude returned to the lineup Friday after missing two games. … By limiting the Braves to one run on two hits in his second career start Wednesday evening, Raisel Iglesias ensured his place on the Reds pitching staff. For now, Iglesias and Lorenzen will move to the bullpen as Cincinnati goes to a four-man rotation because A) the club has four off-days over the next two weeks, rendering a fifth starter useless and B) the organization wants to limit Iggy and ML’s innings. (I like this move because it means the Reds are keeping two of their best arms on the big-league club. And if the Reds are committed to keeping Jason Marquis in the rotation—the more time goes by, the more I believe Marquis secured his spot in the 2015 rotation in a high-stakes spring training poker game with manager Bryan Price and general manager Walt Jocketty—then shifting Iglesias and Lorenzen to the pen temporarily is the next best option.) … Johnny Cueto has four balks in eight starts this season after balking just once over the past two years.

Notable Reds quote, Part I: “He was a little bit like El Duque with that high leg kick and the ability to throw all his pitches from different angles. We really only had him on the ropes that one inning and he got out of it.” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to reporters after Iglesias’ start Wednesday, comparing the Reds righty to another Cuban, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, a former Yankees star.

Notable Reds quote, Part II: “I kind of take a pulse of every game, every at-bat—kind of go back and reflect, and it’s been good. It’s been good this series. I’ve been very cognizant of where I’m hitting the ball on the field. I think I’ve been using the whole field more than I have my entire career. I just have to continue to get the pitches that I get and don’t miss. That’s the biggest difference-maker.” Jay Bruce to MLB.com after Sunday’s game. There’s some Tao of Votto in that Bruce quote, as well as some partial truths. Bruce, who is slashing .190/.290/.397 this year, is hitting the ball more to left field and pulling the ball less in 2015, though not to the extremes that he believes. The right fielder showed signs of life with two home runs and five hits in nine at-bats Saturday and Sunday.

Movie scene that sums up last week: Much like Papa Doc was unaware of his impending doom during the final rap battle in 8 Mile, a smoldering-when-it’s-not-supposed-to-smolder smokestack at Great American Ball Park accurately forecasted Reds chances against the Giants over the weekend. (This guy’s a gangster? His real name is Clarence!)

As the (Reds Lineup) World Turns: It seems as if both Mesoraco and the Reds are warming to the idea of the injured catcher giving the outfield a try. Preparing Mesoraco for spot outfield work is an inspired move because the club has $28 million invested in Mesoraco and the team needs his bat in the lineup as often as possible. … Zack Cozart batted leadoff Saturday and Sunday, his first time hitting in the No. 1 hole since September 2, 2012. Cozart notched 471 plate appearances batting leadoff that season, slashing .223/.262/.379.

As the (Reds Leadership) World Turns: It was nice to see Price be proactive (finally) and remove Billy Hamilton from the leadoff spot. Hamilton essentially admitted that the move—which appears to be an indefinite one—will alleviate some pressure and allow him to focus purely on improving as a hitter and not setting up the entire lineup.

Reason for optimism/PESSIMISM: Anthony DeSclafani, Mike Leake, and Marquis were flat-out flammable in the final three games of the Giants series, combining to allowed six home runs, six walks, 21 earned runs, and 24 hits in 11 innings.

Who’s next?: After an off-day today, the Reds play two in Kansas City against the defending American League champion Royals, who own the majors’ second-best run differential at plus-55. Cincinnati receives another breather Thursday before jetting off to Cleveland for three games in 2015’s first installment of the Battle of Ohio.

Movie scene to sum up the week ahead: With the Cardinals still doing their thing and the Cubs surging, a bad week against two talented AL Central foes could really put the Reds in a bad position in respect to the division and Wild Card races. Cincinnati’s predicament is not unlike the bank job scene in Heat, where Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, and Dennis Haysbert go from perfectly executing the heist to engaging in urban warfare with Al Pacino and half of the Los Angeles Police Department in downtown L.A.

Notes from around the National League Central: Sean Marshall, who logged just 24.1 combined innings in 2013 and 2014, needs season-ending shoulder surgery after undergoing a procedure on his shoulder last year. It’s fair to say Marshall’s career is in jeopardy. … My thoughts are with the family of Darrell ‘Doc’ Rodgers, who passed away early last week following a long battle with cancer. Rodgers, 52, was a former Reds farmhand and assistant general manager with the franchise. … Price will reportedly be one of Giants manager Bruce Bochy’s assistants at the All-Star Game. … Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura was placed on the disabled list Thursday with a fractured right pinkie finger. … Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina pulled a fast one on Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall Thursday. … The Cubs edged the Mets 6-5 Thursday to sweep New York and hand manager Joe Maddon his 800th career victory. … Gregory Polanco, you poor, poor soul. … Joey Votto is enjoying a good season, but the best first baseman in the Central right now is the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, who is among the National League leaders in wOBA, wRC+, and WAR while leading the league in walk-to-strikeout ratio. … The Cardinals are calling up Jaime Garcia to start Thursday in their latest attempt to fill the void left by an Adam Wainwright’s season-ending Achilles injury. Garcia has battled various maladies over the last few seasons, having registered a total of 16 starts from 2013-14.

Notes from around Major League Baseball: Following the NFL’s Deflategate fiasco, Major League Baseball will bump up security to prevent potential ball tampering… The Mariners equaled a club record by thwacking six round-trippers in a blowout victory over the Padres Tuesday evening. … Also on Tuesday, Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton nuked a home run OUT of Dodger Stadium. … With the widow of Bob Feller watching, Indians starter Corey Kluber fanned 18 Cardinals over eight scoreless innings Wednesday. Kluber became the fifth pitcher ever with 18 strikeouts and zero walks in a game. … Phillies starter Aaron Harang threw eight shutout innings Thursday to lower his FIP to 2.87. The 37-year-old former Red has pitched at least six innings in each of his starts and has allowed two earned runs or fewer in all but two of his starts. … During Saturday night’s win over the Brewers, Mets starter Jacob DeGrom notched two hits during New York’s 10-run fourth inning. … Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre and Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera became the 52nd and 53rd members of the 400 home run club over the weekend. … Braves starter Shelby Miller came one out shy of a no-hitter Sunday vs. the Marlins, a game that would be the last contest for since-fired Miami manager Mike Redmond. In a curious move, the club tabbed general manager Dan Jennings as its next skipper. Jennings has never coached in the minor or major leagues.

Grant Freking is a Nuxhall Way and Cincinnati Magazine contributor, and also writes for The Ohioan and Redleg Nation. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

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