How Sweep It Is!

The Cincinnati Reds continued their hot play by finishing off a sweep of the NL West leading Dodgers and now find themselves 6-1 during their current home stand. Jay Bruce provided early offense by hitting the first two home runs by a left-handed batter off Clayton Kershaw this season. Ryan Hanigan came up big with a double in the ninth that plated the winning run.

The Reds entered the biggest home stand of their season thus far with a tough challenge of gaining ground on two teams ahead of them while opening up series against their division nemesis St. Louis and the hottest team in the league, Los Angeles. Now seven games deep into it they find themselves with a 6-1 record after winning 3-2 over the Dodgers Sunday. It was a hard-fought set with three one-run games-all three Reds victories.

Jay Bruce started the game with a hot bat and provided his team with a lead twice by hitting solo homers in his first two at-bats. Zack Cozart came across the plate with the game winner by leading off the bottom of the ninth with a single and rounding the bases on a walk-off double by the next batter, Ryan Hanigan. Bruce and Cozart both had two of the six Reds hits while Shin-soo Choo reached safely in every plate appearance with a hit, two walks, and a hit batsman.

Homer Bailey got the call against Cy Young front-runner Clayton Kershaw in the nationally televised event. Bailey came up big again even though he left with no decision after allowing two runs on six hits over seven innings with nine strikeouts while not allowing a walk. Hanley Ramirez had a couple of extra base hits that robbed him from a scoreless outing. Zach Duke and J.J. Hoover combined to retire the Dodgers in order in the eighth and then Aroldis Chapman entered the game. Once again the Cuban Missile overpowered an opponent with two strikeouts in a perfect inning for the win.

The offensive outburst by Bruce leaves him one shy of his third 30-homer season at the age of 26. Incredibly he increased his HR total in each of his five professional seasons. Obviously no one can continue that forever and he's now five shy of his 2012 total. He's also seven shy of joining teammate Brandon Phillips in cracking triple digit RBI this year.

The game-winning double was a highlight in a challenging season for Hanigan. The 33 year-old catcher entered the game hitting .212 while being slowed by a hand injury for much of the year. He's gone 7-22 with three walks and two hit-by-pitches over his last seven games (.312 AVG/.444 OB). His usual selectivity at the plate has remained however and his overall on-base percentage is more than .100' higher than his average.

The win allowed the Reds to keep pace with St. Louis who took over first place by sweeping Pittsburgh this weekend. They remain one and a half games behind the Cardinals and are now tied with the Pirates, one game behind the Bucs in the loss column. They'll remain at home to host the Cubs for the next three games and take a day off before hitting the road for ten games including three interleague games against former division foe Houston and three at Pittsburgh.

The Reds have not been in first place in the NL Central since a brief appearance back in April. Their hot play combined with Pittsburgh's recent struggles has turned the division race into a toss-up with three teams separated by less than two games. Cincinnati will take the field eighteen more times this season to make their push including a three game set against the Bucs at Great American Ball Park to end the regular season.