Past Rock Bottom, the Cincinnati Reds are Showing Signs of Life

The Cincinnati Reds have been hot lately and are looking to put a rough month of May behind them and get back into the playoff mix in the NL.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MAY 10: Elly De La Cruz #44 of the Cincinnati Reds is congratulated by teammates after he scored against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the third inning at Oracle Park on May 10, 2024 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

“The Reds fall 4-6 to the Padres and have now lost eight straight series.” That was May 23rd, which at that time was coming up on a month of awful baseball including an eight-game losing streak.

Mike Ford and Nick Martini were not the answer. An entire team slumping and spiraling towards irrelevance. With little promise, offense, an belief (myself included), the Reds headed to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers. Ohtani, Mookie, Freddie, the history, World Series aspirations, all of it.

The Reds swept that three-game set and gained momentum heading into June, where they are coming off a seven-game winning streak.

A season of 162 games will come with plenty of streaks, slumps, an unexplainable stretches. A rollercoaster not made for the faint of heart. Reading too far into each ebb and flow is not good practice, however, the past two the Reds have experienced – miserable month and winning streak – have a different kind of feeling.

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Every team will have a rock bottom on their rollercoaster. For some teams, rock bottom is a five-game losing streak. For the Reds, it was Mike Ford in the three hole leading to a forgettable month. The quality of baseball, granted injuries did not help, was truly atrocious. Getting two players going at the same time felt as difficult as climbing Everest.

The Reds needed to hold their opponent to two or less runs if they wanted to win. What was heading towards a lost season now has some life. Players are staring to trickle back into the lineup, Noelvi Marte’s return in nearing, Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene have both taken steps forward. Minus Encarnacion-Strand and Matt McLain, the Reds are starting to get towards what they were constructed to be.

Now, before I go further, I do understand the winning streak did not come against the best competition. Cincinnati still has some holes in the lineup and are far from flawless.

This week (6/10) will be a big test with five games against first place teams in Cleveland and Milwaukee. With each less than ideal matchup also comes an opportunity. An opportunity to build off a nice stretch and possibly convert it into a run in June.

Can they actually do it? Make some sort of a run and turn things around?

Are the Reds Past Their Offensive Woes?

The answer lies in the offense, which has shown signs of improvement. Will Benson, Jonathan India, Tyler Stephenson, and Jeimer Candelario has an .864 OPS over the past month. Friedl has yet to really get going, but I have faith in him easing back in. The difference maker is, obviously, Elly de La Cruz.

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Elly, even when he’s slumping, still finds ways to add value. Whether it be on the basepaths or in the field, he’s rarely a net negative. However, the Reds need more production at the plate.

While his 111 wRC+ is far from bad, I think he’d even say there’s a higher level to reach in this season. If Elly can hit his stride, the Reds look like a different club.

No, the Reds have not done enough to prove they are a playoff team. Even my fandom will not cloud my vision to that extent. But, I do think they have had their low point, bounced back, and now are at a fork in the road. Can you continue to improve, stack series, and have a punchers chance?

Will this be the turnaround we remember late in the season and point to a different team showing up? Or, will we forget about the past week by August, or even worse, by July. Does the offense never truly click for a stretch and Elly’s development not take a quick enough leap?

All you can ask for is an opportunity. The Reds have just that. A week where you can build lasting momentum or a week where you lose what you have built. We’ll see how it turns out. That’s why they play the games.

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