Firstly, I apologize for my absence. No excuses offered, just an apology. Secondly, the Cincinnati Reds are first place in the National League Central in 2010 and it's late May. Most importantly, this wasn't a fluke one-day thing. Once the Reds nabbed the lead from the struggling St. Louis Cardinals, they promptly took two of two from Milwaukee before hitting the road to visit the Atlanta Braves. Though still with just a half-game lead over St. Louis, the Reds are playing the best baseball I've seen probably ever, since I don't remember 1990 or 1995. Winning games in the 8th and 9th innings is stressful baseball, but if that's what it takes, then I'll take it everytime (the Reds just opened up an 8-0 lead over the Braves in the 2nd inning as I write this, but there's no reason to believe this game won't come down to the 9th).
Once the Reds took first, they assumed a noticeable air of confidence. After getting back-to-back complete game shutouts from Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey, while rookie Mike Leake and rotation anchor Bronson Arroyo kept dealing, this team realized that they can and should win every single game. One stat that can't be ignored as key to their success, especially considering how bad it's been the past few years, is they lead the National League in hitting with RISP and two outs. Last year, it was wise to change the channel in these situations and flip back in time to watch them play defense. Clutch hitting, along with pinch-hit homeruns, excellent starting pitching, good baserunning, late rallies, not to mention the energy Jonny Gomes brings to the game, have the city truly excited for the first time in a long time. I drink coffee out of my Spring Training mug everyday. I find myself subconsciously wearing more red t-shirts. My video game controllers are red. Maybe I've finally lost it, but I don't think I'm alone. When half of my Facebook newsfeed is talking about the Reds, you know Cincinnatians are excited. I don't know how to follow a winning team, but learning on the job while they stay atop the division is a lot better than getting comfortable with the usual slide into 5th.
As we move forward into the dog days of summer, all we can do is hope the Reds don't lose this momentum. Injuries have plagued us in years past, and with a 70-year old left side of the infield, the Reds need to be prepared to replace these guys when their bodies catch up with them. Edinson Volquez will be back before we know it, and Aroldis Chapman can't stay in AAA forever. Too much starting pitching is a great problem to have, but eventually some kind of move has to be made, and I'm not going to try to offer any sensible solution. Chris Dickerson will be back from his injury soon, but with Chris Heisey filling in well in his rookie year, what do you do with those two? Again, better than having an unqualified player taking the field everyday, but still a decision I'm glad I don't have to make.
These are strange times for young Reds fans. I'm not used to seeing the Reds get attention on national news. I'm not used to the first number in the record being bigger than the second one. I'm not used to these runs and this league-leading defense, but I've never had more fun following a sports team. So let's start filling up Great American Ballpark. And with $5 seats, why not?