Yesterday, as we all know, the Reds played the Astros, with Claussen going against Oswalt. Oswalt was 15-0 against the Reds, and Claussen not only had never beaten the Astros before but had gotten ZERO run support from his teammates in his last three starts against 'em.
So what happens? Phillips scores two runs and drives in two more, the Reds beat the Astros and finally hang a loss on Oswalt for the first time ever, 5-4.
Today, they handed Andy Pettite his third straight loss, getting to him for 11 hits, three walks, a throwing error, a wild pitch, and six runs in five innings. Harang got his fourth win in a row after losing on Opening Day. Maybe he just wanted to get it out of his system that first time out. Reds win it, 6-3.
All that's pretty impressive. But even more impressive to me than what they have done, is the way they have done it.
In recent years the Reds have basically had one approach to scoring runs, which was to stand around and wait for somebody to hit a home run. It worked to some extent, they led the league in runs scored last year. They also lost a lot more than they won, and when they faced top-shelf pitchers such as Oswalt they were lucky if they scored any runs at all.
This team, this year, isn't like that. They swept their recent three-game road series against the Nationals while hitting just one homer. They got a couple wins against the Brewers by using speed to manufacture runs. During one game in Milwaukee, Phillips scored on an infield single. What's the big deal about that? He scored on an infield single, all the way from second base!
Friday against the Astros they scored two runs on groundouts, and another on a sac fly. Today (Saturday) they two runs on one infield single, thanks to a throwing error by the opposing pitcher. Phillips scored on a wild pitch. Another run scored on a groundout - Phillips scored it even though the Astros had their infield “in” to prevent the run from scoring. Oh, they did score one on a home run, too, as Aurilia led off the sixth with a dinger. For that matter, they also hit six homers in a single game against the Cubs. So, go ask Glendon Rusch if the Reds can still hit the long ball. Then duck.
Anyway, what happened today was against a top-shelf pitcher, Andy Pettitte. They've also beaten Carpenter, Zambrano, Livan Hernandez, Oswalt, and Sheets so far this season. They basically beat Willis too, although Dontrelle didn't get charged with the loss. That's seven pretty good pitchers whose heads the Reds have collected in April. Furthermore, much of this has happened with Dunn in a slump and Griffey on the DL.
Oh, and along the way, Arroyo and Harang have for the most part looked like a darn good 1-2 punch at the front end of the starting rotation, and Todd Coffey has pretty much been Lights Out in the bullpen.
Dunn is still among the league leaders in home runs. But now Encarnacion and Phillips are among the league leaders in RBI, Freel and Lopez are among the league leaders in steals, Harang is among the strikeout leaders, and even Weathers has gotten into the act, challenging for the league lead in saves.
In short, this is no longer a team that relies on one or two guys to do the damage. It's much more of a team effort - and the effort is paying off. The Reds are alone in first place (having just personally knocked the Astros out of first by beating 'em twice in a row), and have the best record in baseball, plus a six-game winning streak, the longest active win streak in the majors.
All I can say is, if this is a dream, I've got a dark alley and a bad idea that says nobody better wake me up anytime soon.