CES leads way as Reds' offense bounces back in rout

April 24th, 2024

CINCINNATI -- Sure, is streaky, and yes, he entered Tuesday batting .190. But despite dropping him from third in the lineup to fifth for each of the last three games, manager David Bell doesn't lack confidence in the Reds' first baseman.

"He’s doing everything he needs to do. He’s continuing to work," Bell said. "He’s continuing to believe in himself and just continuing to play the game and get at-bats. I’m happy to put him out there every day to allow him to do that."

Encarnacion-Strand's bat is always capable of hurting an opponent; that was proven again on Tuesday as he came up with three key hits in an 8-1 win over the Phillies at Great American Ball Park.

"It’s a long season. I think you just keep your approach and keep working. You get a lot of at-bats," said Encarnacion-Strand, who also scored a pair of runs.

As the Reds trailed 1-0 with two outs in the bottom of the first against Cristopher Sánchez, Encarnacion-Strand hit an RBI double to the right-field corner that scored Spencer Steer.

In what became a wild four-run bottom of the third, Encarnacion-Strand extended the inning with a two-out RBI single to left that scored Tyler Stephenson.

Two-out hitting is one area where Encarnacion-Strand has excelled in 2024 -- he is batting .364 with 11 of his 16 RBIs coming with two outs.

"I try not to make it different," he said. "I try just to take every at-bat, not the same, but the same approach at least. I try to get my best swing off."

Encarnacion-Strand led off the bottom of the fifth against Yunior Marte with another single into left. Elly De La Cruz followed with his seventh homer of the season, an opposite-field drive to left-center field that he admired for a few extra moments as it put the game away.

Encarnacion-Strand, still only 24, is in just his second big league season after debuting last July. He and Spencer Steer came to the organization from the Twins in an Aug. 2, 2022 trade for pitcher Tyler Mahle.

It's becoming a big steal of a transaction for Cincinnati.

"We know he can hit, there’s no question about that," Bell said. "He’s still a young hitter. He’s still getting better, which is exciting for him, for our lineup, for our team. That’s going to continue for a long time. At any point, he’s going to be able to have big games like that. His at-bats are getting more and more consistent."

But there are stretches where Encarnacion-Strand has endured long funks at the plate. The Reds are easily able to see the upside of sticking with him somewhere in the middle portion of their order.

"He’s coming along," said starting pitcher Andrew Abbott, who worked 4 1/3 innings vs. Philadelphia. "He just has to stay with his routine, stay with the program. Eventually, everything will work out. Obviously, it’s not how he wanted to start. But we know him. We know what he’s capable of so [it’s] just [about] continuing to do his thing day in and day out and it will turn around."

The game's early runs protected Abbott, especially when he ran into trouble in the top of the fifth inning by walking the bottom third of the Phillies’ lineup to load the bases with no outs.

After Abbott notched the first out by striking out Kyle Schwarber, reliever Fernando Cruz worked out of the jam to preserve the lead. Cruz was credited with the victory for coming through in a big spot.