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Reds offense clicking with Cozart leading off

Price: Shortstop has 'become a very productive player'
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- During the just concluded four-game series against the Rockies, the Reds lineup seemed to start clicking, with several hitters up and down the lineup producing. Some of that can be probably attributed to playing in offense-boosting Colorado, but there was also a key catalyst in leadoff hitter and shortstop Zack Cozart.

Cozart entered the series in a season-high 0-for-18 rut, but he went 8-for-18 in the series with two homers and two doubles and had hits in each of the four games, including three wins. Cincinnati scored 33 runs overall.

Full Game Coverage

CINCINNATI -- During the just concluded four-game series against the Rockies, the Reds lineup seemed to start clicking, with several hitters up and down the lineup producing. Some of that can be probably attributed to playing in offense-boosting Colorado, but there was also a key catalyst in leadoff hitter and shortstop Zack Cozart.

Cozart entered the series in a season-high 0-for-18 rut, but he went 8-for-18 in the series with two homers and two doubles and had hits in each of the four games, including three wins. Cincinnati scored 33 runs overall.

Full Game Coverage

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Cozart and other #ASGWorthy players

"I'll tell you, it's nice to have somebody that's hitting the ball hard and getting on base at a pretty high rate," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Friday. "Zack has given us great at-bats. The other thing is when we're able to turn the lineup over, he's a run producer. Not just because he's hitting .300, but because he's hitting for some power -- doubles and homers as well.

"This is a guy that can get a 3-0 green light to hit. He might hit a single to left field, but because he can drive a ball into the gap or over the wall, he's become a very productive player."

Save for the pre-Colorado funk, Cozart has had few offensive lulls this season and came into Friday night batting .306/.333/.524 with seven home runs. Three times in the previous series, he led off the top of the first inning with hits -- including a first-pitch home run on Monday.

Cozart stayed hot on Friday night, launching his eighth homer of the season and ripping an RBI single in the Reds' 7-2 win over the Nationals.

Video: WSH@CIN: Cozart pads the lead with big homer to left

Unlike many leadoff hitters, Cozart doesn't spend much time working counts. He's aggressive and has a high contact rate of just under 86 percent, according to Fangraphs.com. He has three leadoff home runs.

"Any time you can get the leadoff guy on, you're going to have a pretty good chance to get some kind of rally going -- even if you don't score, it puts pressure on the pitcher and defense," Cozart said. "Later in the game, he might be tired or whatever. I'm trying to go up there, it's not a secret I'm not taking a lot of pitches. I'm up there ready to hit, and I'm feeling pretty good."

Worth noting

• Following Thursday night's game in Denver, the Reds' charter flight did not touch down in Cincinnati until 4 a.m. ET Friday. It was the conclusion of an 11-day, 10-game road trip through Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Colorado. Price told his players they did not have to report to the clubhouse until 5 p.m., and the team skipped pregame batting practice.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cincinnati Reds, Zack Cozart