Reds’ pitching, A’s hitting, Hanley contributing, more MLB thoughts

Decrease font Decrease fontEnlarge font Enlarge font Homer Bailey The Reds’ Homer Bailey is 4-0 in his last 5 starts and hasn’t lost since June 27.Bob Levey/Getty Images

Five Cuts from a pre-trade deadline weekend …

1. Red-hot Reds — Cincinnati lost Joey Votto, who only happens to be the game’s best pure hitter, to knee surgery three games after the All-Star break, just as the club had wrestled first place in the NL Central away from the Pirates. that lead seemed tenuous without Votto, yet with their first baseman still on the disabled list, the Reds have now won 10 straight games after consecutively sweeping the Brewers, the Astros and, this weekend, the Rockies.

While the Reds have put together only the second 10-game winning streak this season (joining the Yankees), the Pirates have done well to hang close — they are 12-7 during the same stretch — but there’s only so much one can do when the Reds have won 17 of their last 19, so Pittsburgh has lost five games in the standings, as Cincinnati has turned a two-game deficit into a three-game lead. The two division rivals meet Friday for a three-game series at Great American Ballpark.

It sounds like a broken record to explain the key to their sustained success, but once again, the key seems to be healthy starting pitchers. The Reds’ Opening Day rotation — Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake — has started all 101 of Cincinnati’s games this season, the only major league club that can make such a claim.

The starting staff has been especially sharp over the last three weeks, pitching to a 2.90 ERA while logging nearly three times as many strikeouts as walks. of particular note is the emergence of Bailey, the former first-round pick who seemed stuck as a run-every-other-inning pitcher — which is literally a 4.50 ERA while Bailey had a 4.47 ERA in 61 starts from 2009-11 — but is growing into his potential. Not only does he have a 3.53 ERA in 20 starts this season, but he’s 3-0 with a 1.21 ERA in 29 2/3 innings over four outings during the Reds’ hot stretch.

Longtime club broadcaster Marty Brenneman said he’d shave his trademark poofy white hair if the team won 10 straight and, perhaps fitting, it was Bailey who called dibs on grabbing the clippers and doing the honor.

Enthusiasm in Cincinnati should be tempered somewhat, however, if one considers the strength of the Reds’ schedule the past three weeks. of their six opponents, four have losing records; Arizona, against whom Cincinnati split a four-game series for their only two recent losses, has a .500 record; and only St. Louis has a winning record. Then again, Votto only played six of the last 19 games, so the Reds’ success without their best player — and one of the best all-around players in all of baseball — is no small feat.

2. Grade A Power — The AL’s two biggest surprises this season squared off in Baltimore this weekend, with the Athletics taking two of three games from the Orioles. Powering Oakland to the series victory has been a newfound reliance on the long ball.

The A’s hit two homers in each of their two wins over the Orioles this weekend, led by two from first baseman Chris Carter, who has hit eight in the past month. right fielder Josh Reddick has been a particular revelation this season, hitting a team-high 22 homers.

Reader Paul Maslin, from Madison, Wis., wrote in this weekend to note how Oakland’s recent power surge has gone relatively unnoticed, with 62 home runs over roughly a quarter of the season. He’s right about how impressive that number is: it’s a pace that, if sustained for the whole year, would rank in as a top-10 all-time season total.

Those 62 homers in the Athletics’ last 40 games (dating to June 12) are the third-most in the majors during that span — trailing only the Pirates (67) and Yankees (66) — and have helped them go a major league-best 29-11 in that stretch. It’s particularly noteworthy because Oakland only hit 49 homers in its first 61 games, meaning they doubled their daily rate from 0.8 per game to 1.6 per game.

The A’s, who haven’t ranked higher than 11th in the AL in homers since ’07 and whose 483 homers from ’08 through ’11 rank last in the majors, are now fueling their offense with big flies; their 111 this year ranks eighth.

Also, the A’s have only played 19 of those 40 games on the road and away from cavernous O.co Coliseum, and their season split isn’t as severe as one might expect: 52 homers in 50 home games; 59 homers in 51 road games.

3. Dodger D

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