Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: TeamBoone's Attic
Re: Baseball Prospectus predicts the Reds win the Central!!
Reds pound Cardinals again, roar into first-place tie
By Hal McCoy
ST. LOUIS | Rich Aurilia furnished the brawn and the brains, first destroying the St. Louis Cardinals physically with his baseball bat and then verbally putting the past 10 days into pleasant perspective.
Aurilia's four hits and five RBIs were an indelible mark stamped on the Cardinals on Wednesday night in Busch Stadium during a 7-4 Cincinnati victory that vaulted the Reds into a first place tie with the Cardinals.
"It sounds fine to us, but a lot of people are going to pick up the paper and read that we're in first place and say, 'What the hell is that?'" said Aurilia. "What's going on?"
Yeah, what the hell is that and what is going on?
The Reds started this nine-game road trip five games out of first place, five games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central.
The Doubting Thomases and the Naysaying Neds predicted by the time they soiled their 10 days worth of clothes in their suitcases and returned to Cincinnati, their tails would not only be tucked between their legs, they would be snipped off.
And when they lost their first two games in Chicago, heads nodded and ol' Tom and ol' Ned said, "We told you so."
But St. Louis lost on those two days, too, and from that day the Reds didn't lose again over seven games and the Cardinals kept losing.
"After the disastrous second game we played in Chicago, we really bounced back and played well, pitched well, got on base, got key hits," Aurilia said. "To go to three cities that are tough to win at (Chicago, Houston, St. Louis), but to sweep two (Houston, St. Louis), that's pretty special."
Said manager Jerry Narron, "I just wanted to see us play some clean baseball after that second loss in Chicago. We played so poorly."
In seven games, that five-game St. Louis lead evaporated into the roily waters of the Mississippi when the Reds completed the sweep.
Maybe the Web site Baseball Prospectus knows something. Using its computer this week to play the rest of the season over and over, it determined that the Reds will win the division.
How are they doing it? The way the Cardinals always do it — beat the bejabbers out of the NL Central. The Reds are 24-12 against their NL Central brethren while the Cardinals are 14-17.
"If you want to win your division, you have to play well in your division," said Narron. "You play so many games within your division you just have to do well."
And Baseball Prospectus? "Yeah, I like that," said Narron. "If our pitching stays healthy and our bullpen holds up, we can stay right on top."
The Reds finished 7-2 on this trip through Chicago (1-2), Houston (3-0) and St. Louis (3-0).
When they swept the Astros, it was their first series win in Minute Maid Park after losing the previous seven series, during which they were 3-19.
When they swept the Cardinals, it was their first series win in St. Louis after losing the previous nine series, during which they were 6-19.
"To go into Houston and sweep three and to go into St. Louis and sweep three, win six in a row in those two cities, it is not easy to do," said Narron. "It's tough to win games against those two teams anywhere because they are the best two teams in the division."
The Reds, too, eh?
If that isn't a good omen, then there isn't a beer can in St. Louis.
And there was another sign. Ken Griffey Jr. didn't play due to a tight left quadriceps, but he dutifully took the lineup card to the umpires before the game, his seventh straight trip, his seventh straight victory.
"Yeah, I'll be doing it tonight, too (taking the lineup card to the umpires)," he said. "Somebody has to drive this bus."
The bus continues tonight in Great American Ball Park with the first of a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs, then two against the Milwaukee Brewers, then three interleague games against the Chicago White Sox.
On Wednesday, the Reds gave starter Aaron Harang a 7-0 lead over previously unbeaten Sidney Ponson. Aurilia, playing third base for the injured Edwin Encarnacion, tied career highs with four hits and five RBIs, three coming on a home run in the sixth.
Aurilia also drove in a run in the third with a single and a run in the fifth with a double.
Harang took a three-hitter into the sixth but gave up five straight hits and three runs after he retired the first two batters. Relievers Chris Hammond, David Weathers and Todd Coffey took it the rest of the way.
"It was a great team effort tonight," said Narron. "Harang pitched extremely well early and got two outs in the sixth, but couldn't get the last one. Scott Hatteberg (two hits, two RBIs) and Aurilia in the middle of the order did some damage, with Ryan Freel (two doubles, two runs) and Felipe Lopez (two walks, two runs) getting on base at the top of the order."
Actually, the series was total domination, as the Reds had runners on base in 22 of the 27 innings and had 38 hits, 18 for extra bases.
"Actually, we played really well, but it isn't the best we can play," said Aurilia. "We can still play better defense, play better all-around. We're confident going home."