Cincinnati Reds Must Win Close Games to Contend in NL Central

Cincinnati Reds, Joey Votto, Todd Frazier

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The Cincinnati Reds did something in the finale of their four-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers that the sub-.500 team had not done all year — they came back to win a game that they trailed after seven innings. The Reds had been 0-13 this year when trailing after seven innings until Sunday afternoon.

One occurrence doesn’t make a trend, but it does give the Reds something to build on because the close games are the reason why the Reds aren’t a winning team so far this year. If it wasn’t the bullpen melting down, it was the Reds’ base runners running the team out of innings or the bats vanishing altogether.

But the lack of clutch hitting is the biggest reason why the Reds are now just 5-9 in one run games. Until the Reds can start to transform more one-run losses into one-run wins, they will remain a losing team.

With runners in scoring position and two outs, the meat of the Reds’ order has failed miserably through the first 30 games of the season. Among the hitters two through five, Joey Votto is the leader of the pack with a meager .222 batting average. Three-hole hitter Brandon Phillips has hit the least (.111), and primary cleanup and fifth hitter Jay Bruce (.214) and Todd Frazier (.133) did little through the first 30 games of the season to make a difference.

Only sixth hitter Ryan Ludwick has shown consistent clutch hitting so far this year with two outs and RISP. He is hitting at a .455 clip with eight RBIs.

The Reds will need more of the type of clutch hitting that Ludwick has provided, or more game winners like Frazier’s extra-inning walk-off double on Sunday, if they are going to push past the team’s slow start and gain the kind of momentum to make a run in the NL Central.

Robb Hoff is a Cincinnati Reds writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @NFLNostradamus, like him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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