Cincinnati Reds show new look in taking 3 of 4 from Pittsburgh

Sep 11, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips (4) slides into second base with a double as Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer (10) reaches for a wide throw during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips (4) slides into second base with a double as Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer (10) reaches for a wide throw during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Cincinnati Reds are showing what they will look like in 2017 and it looks good.

The Cincinnati Reds went into Pittsburgh on Thursday with targets on their back. They came in without their Gold Glove center fielder and with their ace starter being skipped over.  They left winning three of four and showing the Pirates what the Reds are becoming.

The Reds started three of their planned starters for next year: Dan Straily, Robert Stephenson, and Brandon Finnegan.  The second game of the series was started by stopgap, Tim Adleman.  It was that stopgap that made the only quality start of the four.

The Reds won because of defense, efficient offense and a strong bullpen.  On Thursday, the Reds’ only loss in the series, the bullpen gave up one run in three innings.  Those runs didn’t matter, but it was the start of a decent series for a much maligned bullpen earlier in the season.  Ivan Nova dominated the Reds and they went down in a loss.

The Reds won three straight after losing the first game.

On Friday Adleman went six innings, giving up only 2 runs.  Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias combined to pitch three innings giving up one run and getting the win.  Iglesias allowed the Bucs to tie the game in the eighth before earning the win in the ninth.  This was also the second game in a row with Jose Peraza starting in center field.  Peraza only got on base once in those games despite being one of the hottest hitters in baseball, since his most recent call-up.

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On Saturday the Reds won again.  Stephenson had his roughest outing to date as a major leaguer, allowing 4 runs in three innings.  Josh Smith followed up with 2.1 innings of relief, allowing two.  Posted with a  two run lead, the bullpen held off the Pirates thanks largely to another scoreless inning of relief by Lorenzen. The offense was lead by Joey Votto and his four hits.

On Sunday Brandon Finnegan once again demonstrated why the Reds plan to have him in the rotation next year.  He pitched five shutout innings before giving way to the bullpen.  The bullpen gave up no runs over four innings.  Tyler Holt, filling in for an injured Billy Hamilton and slumping Peraza, went 3 for 5 with 3 RBIs to pace the Reds.

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What’s the lesson here?  If you take out the 2.1 innings that Smith pitched to cover a short outing by Stephenson, the bullpen allowed 3 runs over 13.2 innings in the series.  That’s a substantial improvement over earlier in the year.  Smith likely doesn’t make this staff next year, so that sort of outcome is very possible.  Combine that with the clutch play of the offense and things are looking up for the Cincinnati Reds in 2017.