The first signs of life in a long time for Cincinnati Reds slugging right fielder Jay Bruce were badly overdue, but at least those reminders of just how good Bruce can be finally did happen in 2014.
Bruce rose from his sub-.200 BA doldrums to finally put together a multi-hit game with two RBIs, in which he looked more like the power producer who knocked in 109 runs last year than the powerless and hapless hitter who has showed up so far in 2014.
Bruce marked a milestone with his game against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night by driving in his 500th career run, making him just the fifth Reds player to drive in at least 500 runs before the end of their age-27 year. Bruce’s total may pale in comparison to the likes of immortals like Johnny Bench (855 RBIs at end of age 27 season) and Frank Robinson (800), but Bruce’s place in Reds history continues to grow in importance.
The two RBIs against the Giants marked the fist runs knocked in by Bruce since he returned May 23 from minor knee surgery. His RBI drought lasted eight games and 30 at-bats, and the Reds are going to need much more than that if the team can possibly regroup enough for a run at the NL Central title or a Wild Card berth.
Bruce has proven to be a streaky hitter over his seven-year career with the Reds. His time in the bigs began on the kind of hot streak that has characterized just how good he can be at times — he reached base in his first eight games as a rookie in 2008 while hitting at a .552 clip with three home runs and seven RBIs.
But for every outburst like that, there seems to have been many more vanishing acts like the first eight games since he returned nearly two weeks ago from knee surgery — just four singles in 30 ABs and 14 strikeouts.
If Bruce can produce a torrid streak in June like the streak that began his career, the Reds just might be able to sustain the momentum of a winning team again, now that the team have won four games in row.