Baseball has found a new darling as the first half of the season reaches the home stretch: The Cincinnati Reds, who are riding young talent like T.J. Friedl and Matt McClain while recently adding phenom Elly De La Cruz and re-adding veteran Joey Votto, have found themselves atop the NL Central in June, the latest they've led the division since 2012.
They're doing this despite not being predicted to be a breakout team. In the preseason, BetMGM had set their win total at 64.5 games, the third-lowest total in baseball. They're currently on pace for 82 wins on the year.
Contributing to that total is a nine-game winning streak, in which they took two of three against the Cardinals, swept Royals and Astros, and won the first of a three-game set against the Rockies. In this time, they've outscored opponents 55-34 while jumping to the top of the NL Central standings. They also got above .500 with Saturday's win for the first time since they were 3-2.
In a division that has thoroughly underperformed this year (or at least, the Cardinals have underperformed), the Reds and Pirates look like teams who are peeking around the corner and have one foot extended to turn it. If Corbin Carroll weren't otherworldly in Arizona, McClain would likely be getting Rookie of the Year buzz, and De La Cruz has been a sensation since his call-up this month.
Ten games also has historical significance for the Reds, who have won this many games in a row just once since the turn of the century. They're still four off the fabled franchise's all-time mark, but this is the most games the Reds have won in 11 years. That has to count for something.
Longest Reds winning streaks
The mark for most consecutive wins for the Reds belongs to the 1899 squad, who won 14 straight games from the second game of a July 26 doubleheader to the second game of an Aug. 12 doubleheader. They finally lost 8-3 to the Boston Beaneaters on Aug. 14, but it's a mark that has stood for over 120 years.
The Reds also have two winning streaks of 13 games, two of 12 games and three of 11 games. Their 8-6 win over Colorado on Tuesday marked their 10th consecutive win on the current streak and was the 11th time in franchise history that the Reds have been on a 10-game winning streak. They last achieved that feat in 2012, as you an see below.
|2||Cincinnati Reds||1918 - 1919||13|
|9||Cincinnati Reds||2023 -||10|
|Cincinnati Reds||1975 - 1976||9|
Joey Votto's return
A big part of the Reds' success has been through offense, as well. Votto broke through in his first game of the season Monday, going 2-for-3 with a solo home run, a two-RBI single, and a walk. Much was made about how Votto's return would impact the Reds and if he would have to be treated as a legacy addition to the lineup rather than a contributing member of a team looking to make a push. Votto at least quieted those conversations in his first game back -- and against a lefty in Austin Gomber.
There's a vibe with this Reds team, a vibe Votto encapsulated perfectly after the game. "This is your team," he said in the on-field interview, addressing Reds fans. "All you wanted is for us to play well. For us to earn that championship you deserve. And for you to support me with such a hot team -- for me to rejoin the team -- And for you to support me in doing that. It means a great deal to me, and I'm so glad to be back, and it's so good to get a win today."
Nothing but love for 19 ❤️ pic.twitter.com/GYHEjx2Ij1— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) June 20, 2023
For all of his quirkiness and goofiness, Votto loves the Reds and is synonymous with the team. The six-time all-star is 39 years old and has been with the team since 2007, so he's seen some down years. If he comes back and contributes consistently, it's only going to make Great American Ballpark more excited.
Reds stat leaders
The Reds have had several players step up to put together this improbable season to date. As impressive as De La Cruz has been -- and as much as this streak coincides with his call-up -- there are plenty of other Reds who deserve credit for this streak. Here are some of the stat leaders through the year to date.
Hitting stats include players who have played 30 games or more, pitching includes 30-plus innings.
|Batting Average||Matt McClain||.317|
|Home Runs||Jonathan India, Spencer Steer||10|
|ERA (Starter)||Hunter Greene||3.93|
|ERA (Reliever)||Alexis Diaz||1.80|
The youth movement is alive and well in Cincinnati, as evidenced by the team leaders. India and Greene have served as faces of the franchise before De La Cruz's arrival and Votto's return. The Reds are getting progressively more well-rounded, and it's showing in the box score.
Reds schedule 2023
Things aren't getting easier for the Reds. It has to be noted that their 10-game winning streak has come against the slumping Cardinals, one of the worst teams in baseball in the Royals, and the Rockies. The Astros are mixed in there, so it would be disingenuous to say they aren't playing anyone. But things are about to get tougher.
Following their set with the Rockies, they play the hot Braves and Orioles before seeing the slumping Padres and the Nationals. If the Reds are able to touch that 14-game record, it won't be for lack of opponents with Atlanta up next.
|Wednesday, June 21||Colorado Rockies||29-46||12:35 p.m.|
|Friday, June 23||Atlanta Braves||46-26||6:40 p.m.|
|Saturday, June 24||Atlanta Braves||46-26||4:10 p.m.|
|Sunday, June 25||Atlanta Braves||46-26||1:40 p.m.|
|Monday, June 26||at Baltimore Orioles*||44-27||7:05 p.m.|
|Tuesday, June 27||at Baltimore Orioles||44-27||7:05 p.m.|
|Wednesday, June 28||at Baltimore Orioles||44-27||7:05 p.m.|
|Friday, June 30||San Diego Padres||35-37||5:10 p.m.|
|Saturday, July 1||San Diego Padres||35-37||1:40 p.m.|
|Sunday, July 2||San Diego Padres||35-37||1:40 p.m.|
* - Would break franchise winning streak record
The Reds would need to complete the sweep against the Rockies, sweep the Braves, and win a game against the Orioles to get to 15 straight. It's a tall order, but with how their offense has played, nothing is impossible.