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MLB Cincinnati Reds

Healthy Cincinnati Reds Poised to Tighten Up the NL Central

Cincinnati Reds, NL Central Milwaukee Brewers

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The Cincinnati Reds didn’t pull off a three-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers in Milwaukee over the weekend, but the NL Central‘s fourth-place team did manage to win the series.

In no small part, that series win can be attributed to the fact that the Reds are finally playing at full health with all of their key players — like Joey Votto, Mat Latos, Jay Bruce and others who have spent time on the disabled list –available and in action.

For a team that has only cracked the .500 mark on two occasions this year, winning a couple of games against the division-leading Brewers doesn’t amount to much — unless the Reds can turn some of that spurt of success into a bona fide streak.

The Brewers have coasted their way to first-place in the division for much of the first-half of the season due to their fast start. The Reds’ series win served as a reminder to the rest of the division that what the Brewers have in offense, they sorely lack in pitching and defense.

But in a division of four teams capable of claiming first place, the Reds will have to do much more than serve sporadic reminders to the other teams. The Reds have to become the team to beat once again, like they were in 2010 and 2012 when they won the division.

That’s a tall order for a 33-35 team, but the Reds may finally break through the biggest barrier that has kept them from having a more successful first-half of the season — lack of offense.

Just as the Brewers lack pitching and defense, the Reds have lacked offense in 2014. An outburst of offense against a pitching staff like the Brewers may prove to be nothing more than a false positive, but the Reds are positioned to find out if they are going to finally be for real again or continue to flounder like they have all year.

The upcoming three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates will afford the Reds that chance to redeem themselves once again against division rivals. If a healthy Reds’ team can finally break through to the winning side of the .500 mark by the end of the week, the second-half of the season may look rosier than the bleak picture the Reds have painted so far.

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.