PITTSBURGH -- The Cincinnati Reds have played just nine games. But let's not spoil the fun.The Reds are an early feel-good story of the 2017 season. With a mix-and-match bullpen, timely hitting from just about everyone except their best player and a new starting pitcher who might be the next
PITTSBURGH -- The Cincinnati Reds have played just nine games. But let's not spoil the fun.
The Reds are an early feel-good story of the 2017 season. With a mix-and-match bullpen, timely hitting from just about everyone except their best player and a new starting pitcher who might be the next big thing, they have won seven times in their first nine games for the first time since they opened 9-0 in 1990. That was when the Reds won their most recent World Series. Maybe we shouldn't go there.
Then again, why not?
"I don't mind thinking that way," reliever Michael Lorenzen said after the Reds completed a three-game sweep of the Pirates, 9-2, at PNC Park on Wednesday. "I think it should always be World Series or bust. I get the false humility of, 'Hey, it's still early.' But each and every one of us believes in our ability."
"There's a much stronger sense of community on our team and some young guys that are seizing the opportunity," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We do have the group of young pitchers that we've been talking about the last couple of years. We're starting to see them get to the big leagues and perform. And that makes a difference."
Price ticked off the names of several other players, some who might not be familiar names, like third baseman Eugenio Suarez and second baseman Jose Peraza. He mentioned the swift Billy Hamilton -- one of the more recognizable Reds, off to a hot start -- catcher Tucker Barnhart and others. Then there is rookie left-hander Amir Garrett, a former St. John's basketball player who is listed at 6-foot-5 but looks taller. Garrett in his second Major League start on Wednesday followed an outstanding debut by extending his scoreless innings streak to 12 before David Freese hit a two-run homer in the seventh.
Price would like the starters to scrape off something of what Garrett has, but right now he is relying on a bullpen that has been superb, currently populated by nine pitchers. Everyone gets a turn.
"I said this in Spring Training, and I'm sticking with it: The one word that describes our team is consistent," Lorenzen said. "The personalities blend so well that it creates a consistent atmosphere. You know what you're gonna get every day, and that leads to consistent baseball."
Barnhart says the team is aware it has only played nine games, "but, you know, the way we're winning is optimistic. It makes you be optimistic for sure. We're pitching well, we're playing good defense and getting timely hitting. We're just playing good all-around baseball."
Cincinnati outscored the Pirates, 22-5, and overall won five of six on the road. The Reds now return for a 10-game homestand, starting on Thursday with four games against the Brewers.
If blasting the Bucs proves to be the catalyst of something special, it would be somewhat ironic, if not appropriate. The Reds won 68, 64 and 76 games the last three seasons since losing the 2013 Wild Card game to the Pirates at the very same PNC Park. It was a defeat painful not only because of the outcome but also the sight of then-ace Johnny Cueto, taunted by the black-clad, overflow crowd, dropping the ball on the mound and then giving up home run to Russell Martin on the his next pitch. Cueto and several others from team are gone. One of the remaining stars from that team, first baseman Joey Votto has struggled out of the gate this season.
"I absolutely know he's gonna hit, and that's the job of the rest of the team," Price said. "You look at our club over the years we've really struggled, the one constant has been Joey hitting. In order for us to be successful, we need everybody to hit, everyone to contribute. And it's gonna be like this all year. We'll have certain guys who are swinging it well and certain guys who aren't. But right now, he's not on fire. It's nice to have three or four other guys that are."
Bob Cohn is a contributor to MLB.com.