CINCINNATI -- Getting beaten by the Brewers on both sides of the All-Star break could have been an extinction-level event for the Reds’ postseason aspirations. Instead, they've turned it into a rallying moment before heading into the next showdown at Milwaukee.
The Reds completed a three-game sweep of the D-backs with a 7-3 victory on Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park, extending their winning streak to five games on the heels of enduring a six-game losing streak -- including four in a row to the Brewers.
“Astronomical. It’s huge," right fielder Jake Fraley said. “Having stretches like that, I feel like, makes a little fork in the road for us. Which way are we going to take?"
In the National League Central, the second-place Reds (55-46) trail the Brewers (55-45) by a half-game after Milwaukee lost two of three to Atlanta over the weekend. Now the Reds and Brewers will meet for the first of three games on Monday at American Family Field.
“It’s really important,” said left fielder Nick Senzel, who hit a two-run homer in the second inning. “I think every series now is so important. I feel like that’s the team we’re going to be battling with until the very end. They’ve beaten us up. We’re excited to play them. We’re excited to kind of get back at them. We want another crack at them. It’s going to be a big-time series.”
The Reds are 2-8 vs. the Brewers this season.
“We know what we’re up against -- they have a good team," Reds manager David Bell said. "There’s no question our players want that opportunity. They want to be in that moment. They want to play the best teams. They worked hard to put us in a situation where these games are important. There’s nothing better than playing games when they matter like this.”
Each time they've faced the Brewers this season, the Reds have won the series that preceded it and emerged strong on the other side after being set back by the Crew. In June, after losing three of four at home to Milwaukee, Cincinnati took two of three from the Dodgers to start a 12-game winning streak.
Following their more recent 1-5 stretch vs. the Brewers, the Reds split a four-game series vs. the Giants and then swept the series from the D-backs for the first time since 2012.
Cincinnati, San Francisco and Arizona are in position for the three NL Wild Card berths.
"If you want to be where you want to be at the end of the year -- winning a division, going into the playoffs, making some noise in the playoffs -- I feel like you have to have some adversity throughout the season," Fraley said.
The series finale vs. Arizona was deadlocked at 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning when Fraley's one-out RBI double to the right-field corner scored Spencer Steer from first base. The Reds added three insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth, including Christian Encarnacion-Strand's two-run single with the bases loaded.
Cincinnati took a 3-0 lead in the early innings. Leading off the bottom of the first inning against José Ruiz, Elly De La Cruz lifted a 3-1 pitch for a home run to right field -- his fifth of the season and the first leadoff homer of his brief big league career. It came following a day off for the slumping De La Cruz, who is in a 4-for-39 stretch.
Senzel’s two-out, two-run homer to left field against Ruiz in the second inning gave the Reds a 3-0 lead. Arizona scored three runs to tie the game in the top of the fifth, with Corbin Carroll's two-run homer to center field against Reds starter Luke Weaver evening the score.
Already a surprise contender following a 62-100 season in 2022, the Reds were tested after a 7-15 start to the year. Despite a rebuilding period, the young club coalesced into a hungry group unafraid of any team or opposing player.
Since being eight games under .500 on April 24, the Reds have gone 48-31. But it's their 5-2 record since they last faced Milwaukee that could be another turning point to 2023.
"More important than how you respond to winning is how you respond to the failures," Bell said. "I couldn’t ask for our team to handle that any better. It all happened in one homestand, really. Now we just have to keep going. We crawled our way out of that, fought our way out of it and that’s all you can ask for. That goes a long way.”