by Chris Ball

Loveland, OhioThe Reds season isn’t over, but after being swept by the Detroit Tigers this weekend, the outlook certainly felt bleaker than ever. After taking three straight games from the New York Yankees, one of the better teams in all of baseball, expectations were high that this Reds club had perhaps turned the corner (yet again) and could reach .500 or better by the All Star break. Detroit was 1-6 in its last 7 games prior to this series. But once again the Reds showed that they simply were not up to the task and could not string together any sort of momentum.

The Tigers beat the Reds in a variety of ways. Whether it was the long ball or hammering the bullpen Cincinnati simply could not find a way to close out Detroit and win any of their three games in the series. Multiple Reds comebacks fell short in those matchups which made each losses all the more frustrating, including Blake Dunn being thrown out at home plate in what was ultimately a very questionable call to send him in contact in the bottom of the ninth.

Hunter Greene pitched another gem (7 innings, 3 hits and he gave up no earned runs) after struggling in his previous two starts only to see Fernando Cruz and his bullpen implode shortly thereafter to take the loss. Cruz has really struggled of late. In his last 26 innings prior to Monday night’s game against the Rockies he allowed 23 hits and 17 earned runs for an ERA of 5.88, going 2-5 in that stretch. He’s gotten the Reds out of some jams that is true and he’s sent in for very high pressure situations, but the performance just hasn’t been there overall recently. He pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning against Colorado which was a welcome relief and something of redemption as he protected a gem turned in by another young Reds starter in Andrew Abbott who went 7 innings, struck out 8, and allowed just 3 hits, giving up no runs.

Even Graham Ashcraft did his part in his start in game 3 against the Tigers, giving up just one earned run before the Reds relievers once again let the bottom fall out. This time the culprit was Alexis Diaz who allowed three runs (although none of them ended up being earned) which ultimately put the game out of reach on Sunday.

It’s been one step forward and two steps back for so much of this 2024 season.

And yet, at this point the Reds have a lot to be optimistic about. Spencer Steer is having one heck of a July. Going into Sunday he had 3 home runs and a 1.214 OPS in July. But he also hit .280 in June and had a .783 OPS.Elly De La Cruz is an All Star and an absolutely electric player at just 22 years old. He has posted a .251 batting average with 15 home runs, 40 RBI and an .804 OPS. He also has 45 stolen bases. Jonathan India is another bright spot. In his last 30 games the Reds second baseman is hitting an insane .369 with a .451 OBP and a .583 slugging percentage. With the potentially season ending injury to Matt McLain, it’s tough to imagine a better scenario than India stepping in to do as well as he has.

On Monday night we got to see the stellar debut of Reds outfielder Rece Hinds who did nothing less than launch a galactic 449 foot home run after making an athletic play in the outfield and legging out a hustle double. Elly De La Cruz scored a run on a contact play from third base, a series of events that was nearly identical to the out made by Dunn just a few days ago. It’s a microcosm of this season for Cincinnati: two of the same plays, with an entirely different result.

The concern is that the flaws in this team are growing too large to reasonably ignore. Injuries or not, Stuart Fairchild, Nick Martini, and Will Benson have been staples in the outfield for large chunks this season. Unfortunately they are batting .224, .212, and .187 respectively. There is simply no way to be a serious playoff contender with those numbers in your lineup on a regular basis. Though trading for a reliable outfield bat would be an important way to show fans that this team is serious about trying to contend, but to be honest one bat may not be nearly enough.

Things have not gone to plan in 2024, that is an understatement. But this season has shown that the Reds cannot win without more help in the outfield/the bottom third of their order, and significant development from their young players. The good news is that there are two more series against the two worst teams in the National League (Colorado and Miami) before the All Star break that could stop the bleeding.

And the Reds big win on Monday night could be the start of some good things for this ball club. It had everything that is electric that the fans love to see: breathtaking speed by Elly, home runs by young players just called up, lights out pitching, and an offense that scored when it counted most. In the end though, Reds fans have seen wins that got Great American Ballpark rocking, and they’ve seen sweeps. But they’ve yet to see a real, sustained turnaround from this club. Let’s hope one still might be in the cards because games like last night’s win against the Rockies was the type of baseball this city and its fans truly deserve on a consistent basis.


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Christopher Ball is a longtime Loveland resident and an attorney. He graduated from Loveland High School in 2003 and was a member of the football team before going on to become a coach’s assistant at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. He has been following and rooting for the Reds and Bengals since the early 1990s and has been through the many ups and downs that fandom has wrought over the years.

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