EDLC's 449-foot blast continues electrifying stretch

April 13th, 2024

CHICAGO -- Like a fast car that accelerates so quickly that the head bangs the headrest on the seat, 's offensive production has really picked up its pace this week.

De La Cruz slugged a three-run home run in the five-run top of the third inning that helped the Reds put away the White Sox during Friday's 11-1 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field. The 22-year-old Cincinnati shortstop has four homers over his last four games.

“I’ve got the same mentality. I’m just looking for my pitch. I’m seeing the ball well," De La Cruz said.

The Reds already had a 1-0 lead against White Sox starter Chris Flexen with two outs in the third when Christian Encarnacion-Strand hit a single to left field. After a Spencer Steer walk, Jake Fraley slashed a hard grounder off the glove of diving first baseman Andrew Vaughn that allowed a run to score.

Next was De La Cruz, who attacked Flexen's hanging 0-2 changeup for his three-run homer to right field that traveled a Statcast-projected 449 feet.

“It’s really fun to watch. I had a really good view of his at-bats following him tonight. To see the home run, he absolutely crushed it," said catcher Tyler Stephenson, who made it back-to-back homers with his opposite field drive to right field for a 6-0 Reds lead.

Meanwhile, left-handed starter Andrew Abbott made easy work of a struggling Chicago lineup as he gave the Reds seven superb innings with one earned run and four hits allowed with no walks and three strikeouts for the victory.

De La Cruz, who also had a blooped single to right field in the second inning and a walk in the ninth, has reached safely in all 13 games this season and 18 in a row dating back to 2023. But the streak concealed a slow first nine games.

Over those nine games, De La Cruz batted .242 with a .718 OPS no homers, no multi-hit performances, seven runs and 17 strikeouts in 33 at-bats.

This week, the gas pedal has hit the floor. In his past four games, including three games vs. the Brewers, the switch-hitting De La Cruz is 8-for-15 (.533) with a 1.963 OPS, no strikeouts and eight runs. His week began with his first two homers coming in one game on Monday vs. Milwaukee, including an inside-the-parker.

"From playing with him in [Single-A] Daytona all the way up, you can just see the maturity level coming around," Abbott said. "Just the same excitement each day, playing great defense, has an arm, obviously can hit a 450-foot homer as well to help you out on offense. Just does everything right and he’s a great person to be around."

Last year, De La Cruz hit the big league scene with a splash while batting .325 with an .887 OPS over his first 30 games. Then he plummeted to a .191 average with a .627 OPS over his final 68 games. Even when he was underperforming, the Reds had a multitude of producers around him that often picked up the slack.

This season, the Reds are missing two of those producers to injuries -- TJ Friedl and Matt McLain -- while middle-of-the-order hitters Encarnacion-Strand and Jeimer Candelario have largely sputtered early on.

That has made the need for De La Cruz to produce more critical from both sides of the plate.

"I even told him the lineout he had [in the fifth inning] might have been my favorite swing when he was facing the lefty," Stephenson said. "It’s a great swing. He’s in a really good spot. It’s cool to see him do that from the right side. If he can do that, we all know how talented he is, sky’s the limit.”

Defensively, De La Cruz already has five errors and some other sloppy plays on his ledger. But he was smooth in the field on Friday, especially in the ninth when he fielded Lenyn Sosa's grounder up the middle and over the mound and threw him out on the run.

“Of course the idea is, especially when we plan to play important games, you have to play nine innings of offense and defense and be able to separate. We’re happy with what Elly is doing, offensively and defensively," Reds manager David Bell said. "We know he’s going to get better. For us, it’s making sure he’s doing the things he needs to do and he is."

Where is De La Cruz now compared to where he was as a player last year?

“Way, way, way ahead of probably 99 percent of players his age that have had the experience level he has," Bell said. "It’s incredible what he’s doing."