Starting the season slowly was not in the Cincinnati Reds’ plans


But following a 10-game winning streak that was snapped on Monday, the Reds are one of the best teams in baseball.

Cincinnatiwent into Tuesday’s game with a 61-41 record, three games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates. They finished an 8-2 homestand by winning six in a row on the road.

And although the Reds swept lowlyMilwaukee,HoustonandColoradobefore losing to the Padres, they began the second half with a three-game sweep over NL Central rivalSt. Louis.

Cincinnatiswept four of five series after the All-Star break, and was 14-3 in its first 17 games of the second half.

“It just feels like everything is clicking for us,” said outfielder Drew Stubbs, who had a two-run, two-out double in the ninth inning atHoustonon July 25 to lead the Reds to a 5-3 win.  “If we get down and we come back, I think that’s just the combination of us playing good baseball, getting some lucky bounces and that’s the formula to winning a championship.”

The Reds have also been winning without first baseman Joey Votto, who had knee surgery on July 16 and is out for at least two more weeks. They went 11-3 in the first 14 games without Votto, who was hitting .342 with 14 home runs and 49 RBIs.

Todd Frazier has done a nice job filling in for Votto, and Scott Rolen has hit two homers with five RBIs and a .306 average since Votto has been out.

Cincinnatiisn’t going to impress anyone with its middle-of-the pack hitting, but the Reds have come up with big hits to win games, such as Ryan Ludwick’s walk-off homer in the 10th inning of a 3-2 win over the Cardinals on July 14.

The Reds pitching is impressive however, ranked third in baseball with a 3.34 ERA, and a bullpen that is first with a 2.66 ERA.

Mat Latos, who came over in a trade withSan Diego, is 9-3 to go with Johnny Cueto, who is 13-5 with a 2.39 ERA, and Homer Bailey, who is 9-6. Flamethrower closer Aroldis Chapman has 21 saves, and 94 strikeouts in 49.2 innings pitched.

Cincinnatihas yet to run away with the division lead, but may get a chance this weekend when the Reds host the Pirates.

“They’re not going to go away, that’s fairly obvious at this point,” Reds outfielder Jay Bruce said of the Pirates. “We have some series left with them, but anytime you can gain a game it’s great.”

Morales gets it done from both sides: If Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Sciosia asked Kendrys Morales when he was going to start getting hot at the plate again, he wouldn’t have expected what happened on Monday night.

Morales, who was in a 1-for-17 slump entering the game, hit home runs from both sides of the plate and drove in six runs in the Angels 15-8 rout over the Texas Rangers inArlington. He did it in a nine-run sixth inning, hitting a two-run shot to give the Angels a 5-3 lead, and finishing with a grand slam for a 12-3 advantage.

“I’m very excited since it’s not an easy thing to do,” Morales said through an interpreter.

Morales joined Carlos Baerga (1993 Indians) and Mark Bellhorn (2002 Cubs) as the only switch-hitters in major league history to homer from both sides in the same inning. He’s the 25thALplayer to ever hit two homers in the same inning.

StatsWatch: Here are the top slugging third basemen in baseball (through Monday) —

  • Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, .576 SLG, 25 HRs, 84 RBIs
  • David Wright, Mets, .554 SLG, 16 HRs, 71 RBIs
  • Adrian Beltre, Rangers, .509 SLG, 18 HRs, 61 RBIs
  • David Freese, Cardinals, .504 SLG, 14 HRs, 58 RBIs
  • Aramis Ramirez, Brewers, .493 SLG, 12 HRs, 62 RBIs
  • Pedro Alvarez, Pirates, .476 SLG, 21 HRs, 58 RBIs
  • Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals, .462 SLG, 15 HRs, 55 RBIs
  • Mike Moustakas, Royals, .461 SLG, 16 HRs, 50 RBIs
  • Alex Rodriguez, Yankees, .49 SLG, 15 HRs, 44 RBIs
  • Chris Johnson, Diamondbacks, .435 SLG, 9 HRs, 45 RBIs
  • Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers, .434 SLG, 15 HRs, 55 RBIs
  • Chase Headley, Padres, .424 SLG, 12 HRs, 51 RBIs

Diamond Notes: San Diego Padres closer Huston Street has signed a 2-year, $14 million contract extension. Street had 17 consecutive saves through Monday, with a 2-0 record, 0.91 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 30.2 innings pitched. He had previously pitched for Oakland and Colorado before joining the Padres this season…Injury-prone 2B Brian Roberts of the Baltimore Orioles will have season-ending hip surgery. The 34-year-old infielder played just 17 games after returning from a concussion on June 12…Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval was placed on the DL on Saturday with a strained left hamstring. He is hitting .299 with eight homers and 33 RBIs in 62 games.  

Copyright © 2012  Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media. 

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