Votto’s resurgence and an easy schedule could push the Reds past the Padres
By Joe Clark, Sports Editor
For the second year in a row there could be a playoff baseball team in Cincinnati this October.
At 65-55, the Reds sit 1.5 games back of the San Diego Padres for the second wild card spot in the National League. On paper, the Padres look like the better team, but the game isn’t played on paper. In addition, the Padres have the hardest schedule remaining in baseball.
Meanwhile, the Reds have three games remaining against the hapless Cubs, nine games left against the Pirates and four games left against the Nationals.
With both the Pirates and Nationals struggling immensely, Cincinnati should have two very winnable series, and the team is catching fire at the right time.
The Reds entered this position thanks to all-star production from Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos, the latter being more unexpected than the former.
With Winker on the IL, the Reds brought up Jose Barrero to replace him on the 26-man roster, and Barrero should be an upgrade for the Reds at shortstop.
The Reds obviously want Winker back as soon as possible. When he comes back, rosters will have expanded, leaving room for Barrero to remain on the roster.
The Reds have also seen Joey Votto return to form in a big way, as the future Hall of Famer is slashing .284/.377/.575 with 26 home runs and 76 RBIs. Votto also collected the 2,000th hit of his storied career in Monday night’s win against the Cubs.
Pitching-wise, the Reds have gotten ace-level production from Wade Miley (10-4, 2.84 ERA) and have seen really solid seasons from Tyler Mahle (10-3, 3.58 ERA) and rookie Vladimir Gutierrez (8-3, 3.95 ERA).
Jeff Hoffman, a former top prospect in the Blue Jays and Rockies farm system, has found a home in Cincinnati and been a stabilizing force in the rotation and out of the bullpen as well.
While Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray haven’t lived up to expectations this year, the Reds have found contributions from players they didn’t expect, such as Miley, Gutierrez and Hoffman. This has helped them still form a solid pitching staff.
As always, the bullpen is the Reds’ biggest issue: If only someone could tell Mike Brown to invest in the Bengals offensive line and Bob Castellani to invest in the Reds’ bullpen Cincinnati would be golden.
Tejay Antone, who’s currently injured has been one of the only relievers on the team who’s been even average (along with trade deadline pickup Mychal Givens). If the Reds collapse down the stretch, odds are that the bullpen will be the biggest reason why.
If the Reds do make the wildcard game, they’ll likely play the Dodgers or Giants, which won’t be an easy game.
Still, the result can’t get much worse than last season’s debacle of a playoff matchup, when the Reds went 22 innings without scoring a run as they went down meekly in two games to the Braves.
Even if the Reds don’t end up making it into the playoff field, they’re playing meaningful baseball down the stretch in August and September, which surely means something for a fanbase that hasn’t seen a whole lot of good baseball at Great American Ballpark the last few years.