The Reds are 23-21 since July 30, a day they broke a six-game losing streak with a 6-4 win at Miami.
How have they managed to add a tiny bit of sunshine to an otherwise lost season?
Two words: Starting pitching.
On the season, Cincinnati still has the second-highest starters’ ERA in the majors (Baltimore is worse, believe it or not) at 5.56, but Fangraphs tells us since July 30 Reds starters are right in the middle of the pack with a 4.39 ERA that ranks 15th.
Relative to the rest of the league, Reds starters are also striking out batters at a higher rate (up to 10th from 23rd) and walking them slightly less (25th/27th).
All the while, the hitting (already above average) has improved a tad as well over this span with team OPS, strikeouts, homers and runs scored all showing small improvement.
The biggest difference on offense is improved patience at the plate: The Reds lead the league in walks since July 30 compared to seventh in the league for the balance of the year.
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What’s even more encouraging: Youngsters have led the way in this rise to respectability.
Robert Stephenson pitched six scoreless innings Sunday to finish out a sweep of the Pirates. He has allowed three runs or fewer in eight of his last nine starts.
Sal Romano shut out Pittsburgh over eight innings Saturday night to earn his fifth win of the season. He has allowed three runs or fewer in six straight starts.
Also doing their part until recently being shut down were Luis Castillo (3-7 with a 3.12 ERA, 93 strikeouts and 32 walks in 15 starts) and Tyler Mahle (1-2 with a .270 ERA, 14 strikeouts and 11 walks in four starts), both of whom began the season in Double-A.
The regular rotation’s only veteran, Homer Bailey, has been up and down as he comes back from multiple arm surgeries, but that is to be expected.
If some of the kids turn out to be all right, Bailey’s ability to look like a first-round pick again becomes less essential.
Two games over .500 isn’t going to trigger any parades on Fountain Square, but it’s a heck of a lot better than what came before – and something to feel good about going into 2018.