Results: 2-1 win over Rockies; 6-4 loss to Rockies; 5-2 win over Nationals; 8-5 win over Nationals; 8-2 win over Nationals.
Record // Run differential // Place in NL Central: 22-27 // minus-25 // fourth, 10.5 games back of the first-place Cardinals.
Notable performances/trends: After Skip Schumaker’s pinch-hit base knock in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s foray mercifully ended the Reds’ nine-game losing skid, the club crashed back down to earth on Wednesday, permitting the immortal Kyle Kendrick to dominate them for most of the game. Afterward, a team meeting was held, and reportedly manager Bryan Price was the only one to speak during the gathering. And wouldn’t you know it, the Reds went on to sweep the NL East-leading Washington Nationals over the weekend for their first series win since May 11-13. … Todd Frazier’s 16 home runs are two behind the Mariners’ Nelson Cruz and the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, who co-hold the major-league lead with 18 apiece. … Marlon Byrd is back on the struggle bus, as a recent cold stretch has dropped his slash line to .209/.280/.436 in 182 plate appearances. Byrd’s $8 million salary for 2016 becomes fully guaranteed if he reaches 550 plate appearances in 2015. … It was a great week on the farm for top Reds pitching prospects, as Robert Stephenson (seven innings, zero runs, three hits, one walk, 10 strikeouts at Double-A), Nick Travieso (5.2 innings, zero runs, six hits, one walk, three strikeouts at High-A), Amir Garrett (seven innings, two runs (zero earned), six hits, zero walks, 12 strikeouts at High-A), and Jon Moscot (six innings, one run, four hits, three walks, three strikeouts at Triple-A) were brilliant in their most recent outings. … In the bottom of the seventh inning Sunday, Joey Votto walked down to first on a 3-2 count and no one noticed. … Billy Hamilton is ranked 100th among 168 qualified MLB hitters in groundball-flyball ratio, a concerning trend for someone who needs to hit the ball on the ground to make the best use of his prolific speed. (Hat tip to @Buster_ESPN for the original thought.)
Roster notes: Johnny Cueto missed his second straight start over the weekend due to elbow inflammation, but the right-hander will make his return to the rotation Tuesday in Philadelphia. … Jason Marquis was officially bumped to the bullpen Friday, meaning the Reds now have three rookies in the rotation—Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, and Michael Lorenzen. That trio combined to throw 18 innings in three starts over the weekend, allowing 18 hits and nine earned runs. … The Reds will go with an 8-man bullpen and 4-man bench for the time being. … Brandon Phillips (turf toe) returned to the everyday lineup Saturday after not starting for three straight games.
Notable Reds quote, Part I: “I threw it as hard as I could, and it ran up and hit him. What are you going to do? He should have jogged, but what are you going to do? Be a baseball player. Sorry I hit you, run.” — Reds reliever Tony Cingrani to reporters after Friday’s game. Cingrani hit Harper in the back with the first pitch he threw after being summoned to replace Jumbo Diaz. Harper took his sweet time getting to first base, then traded words with Votto upon reaching first.
Notable Reds quote, Part II: “I lost my wallet two weeks ago. It’s so annoying. Then one day I found it in a door of my car. That’s how I feel with my swing: I finally found my wallet. It took a long time.” — A philosophical Votto said post-game Friday after hitting his first home run in the month of May.
Movie quote that sums up last week: “Nobody makes me bleed my own blood. Nobody!” — The Dodgeball-esque context of the semi-heated conversation between White Goodman Harper and Peter La Fleur Votto at first base Friday evening. (I have to guess since neither party would spill the beans on the actual discussion.)
As the (Reds Lineup) World Turns: Phillips was back in the leadoff spot upon his return Saturday, and his solo home run Sunday snapped an 0-for-18 stretch. … Zack Cozart hit fifth Sunday, the sixth different spot in the lineup the shortstop has hit in the season, most on the team. Cozart has also batted first, second, sixth, seventh, and eighth.
