CINCINNATI -- After briefly losing his place in the Reds' four-man outfield rotation, Jesse Winker started Saturday afternoon for the fifth time in Cincinnati's last six games. The 24-year-old is scorching hot over his past seven games, hitting .417 (10-for-24) with a .500 on-base percentage, raising his batting average 30
CINCINNATI -- After briefly losing his place in the Reds' four-man outfield rotation, Jesse Winker started Saturday afternoon for the fifth time in Cincinnati's last six games. The 24-year-old is scorching hot over his past seven games, hitting .417 (10-for-24) with a .500 on-base percentage, raising his batting average 30 points to .269 in the process.
"He's always been a professional hitter who knows the strike zone," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "He doesn't swing at a lot of bad pitches. He takes his walks. He had a little stretch where he was struggling, but what we're seeing is kind of the norm [for him]."
Winker has also made his mark in the clutch, hitting .364 (12-for-33) with runners in scoring position this season. He smacked a walk-off homer in Thursday's series finale vs. the Rockies, and his opposite-field single off Cardinals closer Bud Norris tied Friday's eventual 7-6 loss in the ninth inning.
"Norris throws hard, and his ball has some cut, so I was really just trying to stay inside of it and hit a line drive. I got a good result," Winker said. "It's all based off of situations. The fact that all I had to do was get a knock makes your job a lot easier. All the pressure is on the pitcher in that situation."
Winker went 1-for-4 with a solo homer -- his third of the year -- in Saturday's 6-4 loss to the Cardinals.
The Reds' 2018 campaign has not quite gone to plan, and to make matters arguably worse, their fortunes have been especially poor against the division-rival Cardinals.
The Reds are 0-8 this against their National League Central rivals, having been outscored by 28 runs. Cincinnati has dropped 12 straight against St. Louis dating back to last season, and the last time the club beat the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park was Aug. 4, 2017.
Despite his team's dire straits, Riggleman feels as if better days are ahead.
"I really feel like our club is close to being a respectable club, though our record says we're not a respectable club," said Riggleman. "With what I see in the dugout, with the effort and energy and the way we've been able to score some runs here in the last month, I know we're not far away from making a jump in the standings. We're certainly not ready to pick up 15 games on somebody, but we can certainly get out of this last-place rut we've been in for a couple of years."
Scooter on Scooter on a scooter
Not along after being named the National League's Player of the Month for May, Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett collected another honor on Saturday: his first bobblehead with the Reds. The team distributed bobbleheads to the first 20,000 fans, which feature Gennett riding the scooter he was gifted with after his four home-run game against the Cardinals on June 6, 2017.
This is Gennett's third bobblehead. He had one during his time with the Brewers, and the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers turned Gennett's destruction of an on-field snowman during the team's snowed-out opener in 2010 into a bobblehead a year later. The Brewers also distributed a garden gnome of Gennett in 2015.
"This one is pretty cool. The license plate is the date of the game I hit four home runs. It's very creative," Gennett said. "Every one of them looks different. Some of them look like me; some of them look creepy. The [Reds] did a pretty good job with the head shape, the goatee and the hair color."
Grant Freking is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati.