Offense keeping Reds close to .500 as pitchers struggle

Cincinnati Reds' Nick Castellanos (2) celebrates with teammates after hitting a walk-off RBI single in the 10th inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Cincinnati on Sunday, May 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
Cincinnati Reds' Nick Castellanos (2) celebrates with teammates after hitting a walk-off RBI single in the 10th inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Cincinnati on Sunday, May 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Credit: Jeff Dean

Credit: Jeff Dean

Reds start two-game series against White Sox on Tuesday

Nick Castellanos helped make sure the Cincinnati Reds could enjoy their off day Monday.

After a 5-for-6 performance that included two home runs, four RBIs and a walk-off single in the 10th inning in a 13-12 victory Sunday against the Chicago Cubs, Castellanos said he just wanted to appreciate the moment.

“They don’t come around that often,” he said. “You just cherish it because baseball is a humbling game.”

The game humbled the Reds (13-14) a number of times in the first month of the season, but through Sunday, they were two victories better than they were through 27 games in 2019 and 2020 (11-16 both seasons) and at least were staying in contention in the National League Central Division.

By taking two of three games from the Los Angeles Dodgers (17-12) on the road and then two of three from the last-place Chicago Cubs (12-16) at Great American Ball Park, the Reds put a seven-game losing streak behind them. They start a two-game series at home against the Chicago White Sox (15-12) on Tuesday and then start a three-game series on the road against Cleveland Indians (13-13) on Friday.

“We’re still figuring out who we are,” Castellanos said. “It’s just ongoing, but I think that as a unit we’re headed in the right direction. We’re becoming more familiar with one another, and our consistency is just continuing to become more and more steady.”

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While Reds pitchers have struggled, producing a 4.97 ERA that ranks 27th out of 30 teams, and the relievers in particular haven’t performed well, compiling the second-worst ERA (5.76) in baseball, the offense has been the game’s best. Here are three standout stats.

1. Home runs: 43

The Reds lead baseball in home runs. The Atlanta Braves (40) are the only other team with 40 or more home runs. The Reds are on pace to hit 257. That would be a franchise record. They set the previous record of 227 in 2019.

Castellanos leads the Reds with nine home runs. He’s tied with Ronald Acuna, of the Atlanta Braves, Kris Bryant, of the Cubs, and J.D. Martinez, of the Boston Red Sox, for the big-league lead.

“Everybody steps to the plate, looking to do damage,” Castellanos said. “Not just to take a walk or get a single. Everybody’s out there to hit the ball hard and swinging the bat with bad intentions.”

2. Runs scored: 151

The Reds are averaging 5.59 runs per game. They also lead baseball in that category. They have scored 10 or more runs six times.

The Reds have produced at the plate as a team despite a slow start by Eugenio Suarez, who’s hitting .149 with five home runs and 12 RBIs. He went 3-for-5 Sunday, raising hopes that maybe he has turned the corner. It was only his second multi-hit game of the season.

“It was great to see,” manager David Bell said. “He’s had a tough month. A lot of great players have tough months. Not that it’s going to get any easier, but I think he’s keeping it in perspective and going out and competing. He definitely came through and helped us win that game today. He looked good at the plate, too.”

3. Catchers’ batting average: .337

The Reds rank second in baseball in batting average by their catchers. Tucker Barnhart is hitting .306 (19 for 62) in 21 games. Tyler Stephenson is hitting .364 (16 for 44) in 17 games.

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