Reason for OPTIMISM/pessimism: What the Reds did in their three-game pasting of the Nationals over the weekend was reminiscent of what the 2010 and 2012 Reds did: the starting pitchers went deep into games, the offense strung hits together to complement the long ball, and base runners ran with the alertness of the Queen’s Guard protecting Buckingham Palace. (Anyone else remember Phillips shouting, “That’s what we do in Cincinnati!” when Scott Rolen went first to third during the 2010 All-Star Game?)
Who’s next?: Following an off-day today, the Reds begin the month of June with a brief road trip, traveling to Philadelphia for three tilts. Over the weekend, Cincinnati returns home for three opposite the Padres.
Movie scene to sum up the week ahead: Much like the supremely-confident Agent J trash-talking and taunting The Bug during the endgame of Men in Black, the Reds have to be consumed with righteous bravado heading east to play the Phillies—who own the worst run differential (minus-73) in the majors—after sweeping the Nationals. (You need to ease up out my face before something bad happen to you.)
Relevant Reds video clip: My favorite play in baseball? A masterfully-executed relay to nail a base runner trying to advance one base too many, which is something the Reds did Sunday. (If that relay fits your fancy, check out the length-of-the-field relay the White Sox compiled Sunday.)
Not-so-relevant Reds video clip: That time Johnny Bench homered twice at Yankee Stadium in Game 4 of the 1976 World Series to secure a Reds sweep of the Yankees for their second straight World Series crown. The 1976 Reds went 102-60 in the regular season with a run differential of +224, and won all seven of their postseason games, brooming the Phillies (3-0) and Yankees (4-0). (This is further proof that the Big Red Machine is both a gift and a curse to the franchise.)
Notes from around the National League Central: Former Reds infielder Pokey Reese was named the high school coach of his struggling alma mater last Monday. … Young Cubs standouts Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and Kris Bryant are among NL leaders in All-Star voting. … Cubs pitcher Jon Lester’s regular-season hitless streak reached 58 at-bats Wednesday, good for a new MLB record. … Cardinals first baseman and primary cleanup hitter Matt Adams had surgery to repair a completely torn quad muscle Friday, likely ending his season. … The Brewers ended a seven-game losing streak by topping the Diamondbacks in 17 innings Sunday. Milwaukee starter Matt Garza pitched five shutout innings of relief to earn the victory. … More good news for the NL-worst Brewers (17-34): All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy is expected back from the disabled list today. Lucroy hasn’t played since breaking his left big toe on April 20. … The Cubs (26-22) and Pirates (26-24) have enjoyed the spoils of some tremendous starting pitching in 2015.
Notes from around Major League Baseball: Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who has done a haphazard job of managing Philly’s rebuild, trashed the team’s fan base. … Players and coaches on the Indians are shaving their heads to show support for the daughter of Mike Aviles, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia. … The Seager brothers combined for seven hits Tuesday night, with Kyle doing the mashing for the Mariners and Corey crushing for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City. … In an effort to limit their young starters from throwing too many innings without having to shut down the talented hurlers later in the season, the Mets are going to trot out a 6-man rotation into August. … MLB’s pace-of-play edicts seem to be having a nice effect as game times are down nine minutes from last season. … Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth has two small fractures in his left wrist, and is likely out until August. It is the third time Werth has broken his left wrist. (Ow!) … Harper’s single off Aroldis Chapman’s 102.2 mph fastball Friday was the “hardest” pitch in the PITCHf/x era anyone has delivered a base hit on. … Home plate umpire Mike Winters reportedly told Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis that his “presentation was poor” during Friday’s game in St. Louis. Ellis was tossed from the game after he (understandably) was miffed at what—if true—is an out-of-line comment for an umpire to make. … Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg was placed on the disabled list Saturday with neck stiffness after leaving his start Friday after 16 pitches. … Josh Hamilton won the game for the Rangers Sunday with a two-run double in the bottom of the ninth. The Red Sox walked Prince Fielder—the American League leader in batting average after missing most of last season due to neck surgery—to get to Hamilton, thereby putting the winning run on base.
Grant Freking is a Nuxhall Way and Cincinnati Magazine contributor, and also writes for Redleg Nation and The Ohioan. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.