There is no truth to the rumor that the Notebook is becoming the official blog of the Cincinnati Reds, even if I did spend my three of my college years at Indiana drinking heavily and pulling for the Reds. But with three of the last six posts leading with the boys from the Queen City, the reader could be forgiven for thinking that. No, Cincy's just on a nice run right now and they are one of the teams we haven't done a brief look-in yet, and as they hold first place in the NL Central, today's the day to ask what they're doing right.
Let's start with Mike Leake, who's been a very pleasant surprise in the rotation. He's a perfect 4-0, including a big win over St. Louis this weekend and has a nice 3.09 ERA. While that's against NL lineups, it's also in a very hitter-friendly locale in Great American Ballpark. Johnny Cueto has also been very effective,
winning again last night over Milwaukee. They've been able to compensate for the complete collapse of Aaron Harang's career. Power keys the offense, with Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and Jonny Gomes slugging over .500. The problem they will have over the long haul is getting on base. Votto is the only really consistent, and they don't have a top-flight table-setter. That's the recipe for lengthy offensive drougths over the course of the summer.
Texas is also in first place, though they were a more common choice to supplant the Angels in the AL West. Though they're in first, it's a legitimate question as to whether they are meeting expectations at 21-18. The weakness of the West is more the reason for their success than anything, though in fairness to the Rangers, Ian Kinsler has missed some time. Last season, Texas' offense faded for the same reason that Cincinnati's will fade this year--not enough people on base consistently. They look better this
year, with Elvis Andrus having a terrific offensive start (.426), and Michael Young, Vlad Guerrero and a healthy Kinsler all doing well. They're still not an OBP machine, but it's now manageable. And Nelson Cruz is having a monster year, slugging .675. The Rangers could use pitching help, though it will likely come from arms getting healthy. Derek Holland is back and pitched very well in winning two starts. Tommy Hunter is on a rehab assignment. They can combine with CJ Wilson, who's been unhittable, and Colby Lewis who's been a pleasant surprise. Texas should be able to play better as the season wears on, and it will be incumbent on the Angels to find a way to keep up.
Tomorrow the focus swings to three big disappointments--the White Sox, Braves and Mariners.