The hottest teams in Major League Baseball will meet on Friday night when the Cincinnati Reds (40-35) host the Atlanta Braves (48-26) on Friday night. Cincinnati has won 11 consecutive games to move into first place in the National League Central and has a chance to match its longest win streak in the modern era. Atlanta is riding an eight-game winning streak and has the best record in the league. The Reds are coming off a win over Colorado on Wednesday, while the Braves scored five runs in the 10th inning to get past Philadelphia on Thursday.
First pitch at Great American Ball Park is set for 6:40 p.m. ET. Atlanta is a -160 favorite (risk $160 to win $100), with Cincinnati the +135 underdog. The over/under is 11 in the latest Braves vs. Reds odds from Caesars Sportsbook. Before making any Reds vs. Braves picks, be sure to check out the latest MLB predictions and betting advice from the SportsLine Projection Model.
Depending on how you answered those questions, are you ready to give Bob Castellini a little credit for the Reds’ improbable surge to the top of the NL Central standings?
For some Reds fans, it’ll take a playoff appearance to forgive the Castellinis. For others, it’ll take winning the World Series. Still, for some it’s TBD. They’re waiting to see what ownership does at the trade deadline. It’d be a public-relations win if the Reds could pull off landing a veteran starting pitcher at the trade deadline without giving up much.
There will always be a faction of fans who won’t forgive Phil Castellini, simply because they see him as the slick-haired, silver-spoon kid of the team owner. Generally, it seems like the healing process has at least begun between the fans and Castellinis. If Cincinnati sports fans can forgive Bengals owner Mike Brown after decades of on-field ineptitude and off-the-field embarrassments, then surely they’ll come back around to the Castellinis.
The Castellinis deserve a little credit. Bring on the hate mail and mean tweets. Don’t care.
Bob Castellini finally bought into a plan to build from within and stop getting locked into big contracts with aging players. He may not have had a choice financially, but he nonetheless started listening more to the baseball people.
For his part, Phil Castellini has shut up. It’s not easy for him to stay behind the curtain. He’s an outgoing guy who likes talking to the media and fans.
Reds ownership has taken a cue from Bengals ownership. Years ago, the Bengals decided to make their head coach their public-facing figure instead of Brown. Reds general manager Nick Krall and manager David Bell do the talking for the Reds now.
Everything is working just fine. Baseball’s oldest franchise is riding its fifth-longest winning streak ever. The town is falling in love with the Reds again.
The more ownership stays quiet and doesn’t meddle in baseball operations, the better things will be. Just stand quietly off to the side and enjoy the party. De La Cruz was listed as the top prospect in baseball before finally being called up from the Triple-A Louisville Bats earlier this month. In his first major league game against the Dodgers, De La Cruz recorded a 112 mph double, two walks and one run scored.
While he’s only been with the team for a few weeks, it’s clear the difference he makes in Cincinnati. He’s hitting .367 with a 1.091 OPS in 15 games. Though De La Cruz was caught stealing home that inning, it didn’t matter. He had already made history and stretched Cincinnati’s lead to four runs. While the Braves hit three solo homers in the eighth inning to bring them back within one, the Reds held on to take the one-run win. It was their 27th comeback win this season, and their fifth straight comeback win.
The Braves were on a run entering Friday’s game, the first of three against the Reds in Cincinnati. Atlanta had won eight straight games before Friday’s loss and 16 of its last 19. The Braves held a 6.5 game lead over the Miami Marlins in the NL East coming into Friday’s game, too.
The Reds are an incredible 13-2 since De La Cruz was called up on June 7 and hold the lead in the NL Central. They haven’t won their division since 2012, and have only seen the postseason once in the past decade.
While De La Cruz is only part of the reason why the Reds are on this historic run, he’s more than doing his part to keep it going. “I think this might be the best regular-season game that I’ve been a part of,” Reds manager David Bell said. “I think a lot had to do with the atmosphere in the ballpark. Both teams played a great game. They came up short, but it showed the kind of team they are. It took a lot of great performances to win that game.”
In a wild matchup of National League division leaders, Cincinnati erased an early 5-0 deficit and halted Atlanta’s eight-game winning streak. “I think the thing that makes it a little more palatable is it’s a good spot for him, a good place for him to re-establish himself as the player we know he can be,” Showalter said. “So we’re happy for him and the opportunity that he’s gonna get, but obviously we’ll miss having him around.”
Crow, 22, and Marceaux, 23, both pitched in Double-A this season. Crow posted a 1.88 ERA in his first four starts but hasn’t pitched in a game since late April.
The Mets also optioned struggling right-hander Tylor Megill to Triple-A Syracuse on Friday, two days after he gave up 4 runs, 5 hits and 4 walks in 2⅓ innings Wednesday in a 10-8 loss to Houston.
The Reds made De La Cruz one of the youngest players in baseball. He still has only played affiliated professional baseball for fewer than two years. He’s still making adjustments, figuring his game out and improving.
His cycle was another example of the steps he has been taking. De La Cruz faces fewer fastballs than almost any MLB hitter. Pitchers throw around him like they did to Reds first baseman Joey Votto during his prime. De La Cruz sees a steady diet of off-speed pitches and changeups that are low-and-away. While De La Cruz’s double was on a fastball, his other two extra-base hits were on perfect low-and-away off-speed pitches, which he still crushed.
De La Cruz doesn’t try to hit homers. Even though he has the talent to be the best power hitter in baseball, he looks for his pitch, makes his best, most consistent swing and lets his strength and speed make up the difference.
The Reds aggressively pushed De La Cruz through their minor league system, and they were preparing for his arrival months before his debut. The Reds embraced an athletic style of baseball and built a roster around that strategy. They added veterans who prioritized mentoring young players like De La Cruz. They made changes to the coaching staff, adding new voices with a proven track record in player development.
Why you should back the Reds
Cincinnati extended its winning streak to 11 games with its win over Colorado on Wednesday, giving itself a chance to match its best streak in the modern era. The Reds have had nine different players hit home runs in the last three games, including veteran Joey Votto. He made his season debut on Monday, going 2 of 3 with a homer and three RBI.
Votto struggled his way to a .173 batting average in 22 rehab games with Triple-A Louisville, but he put that in the past when he returned to the majors. Second baseman Jonathan India leads the Reds with a .266 batting average, 10 homers and 39 RBI. Cincinnati has scored at least five runs in five straight games, including a 10-run outburst against Houston last Saturday.
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