The Cincinnati Reds have talked for weeks about the importance of getting on a roll. Now they’ve done it. It’s probably only a coincidence they haven’t lost since a double rainbow appeared outside Great American Ball Park during a rain delay Monday.
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A five-game winning streak, their longest of the season, has moved the Reds to 35-38. They trail the Chicago Cubs by 5½ games in the National League Central. By comparison, last year on June 21, the Reds were 29-45 and 15 games back in the division.
The Reds are not only winning, they’re beating good teams. They swept the Houston Astros (48-28), who are tied for the most wins in the American League, and then beat the Milwaukee Brewers (40-35), the second-place team in the NL Central, 7-1 in the series opener Thursday.
Morale in the clubhouse has improved with the record.
“I didn’t play in the game yesterday,” Derek Dietrich said Tuesday after a 4-3 victory against the Astros, “and I was mentally exhausted because when you play these type of teams and these types of games and you’re really all in on the close ones, it can be mentally exhausting just staying in and watching it and supporting the guys. Obviously, playing in it, it’s the same thing. That’s how you should feel after the game when you know you’ve given it everything you’ve got mentally and physically. That’s kind of what we’re after. It’s a good feeling at the end of the day or the end of the night.”
How have the Reds won five straight? Here are five reasons:
1. Close games: The Reds have three one-run wins during the streak. They’re 12-15 in one-run games but have won six of their last eight.
2. Dominant pitching: The Reds haven’t allowed more than three runs in any of the five games. Four of the team’s five starters have earned victories in the streak: Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani and Tanner Roark. Tyler Mahle didn’t win Wednesday, when the Reds rallied with two runs in the ninth, despite allowing two earned runs in seven innings.
The Reds rank second in the National League with a 3.49 team ERA.
3. Strong Senzel: Rookie Nick Senzel has driven in six runs during the five games. He gave the Reds a 2-0 lead with a two-run single in the fifth inning Monday. On Wednesday, his two-out single in the ninth inning scored Jose Peraza to tie the game. On Thursday, he walked with the bases loaded to bring in the first run in a three-run first inning and hit a two-run home run in the seventh.
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4. Reliable relievers: Reds relievers lead the National League by a wide margin with 3.40 ERA. The Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen ranks second with a 3.96 ERA.
The last five relievers to make appearances (Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Matt Bowman, Jared Hughes and Zach Duke) have combined to pitch 6 2/3 scoreless innings in the last three games.
5. Better hitting: The Reds are hitting .288 in the five games, raising their season average to .234, the third worst in the league.