The Return of the Big Red Machine: Reds Handle D-Backs, Ties Best Record with Nats

After making the postseason a year ago, the Cincinnati Reds had high expectations coming into their 2012 campaign. Fans and players certainly thought the Reds could be good again with much of the same lineup and rotation returning, but it’s safe to say that everyone is surprised with just how much they’ve been able to accomplish this season. The Big Red Machine of old is back in Cincinnati, as the Reds completed a sweep of the Diamonds on Wednesday giving them an 80-52 record, which was the best in the league, until the Nationals won yesterday to tie.

Chris Heisey fueled the comeback with two home runs late

Cincinnati was held scoreless and trailed until the seventh inning 2-0 in the third game when Chris Heisey ended the offensive drought with a two-run homer to left that tied the game at 2-2. Dioner Navarro added a solo shot in the inning to give the Reds a 3-2 lead and they wouldn’t look back.

Brandon Phillips blasted a two-run bomb of his own in the eight followed by another homerun from Heisey, which made the score 6-2. J.J. Hoover and Jose Arredondo then pitched the eighth ninth innings respectively, shutting out the Diamondbacks to seal the 6-2 win.

Now the Reds have an eight and a half game lead in the NL Central, which is the largest of any division leader and they will likely be the first team to clinch its division and punch its ticket to the postseason in 2012.

How have they been able to do it? Well, it’s been a combination of a little bit of everything that has created a concoction of winning in Cincy. The well-balanced nature of the Reds has established a consistency that screams success and that’s the kind of thing they will need to achieve postseason glory as well. The Reds rank 13th in runs, 13th in batting average, 15th in on-base percentage and 4th in ERA. There are no weak points on this team, so what’s to stop them from winning it all?

Johnny Cueto has been one of many bright points on the Reds

There really isn’t a what, but more of a who is this case. The Reds are certainly capable of grabbing a World Series title this year, but there are some other teams that could get in the way.

First of course, is the Washington Nationals. Washington has been the best team in baseball for much of 2012 and is currently tied with Cincy. The Nats also have firepower in the lineup, but mostly on the mound, as Washington is 2nd in ERA, WHIP and batting average. The Nationals are so confident they are already postseason bound that they are contemplating sitting Stephen Strasburg, their ace, for the remainder of the season to ensure he avoids injury and is ready to go for playoff time.

The Giants and the Braves could also pose a threat to the Reds in the NL. These two teams have quietly put together great teams with veteran leadership. Tim Hudson and Chipper Jones are turning in solid seasons in their late 30s, while the Giants are getting plenty of production from Angel Pagan and Matt Cain, as well as youngster Buster Posey.

So will the Reds win the World Series? Obviously, there’s a lot of competition here. The Reds are behind the Yankees, the Rangers and the Nationals in terms of odds, but they are certainly a profitable pick at 8/1. Even if they don’t end the season with the best record in baseball, I would mark them down as one of the favorites to win the whole thing. So, keep an eye on the Reds as we come down the stretch and barring any big injuries, look for the Big Red Machine to make some noise come playoff time.