Restless Redlegs Rile Redbirds, Rally Regularly, Relent Rarely, Remain Resolved to Restore Rings to Riverfront

(Apologies for the excessively long headline. This was the winning headline from the contest. Contest recap can be found at the bottom of this post)

The Reds are 44 games into their defense of the NL Central division championship. They will open up interleague play tonight in Cleveland. The road to restore rings to the riverfront has been nothing if not exciting. Through the first quarter of the season, the Reds have positioned themselves nicely to make a run at a 2nd consecutive division title. They currently sit at 25-19, and trail the St. Louis Cardinals by ½ a game.

1st Quarter Awards

Q1 MVP – Brandon Phillips. All due respect to Joey Votto, BP has been the Reds’ most valuable player thus far. When he was asked to hit 2nd, he got on base and scored runs. When asked to hit cleanup, he delivered clutch hits and provided RBI. He’s hitting .331/.383/.484 with 27 R and 26 RBI. His OPS is 50 points higher than his highest single season of his career. Oh, and he can play defense a little bit too…

Q1 Best Pitcher – Homer Bailey. While Bailey has only pitched in 3 games, his impact is hard to overlook. He is 3-0 with an ERA of 1.89. From the moment Bailey was reinstated from the DL, the Reds’ rotation started clicking. With 16 Ks and only 4 BB, it appears as though Bailey has taken that step, on track to become one of the Reds’ best pitchers.

Q1 Disappointment – Edinson Volquez. E-Vol doesn’t even have any competition for this one. While he hasn’t been a disaster, he’s certainly not been the guy we all hoped to see. The Reds have managed to win 6 of the 9 games that Volquez started this year, mainly due to late comebacks. Still, E-Vol is sporting an ERA of 5.59, and has walked an eye-popping 34 batters. He has yet to pitch more than 6 innings in a game, averaging 5.1 IP per start. There are reasons to be optimistic that he can turn it around, but he is clearly the biggest disappointment on the team.

How They Got Here

Well it all started on opening day, when the Reds won in dramatic fashion, beating the “sexy” pick to win the NL Central on a walk-off, 3-run HR from Ramon Hernandez. They went on to sweep the Brewers behind strong pitching from Wood and Arroyo. The Reds won their next two games to start the year 5-0. They hit a bit of a rough patch after that, losing 3 of the next 4. They rebounded nicely, winning the series in San Diego, before the losing ways continued. Cincinnati lost 5 of their next 7 games against the Pirates and Diamondbacks. They limped into St. Louis where they managed to win only 1 game in the series.  Cincinnati sat in 3rd place in the division, 1 game behind St. Louis, with a record of 11-11.

The Reds went on to take 2 of 3 in Milwaukee. After losing the next series at home vs. the Marlins, the Reds started on a hot streak. They took 2 of 3 from the Cubs in Chicago, then took 2 of 3 in Houston. The Cardinals came calling next. The Reds managed to sweep the Cardinals, including their first win over Chris Carpenter since 2006. After a sweep of the Cubs in a 2 game series, the Reds were swept for the first time this year, in another 2 game series against the Pirates.

The Reds have won 9 series of the 15 they’ve played thus far, and have swept the series 3 times, while being swept only once.

2011 or 2010?

On this date last year, the Reds stood in an almost identical position. On May 20th, 2010 the Reds were 23-18. Like this year, they trailed the Cardinals by ½ a game. So far in 2011, the Reds are 4-0 in extra-inning games this year, building off last year’s trend of winning in their final at bat.

Much like last year, the Reds are beating inferior competition, going 20-15 against teams with losing records. Unlike last year, the Reds are 5-4 against teams with a .500 record or better. Last season, the Reds went off against NL Central opponents (49-30) . To this point, the Reds are 20-12 against division rivals.

The Redlegs-Redbirds-rivalry also picked up right where it left off last year. Tempers flared in the final game of the most recent series, and the Cardinals continued to make excuses. However, one aspect of the rivalry appears to have changed. The 2010 Reds only managed 6 wins in 18 games against the Cardinals. This year, the Reds have taken 4 of 6 against St. Louis, including a memorable sweep.

The Road Ahead

The Reds have benefitted from basesball’s easiest schedule to this point. The Reds’ opponents thus far have combined for a .475 winning %.  The Reds might be in for a quick reality check, as they face a tough road over the next 10 days. They will play 10 road games in 10 days. They start with 3 in Cleveland. The Indians currently have the best record in all of baseball (26-15). The Reds then play 4 games in Philadelphia. The Phillies have the best record in the NL (26-17). Cincinnati then travels to Atlanta for 3 games against the 24-21 Braves. In short, the Reds play their next 10 games against opponents with a combined record of 77-53 (.592).

Contest Update

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the ticket give-away contest. We had a lot of fun doing it, and we hope you enjoyed it as well.

The winner was @Johnny_Dakota. The headline he submitted is the one you see for this post.

Some of the others that received votes:

  • Recapping Reds Roller Coaster Ride to Repeat (@CurtOU)
  • Retooled Redlegs Retain 2010 Resiliency (@KESTRAHAS)
  • Weird, Wild, Wonderful, Winning, Whining, Wishing for Good Things to Come – the Reds Season So Far (@docczarnecki)
  • Reds 1st Quarter: Ups, Downs, and All A Rounds (@Tonester5)

There were other very good submissions that didn’t receive votes. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner. Please continue to follow us on twitter and visit the blog. We will have more great content posted every day, and more contests to come. Thanks again everybody!

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