Reds Trying to Get Healthy

Though the Reds won't be running away with another division championship like they did last year, they are still in the lead for the second wild card spot despite increased competition in the division and a rash of injuries. Now they're hoping to get healthy in time for a pennant stretch.

Louisville went ahead by scoring four runs in the seventh inning and held on for a 6-4 home win over Indianapolis to lift their record over .500 and bring them to 2.5 games out in the International League Wild Card race. The Bats took an early lead off a two-run homer by Ryan Ludwick in the third inning. Mike Hessman led off the seventh with a double and Louisville loaded the bases with its first three batters. Henry Rodriguez plated the first two runs with a double, another run was balked home, and Billy Hamilton capped of the scoring with an RBI-single.

The Bats combined for six hits in the game with Hessman and Josh Fellhauer both reaching safely from a hit and a walk apiece. Yohan Pino had another nice start, allowing two runs on five hits in six-plus innings while striking out nine. Nick Christiani entered in the seventh and picked up the win for less than one inning pitched. Kevin Whelan retired the side in order in the ninth for the save.

The game marked Ludwick's tenth rehab appearance and seventh one with the Bats. It's been a long season for the 35 year-old veteran who went on the DL after suffering a dislocated shoulder on opening day. He has only two hits in 26 AB at Louisville, but the Reds are hoping that his home run is a sign that he's coming into shape in time for the stretch run. Last year the resurgent Ludwick had a strong finish to the season and was a huge contributor to the Cincinnati offense down the stretch as the Reds finished with 97 wins. He carried it over into postseason going 6-18 with three homers against the Giants.

The Reds returned the bulk of their personnel from a season where they won their division by nine games and it might be a little disappointing for their fans to see them in third place and vying for the final wild card spot right now. However, things have been much more difficult for them this season as the NL Central lost its last place team to the AL, Pittsburgh and St. Louis have fielded much more competitive squads, and no portion of their roster has been exempt from injuries.

Coming into the season Cincinnati was counting on Ludwick to man the cleanup spot in the lineup and he has yet to play in a second game with them. Normally steady catcher Ryan Hanigan has been hampered by injuries all season and has hit under .200 in only 46 games. Jonathan Broxton is expected to rejoin the bullpen soon which also lost lefty workhorse Sean Marshall who's been limited to eleven games. Of course the rotation has been missing Johnny Cueto atop it for most of the season as his lat ailment has limited him to nine starts.

The 2012 Reds were fortunate to have good health for all of the regular season. The bullpen was rocked by injuries earlier but they managed to rebuild it into one of the top reliever groups in the league. That was about it until Cueto departed early in the first game of the playoffs.

In a recent interview GM Walt Jocketty was asked about potential trades before the recent deadline and his comment was that the market didn't offer any players of impact like the ones they are waiting to get off of the DL. Broxton will be the first one back and it appears that Ludwick will be the next one to follow. The others are expected to return before the end of the season and manager Dusty Baker probably feels the sooner the better as the team enters its stretch run.

Six and half games is not an insurmountable deficit to recover from with two months left, but having two teams in front of them will make it more of a challenge. If Cincinnati can finally get its full squad back and even have some success in a wild card play-in game they could be poised to make some noise in post season. The pieces are there for them to advance in October for the first time since 1995, now they just have to get them all back into action.

Other Organizational News:

The Reds opened up their home series against Oakland with a 3-1 win. Jay Bruce got scoring started with a solo homer in the second inning. Brandon Phillips added on with an RBI single the next frame and Shin-soo Choo scored on an error in the fifth. Choo reached with two hits and a walk while Joey Votto added a couple of singles. Mat Latos got the win for pitching into the eighth and shutting out the A's on four hits/three walks and striking out three. Aroldis Chapman allowed a home run in the ninth, but still picked up the save.

Pensacola lost at Birmingham by a score of 7-6 in ten innings. Yorman Rodriguez, Donald Lutz, and Ray Chang had three hits each for the Wahoos and Corey Wimberly added two more. Lutz led the team with three RBI. Starter Carlos Contreras threw five innings, allowing two runs on three hits/two walks. Parker Frazier finished regulation with two scoreless innings before Drew Hayes took the loss for giving up a walk-off homer leading off the bottom of the tenth.

Bakersfield won 3-1 at Stockton. Jake Johnson got the win for tossing five shutout innings, allowing three hits/one walk. Michael Lorenzen threw a scoreless ninth for the save. Juan Perez had three of the eight Blaze hits and Steve Selsky gave them the lead when he led off the second inning with a homer.

Dayton lost 6-3 at West Michigan. Beau Amaral and Tanner Rahier had two hits each for the Dragons and Jesse Winker reached with a walk and a solo homer. Drew Cisco took the loss for allowing four runs in five-plus innings.

Billings fell behind in the first inning en route to a 6-2 loss at Missoula. Daniel Paula led the Mustangs with two hits. Starter Zack Weiss allowed two runs in three innings for the loss.

The AZL Reds were shut out until the ninth in their 4-1 loss to the AZL Rangers. Kevin Franklin and Jose Fernandez each had two of the six Reds hits. The Reds started with two scoreless innings from a couple of relievers before Tyler Mahle allowed one run in three innings pitched for the loss.

The DSL Rojos fell behind by six after two innings in their 9-1 loss to the DSL Pirates2. Francis Azcona led the Reds with two hits. Starter Jose Salas was roughed up for six runs (five earned) in one inning pitched for the loss.

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