Reds Win Regular Season Road Finale

Cincinnati again reached a tie for the top wild card spot in the NL by winning a rubber game in their series against the Pirates. They also picked up a game on division leader St. Louis and return home for their final six games two out of first place.

Cincinnati took the rubber game in their series at Pittsburgh and re-tied for the top wild card spot by pounding the Pirates 11-3. They blew the contest open early with a five run first inning that included a Jay Bruce double that cleared loaded bases and a two-run home run by Todd Frazier. It didn't take them long to add on when Billy Hamilton led off the next frame with a single plus a stolen base that was followed by an RBI double by Chris Heisey and sac fly from Brandon Phillips. The Pirates cut into the lead with three runs, but the Reds got those back in the eighth from RBI hits off the bats of Heisey, Joey Votto, and Bruce. Derrick Robinson plated their final run in the ninth with a single following a leadoff double from Zach Cozart.

Hamilton and Heisey did their b job atop the lineup by leading their team with three hits apiece. Votto and Phillips also reached safely three times with two hits plus a walk each. Bruce and Cozart both added two hits to their team's sixteen-hit attack. On the mound Bronson Arroyo did not last as long as normal, but still got the win by allowing three runs on five hits/two walks over five innings. Alfredo Simon, Manny Parra, and Logan Ondrusek combined for four scoreless innings of relief.

No one questioned Hamilton's ability to steal a base when he arrived at the MLB level, but after a slow start in AAA this season there were some doubts about his ability to reach base frequently enough to use his skills. He did improve at his new level over the course of the season and since debuting with the Reds he's hit .429. After only sixteen plate appearances it's way too early to confirm his readiness to see regular duty, but he may be playing himself into a spot on the post season roster.

Sunday was the second consecutive game which center field/lead off regular Shin-soo Choo did not play. He's been kept out of the lineup from a sore thumb he suffered while diving into first base during extra innings of their final game in Houston. He underwent surgery on the same thumb back in 2011, but x-rays were negative and he's day-to-day. Manager Dusty Baker is hoping the right day for him to return will come soon because he has the second highest on-base percentage in the league behind teammate Votto.

It will be a tough decision on Choo after the completion of the series. It appears the original plan was to have his services during the final year of his contract while Hamilton readied himself for the Reds at Louisville this season. They likely still have long term plans for Hamilton, but the 23 year-old may need another season in the minors. Meanwhile Choo has made a successful transition to center field which will enhance his market value which was considerably high to begin with. It's been thought that he would demand too much for the Reds to re-sign him, but then again this is the same franchise that committed over $200 million to Joey Votto before the season last year. Meanwhile Choo is 31 years old is likely looking for a windfall deal and probably won't be very interested in a one-year extension.

Before Choo's arrival the Reds proved they can win games despite anemic production from the leadoff spot. Last year Cincinnati had the lowest on-base percentage in the league from their leadoff hitters while winning 97 games. Of course they did that in spite of the low on-base instead of because of it and their lineup this year has jumped from ninth in the NL in runs scored in 2012 to third this season.

The Reds have completed their road schedule and return home for their final six games of the regular season. They'll start off against the Mets who they swept in a three-game series earlier in the year. Milwaukee. Johnny Cueto will take the mound again Monday against former Red Aaron Harang. Cincinnati's win Sunday pulled them to within two games of the division lead behind the Cardinals who lost at Milwaukee.

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