Reds: Bullpen quickly becoming a strength of this team

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 19: Tony Santillan #64 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the fourth inning. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 19: Tony Santillan #64 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the fourth inning. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

It sounds silly, but what was once the Cincinnati Reds‘ biggest weakness this season has now become the team’s biggest strength. After last night’s starter, Vladimir Gutierrez surrendered five runs on seven hits over 3.1 innings of work, the bullpen put up 5.2 innings of shutout baseball.

Manager David Bell last night’s game over the bullpen with one out in the fourth inning with his team trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-4. The relief corps rewarded Bell with 5.2 innings of sparkling pitching, allowing just one hit and registering zero free passes.

Luis Cessa, one of Cincinnati’s trade deadline acquisitions, came on for Gutierrez in the fourth inning and would get the win after sitting the Pirates down in order in the fifth inning. Two of those three outs in the fifth came via the strikeout. Reds’ relievers were actually responsible for seven Ks on the night, including three by Cessa over 1.2 innings of work.

Bell then called upon his heavy hitters to take care of business in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. Lucas Sims, Michael Lorenzen, and Mychal Givens allowed just one hit over four innings to close out the game.

The Reds bullpen has been very good of late.

For the season, the Reds’ bullpen still ranks near the bottom of the league in ERA (4.95). But, over the last month, the relief corps ranks seventh in ERA (3.90) and strikeouts (223) and fourth in WHIP (1.18).

A big reason for the change has been thee additions of Cessa, Givens, and Justin Wilson, and the returns of Michael Lorenzen and Lucas Sims from the injured list. The Reds have also been without their best reliever, Tejay Antone, who will miss the entire 2022 season wheel recovering from Tommy John surgery.

With the talent Cincinnati has in their lineup, combined with the firepower of the team’s starting rotation, an average bullpen should be more than enough to allow the Reds to compete in the National League. Can you imagine where the Redlegs would be is they’d have had an average bullpen all season?

The Reds bullpen has been better than the team’s hitting of late.

While some folks may think it’s crazy to call the Reds’ bullpen a strength, when you look at what the offense has put up of late, you’ll begin to understand. Over the last two weeks, the Reds rank 14th in OPS (.656).

Yes, the Redlegs’ offense is being bested by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Miami Marlins. Strangely, the only team below Cincinnati is the San Diego Padres (.613), who are also competing for that elusive Wild Card spot.

The Reds are also last in the league in hits over the past two weeks, recording only 84 base knocks in their last 12 games. Want another strange stat? The team just above the Reds in that category is the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers.

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On the season, the Cincinnati Reds still rank second in doubles (271), third in hits (1,249), and fourth in OPS (.753) and home runs. If David Bell can inspire his bats to start mashing over the final two weeks, perhaps the Redlegs will stage an epic comeback and secure that final Wild Card spot.