Tuesday night, while Bronson Arroyo flirted with a no-hitter and Aroldis Chapman somersaulted his way to home plate after finally picking up another save, the middle of the Reds order did what they’ve been doing all year.
It all came together in the sixth inning. As Arroyo continued to induce popup after popup, it reminded me of Travis Wood’s bid for perfection against the Phillies two years ago. I was afraid that the offense would fail to pick him up. After all, Marco Estrada was dealing. He made Joey Vottolook foolish in his previous two at bats, striking him out on terrible swings both times.
And then, boom. Just like that, Votto doubled. Again. For the 31st time this season. Ho-hum. After that, Brandon Phillips ripped a single that was hit too hard to plate Votto. Then Jay Bruce stepped up and launched a three-run blast to right-centerfield and the good guys were on the board.
Much has been written about Votto’s stellar season, so I won’t waste your time by bringing it up again. The guy is on fire this year. It’s old news. The two men tasked with protecting him in the lineup, however, are having spectacular seasons in their own right.
Let’s start with Jay Bruce. Bruce started the season hot, but endured a prolonged slump from which he has just recently emerged. Still, while some criticize him for his mediocre batting average and high strikeout totals, it’s hard to argue with his ability to drive in runs. Following his three-run bomb last night, Bruce is on pace for 37 home runs and 113 RBI this season. Keep in mind he’s only 25 years old.
And then there’s the man in the middle, the right handed batter between the two lefties. Brandon Phillips is not your prototypical cleanup hitter. After he excelled batting leadoff last season, he was forced back into the role due to the ineffectiveness and injury of Scott Rolen early in the year. A lot of fans still want him batting first or second. But you can’t complain about his numbers this season as a run producer. After battling through a groin issue and an early slump, Phillips is hitting .287 with 10 home runs and 45 RBI. He’s on pace for 22 home runs and 99 RBI, and those numbers are slightly deflated due to the games he missed.
Fans have been clamoring for a move to be made to acquire a big bat to put in the lineup. But the Reds already have three big bats. There is a great chance that three Reds will hit at least 20 home runs and drive in at least 100 runs.
Now just imagine if they had somebody in front of them that could get on base!