Votto-less Red Win 9th in a Row

Earlier this month the Reds position in first place was threatened when slugger Joey Votto went on the DL for knee surgery. Last night's win at Colorado extended a winning streak to nine games before they go for a third consecutive series sweep Sunday. Over that time their runs/game have increased 25% as multiple players in the lineup have stepped up to pick up the slack from his absence.

Cincinnati came out on top in high-scoring Coors Field affair last night with a win over the Rockies. The Reds crossed the plate more times, 9-7, despite committing a couple of errors and getting outhit 13-9. They did benefit from five solo home runs and left only two on base compared to the Rockies' ten. They will go for their third consecutive series sweep Sunday.

Things did not start out well for the visitors as they found themselves in a 3-0 hole after the first inning. They tied the score with back-to-back home runs by Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier in the second inning and another one from Drew Stubbs in the third. They took a 7-4 lead in the fifth from a four run rally that was capped off by a two-run double by Brandon Phillips. After that they played add-on with a solo homer by Scott Rolen in the sixth before the Rockies came back with a two-run shot the next inning. Finally Ludwick hit his second long ball of the evening in the eighth to provide the final score.

Ace Johnny Cueto labored through six innings to get his thirteenth win. He allowed five runs (four earned) on ten hits while walking two and striking out three. Five Red relievers worked during the night with Aroldis Chapman coming in for the ninth. He allowed a couple of base runners but struck out the final batter before anyone crossed the plate for his 21st save.

Reds fans got a shock earlier this month when Joey Votto was moved to the disabled list for an arthroscopic knee surgery. There were concerns about holding onto a shaky lead in the NL Central with his bat removed from an offense that was scoring 4.15 runs per game. Stats confirmed that he and Andrew McCutchen provided a higher percentage of their team's offense than any other player in the league. The Pirates were only one game behind them and their slugger was still available.

Thus far it's been a prime example of why they play the games on the field instead of on paper. The Reds have now run off nine wins in a row and are 10-2 since losing Votto. They needed the rest of the offense to step up in his absence and step up they have. During the streak they have averaged 5.2 runs per game and have outscored opponents by 22. Meanwhile their pitching rotation which previously had the third lowest ERA in the NL is now second, only .06' higher than Washington.

As expected, no one is going to lose Joey Votto and increase scoring without improved contribution from multiple players. Brandon Phillips has taken over his #3 spot in the lineup and is hitting nearly .400 during the streak. Drew Stubbs has gone 9-27 with two home runs over the past five games. Todd Frazier is filling his spot at first base and hitting .345 over the last seven. With Frazier moved across the infield veteran Scott Rolen is once again getting the bulk of the action at the hot corner and has hit .346 with two homers in his last seven while raising his batting average over .020'. Even Xavier Paul has gone 5-12 since his call-up from Louisville.

The hottest bat of all right now is Ryan Ludwick. Over his past six games he's hit .423 with three home runs and is slugging close to .900. One frequent item on the Reds wish list since the departure of Adam Dunn has been a right-handed power hitter in left field. They did have some success with Johnny Gomes after he was called up in 2009 through the next season. However, his productivity ebbed over the second half of 2010 and he was dealt for a minor leaguer late last season while struggling with a .211 average. Ludwick came to Cincinnati before this season and started off looking like another unsuccessful attempt to bolster outfield depth through free agency. On June 14 he was on the Mendoza line at .201. Since that time he's hit over .300 with nine homers in 32 games. He's now batting over .250 and his 17 HR's is only two behind team leader Jay Bruce who has around 100 more plate appearances.

Another highly-publicized hole in the Redleg lineup has been the leadoff. Out of the spot that needs a high on-base percentage guy the most Reds hitters have combined to hit .200/.246 OB%. In comparison, the #9 hole that is occupied by pitchers and pinch hitters is at .180/.212. They thought the issue was addressed coming into this season with Phillips. He had a .353 OB% last season and was over .400 in the 39 games he hit first. He started out this season leading off until manager Dusty Baker moved him to fourth to provide a right-handed bat between Votto and Bruce. Perhaps Ludwick's emergence will earn him another crack at cleaning up and release Phillips to go back to the top.

There isn't likely going to be many changes to the lineup before Votto is ready. Reds fans have gone from counting down approximate days until his return to counting wins. Cincinnati's record has been raised to 60-40 which is tied for the best in the MLB. Pittsburgh is hanging tough only two games behind and leading the wild card race. They've added Wandy Rodriguez to their rotation and it can be assumed that both teams are looking for the right deal to improve their chances for post season play. Meanwhile after the Reds finish their series in Colorado they come home to host San Diego who has the second worst record in the NL. The Pirates will roll into Great American Ball Park after that for what's shaping up to be a good old fashion pennant race to kick off the month of August; Votto or not.

News from the Farm:

Louisville dug itself out of a 4-0 eighth inning hole at home to win 8-4. The big hit of the night was a ninth inning grand slam by Cody Puckett. Henry Rodriguez and Felix Perez both had three hits for the Bats. Puckett, Neftali Soto, and Didi Gregorius each added two more. Starter Sean Gallagher worked deep in the contest and picked up the win by allowing four runs in eight innings.

Pensacola took an early four run lead and held on for a 6-4 win over visiting Huntsville. Billy Hamilton had two hits and drove in a run. Wirfin Obispo got the start and the win. He allowed two runs on two hits in five innings while striking out seven. Wilken De La Rosa entered in the eighth and with the help of a caught base-stealer retired all five batters faced for the save.

Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:

Hamilton led off a three-run first inning last night with a single and stole second and third during the next at-bat. He singled in a run in the fourth but was erased trying to stretch it into a double. He now has 115 steals in 98 games.

Bakersfield left twelve runners on base while getting shut out 6-0 at Stockton. The top of the lineup did their job by contributing two hits from Theo Bowe and four from Niko Vasquez. Those two are a combined 10-19 over the last two games. Tanner Robles was charged with the loss despite allowing only one run on four hits in six innings while striking out six. The southpaw brought his ERA down to 1.84 over five starts since his promotion to the California League.

A couple of ninth inning home runs by Dayton was not enough as they fell short in their comeback attempt in a 6-5 loss at Lake County. Travis Buckley hit two homers in the game and Kyle Waldrop had one. Wes Mugarian was victimized by three unearned runs when he was lifted in the fourth. He was charged with six runs total on seven hits and took the loss.

Billings took a 5-0 lead at home against Helena and held on to win a 15-8 slugfest. Daniel Pigott and Robert Ramirez both had three hits and two RBI. Zachary Vincej had two hits including a home run. Robert Maddox and Jeff Gelalich added two hits apiece. Sal Romano allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits in five innings for the win.

The AZL Reds were idle and will resume play by hosting the AZL Cubs on Sunday.

The DSL Reds won at home over the DSL Rockies 4-1. Rusbel Farinez and Aristides Aquino had two hits each and Ariel Baez provided half of the Reds' runs with a two run homer. Eury Cantalizo relieved the starter in the fifth inning and allowed a run in two innings to get the win. Josue Castellano recorded five outs while facing the final four Rocky batters for the save.

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