As June faded away, the Reds held a rather precarious lead in the NL Central. With a record of 43-34, the Good Guys were atop the division by only a game over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Things were a-brewing for the Redlegs…some good, some bad.
The first day of July was both a celebration and deflation. The All-Star Game rosters were announced. Joey Votto (voted in by fans), Aroldis Chapman (voted by the players), and Jay Bruce (voted by the manager Tony La Russa) were selected to go to Kansas City and represent to National League.
What about Johnny Cueto? Brandon Phillips? Nope. Neither one were selected. I could still argue a Cueto selection based solely on his numbers at that point of the season. The non-selection of BP got the ire of Reds fans and they aimed their venomous words at TLR and every Cardinals fan under the sun. Even I tweeted a remark…but quickly found folly with it. I do believe, in the end, not having Cueto in KC was a good thing after reading some of his comments.
That could have gotten a little ugly.
So, the Reds were without the services of Votto for first two games of July. He left the June 30 game with an achy knee (did we ever find out more about that in the next couple of weeks), but the Reds managed to split those games he missed. They were also in the middle of their west coast swing. They split the four game set in San Francisco. They dropped two of three in LA. Cincy bounced back to take three of four in San Diego.
Even after a 6-5 west coast trip, the Good Guys had fallen out of the division’s top spot and were yielding to the Pirates. As the Reds headed back to GABP, they found themselves a game behind the Pirates. The All-Star break was upon baseball, so the Reds had time to think about what was ahead for the second half of the season: a three-game series in Cincinnati against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cards were coming and the Reds were ready to stake their claim as the NLC’s top team. What would foloow would be both a sweet taste and a bitter one.
The Reds swept the Cards and climbed into a first place tie with Pittsburgh. Then, the grim news: The Reds would lose Votto. From my post on July 16.
Not long after the game had started, word came from Thom Brennaman that Votto was, indeed, lost for about a month.
It was more than a month and a setback for #19 would ensue, but the news of this was devastating. How would the Reds overcome losing the 2010 NL MVP?
Ah, the streak…
After dropping two of the first three in Arizona, the Reds won the final game of that series to begin what can be described as amazing. Oh, there are other adjectives, but that list is so long. And there are a couple of facts about that ten-game winning streak.
1. There was only one game that was a one-run game, the first of the streak
2. The Reds would score 5 or more runs six times during the streak.
3. Opponents were held to 2 or less runs in six games.
4. Someone would eventually lose his hair over this streak…
…but that will be covered a little more when we re-visit August.
People remember the ten game streak, but what gets lost in that is the fact the Redlegs had a six-game winning streak just days prior to starting the ten-gamer. For the entire month of July, Cincy posted a record of 19-7, finished the month with an overall record of 62-41 and, more importantly, opened a 3-game lead over the Pirates.
The Reds would never fall out of first place for the remainder of the season.
Kind of bizarre that not having the best first baseman in all of baseball would not hinder this team one bit.
Player of the Month: Ryan Ludwick
Sure, we all know that Todd Frazier saw an increase in playing time during the absence of Votto, but maybe the most significant “move” was providing more playing time to Ludwick. That paid big dividends during July as Ludwick produced a triple slash of .333/.383/.707 with 7 HR and 19 RBI.
Maybe even a bigger concern was covered in that Dusty finally found a guy that was “at home” in the clean-up spot. When Votto would return, there was no need to put any other name beside the #4 on a lineup card. Ludwick would see that to in August as well.
Pitcher of the Month: Aroldis Chapman
Chapman had overcome his blown saves syndrome of June and more than made up for such in July. No blown saves as he converted all 13 save opportunities. That wasn’t the impressive part.
In 15 appearances covering 14.1 innings, Chappy would face a total of 52 batters…and strikeout 31 of those batters (60%). His 19.5 SO/9 and 15.5 SO/BB would be their highest of any month during 2012.
Other posts in this series: