All-Star Week for the Ages
The 2018 All-Star break will go down as one of the most exciting two days in All-Star history.
The action started on Monday in an epic showdown of sluggers. The Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins thought he earned a spot in the Home Run Derby Finals hitting 20 home runs, the most in the derby at that point, until Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber, shocked everyone at Nationals Park, edging him out with 21. Nationals’ MVP, Bryce Harper, defeated Max Muncy of the Dodgers comfortably, with 1:11 remaining on the clock when he belted his 13th home run of the round.
Schwarber produced another solid round with 18 home runs, but it was not enough, setting up the most exciting Home Run Derby Finish since Todd Frazier’s last-second walk-off home run on his home field. With a minute left, Harper found himself down nine home runs. In the final minute, Harper launched nine into the seats to tie Schwarber, before hitting a walk-off in extra time to secure the victory. While the Derby was fun, what would happen the next night is what places the 2018 MLB All-Star break towards the top, if not at the top when it comes to exciting All-Star breaks. The icing on the cake for Cincinnati fans is the Reds played a key role in the outcome, despite the final result not going in the National League’s favor.
If you google the definition of slugfest, it will show up as the 2018 Midsummer Classic. This year’s game featured the most home runs ever hit in an All-Star game with 10, shattering the previous record of six. The battle of the bombs began in the second with Yankees’ behemoth, Aaron Judge, sending a solo shot to left center, to Max Scherzer’s dismay. Next inning, Angels’ Mike Trout continued his dominant All-Star appearances with a solo home run of his own.
The NL squad finally got on the board when Cub Wilson Contreras hit yet another solo home run in the bottom half of the third. Rockie Trevor Story eventually tied the game in the seventh with, you guessed it, the fourth solo home run of the game.
The AL would not let the tie last long. Mariner Jean Segura crushed a three-run home run to give the AL a 5-2 lead. Brewer Christian Yelich helped the NL get one run closer with his home run in the bottom of the eighth, setting up for an exciting moment for Reds fans.
Who Else But Scooter?
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, the Cincinnati second baseman did what he does best. Scooter Gennett crushed an inside pitch to left to tie the game. Gennett’s home run was the first extra-base hit by a Red in an All-Star game since 1982, a home run off the bat of Dave Concepcion.
But just like last time they tied the game, the AL answered immediately with back to back home runs from Astros Alex Bregman and George Springer. Joey Votto ended his streak of hitless All-Star games with the 10th and final home run of the game before the NL dropped its sixth consecutive Midsummer Classic.
So What’s Next for Cincinnati
The phones will be busy in the Reds’ front office. With a plethora of players on the trade block, the Reds will sit back and let the offers pour in. They will be searching for a new home for Matt Harvey, since their trade back in May was in hopes of a resurgence that would make him a decent trade candidate. He has pitched well since arriving in Cincinnati and should be able to haul in a prospect with decent potential. The Reds will wait for the phone to ring for potential offers on Raisel Iglesias and hopefully either Billy Hamilton or Adam Duvall, although both are unlikely. Gennett is still a viable candidate to move before the deadline, but recently the Reds hinted at a possible extension for the Cincinnati native.
Continued Improvement is Key
Besides the deadline, the unofficial second half of the season will be an indicator on if the Reds are a legitimate candidate to make a playoff push in 2019, or if their hot play as of late will slow as we get deeper into the dog days of summer. The wins and losses are not what is important in the upcoming months. What the club is looking for, is continued improvement from the starting rotation, continuing to have one of the top offenses in the National League and to show that the team will compete, regardless of the score.
The Reds’ representatives in D.C., Eugenio Suarez, Gennett and Votto, while the most entertaining to watch, are not exactly the players that should be the focus for the remainder of the season. The key to Reds success in the future will be the continued development of their young studs.
Can Jesse Winker continue to watch his slash line rise? He has recently started to find the holes in the field with more ease and has shown a sharp increase in power, with five of his seven home runs coming in his last 30 games.
Is Tyler Mahle going to build off his fantastic June and become the future ace of this staff? Since June he has allowed three earned runs only once, if we forget his last start before the break where he got shelled in 2 1/3 innings for seven runs total, five earned. Even Cy Young winners have off days, and all signs point to him to continue improving. Mahle should be the storyline of the staff to follow down the stretch.
Will Anthony DeSclafani and Luis Castillo return to form? DeSclafani has struggled since returning from an injury that kept him off the mound for nearly a year and a half. He had ace material before his injury and the Reds need him to show that he still does in the upcoming months. Castillo seemed to right the ship in May, but had an abysmal June. Two of his three starts were encouraging, but he only went past five innings once. Castillo’s arm has been a rollercoaster all season. The Reds want him to be a part of their future, but the ride needs to stop, preferably at the top of the hill.
The last question, is the prospects. Most fans that don’t follow their teams extensively are usually not aware of what is happening down on the farm. The Reds have talent in the minors. Whether it is MLB ready prospects like Dilson Herrera, Brandon Dixon or Nick Senzel, or young stars we will have to wait to see, such as Futures Game representatives, Hunter Greene and Taylor Trammel. Trammel took home the Larry Doby Award, an award given to the MVP of the Futures Game.
September will be an exciting month in Cincinnati. As a team that is essentially eliminated from October baseball, the MLB ready prospects should see some playing time. This will allow the club to get a feel for how they perform at the major league level. Herrera and Dixon have already had a taste of Reds’ baseball this season, but not nearly enough to evaluate their talent at the highest level. Herrera, in fact, was called up on July 6, but has hardly touched the diamond.
The September call-ups are still a few months away, but when they are made, the Reds will have an exciting group of rookies to watch. Senzel sadly, will not be one of them due to a finger injury he suffered in June.
Baseball in Cincinnati resumes Friday night. The Reds will play the first of a ten-game homestand when they host the Pirates, their first home game since Independence Day. Mahle will look to bounce back from his last start and shut down a Pittsburgh lineup that has found its swing again, riding a six-game winning streak.
The break was a blast, but the vacation is over. Time to sit back and see if the Reds are for real.
“From Our Haus to Yours”